by Drae Smith
Host of "The Drae Smith Show"
1. This Youngstown State football team is much better than what they showed in a sluggish performance against Robert Morris last week. They completely dominated St. Francis (Pa.) in a 48-3 rout at Stambaugh Stadium this past Saturday. For the second straight game, the Penguins played in strong wind and heavy rain, handling it much better this time around. YSU looked like a different team and controlled every aspect of the game, putting on the dominating performance fans were eagerly awaiting. After barely beating Robert Morris, many around the program began to worry and wonder how good this team really is. I believe this impressive performance has helped reassure fans and even the coaches and players that they are the playoff contender most believed them to be when the season began.
2. The Penguins were vastly improved on the defensive side of the ball, allowing just 87 total yards. The Red Flash collected just 10 passing yards and star running back Khairi Dickson had just five yards on three rushes. After allowing 477 rushing yards in the first two games, YSU allowed just 77 this time around. They also seemed to be much more physical and fundamentally sound with their tackling. Coach Pelini said his team needed to tackle better and that certainly happened on Saturday.
3. The stellar backfield duo of Martin Ruiz and Jody Webb was extremely impressive once again and is one of the best in the FCS. Behind an offensive line which played much better and controlled the line of scrimmage, Ruiz and Webb combined for 196 rushing yards. Ruiz had 103 yards on 20 carries while Webb collected 93 yards and two touchdowns on 13 rushes. Ruiz also got involved as a receiver, catching 3 passes for 42 yards and a touchdown. The duo appears to be in mid-season form and looks poised for another big season. If YSU expects to have success in the Missouri Valley, they will need Ruiz and Webb to continue their impressive play.
4. While the Penguins looked dominate and much improved, they are still a work in progress in many ways. Coach Pelini indicated after the Robert Morris game that his staff would look at some personnel changes and different combinations, some of which we saw this week. All-conference defensive end, Derek Rivers, played a large number of snaps at linebacker for the first time in his YSU career. Coach Pelini said, “We’re going to have a package out of that and we wanted to take a look at it. He handled it well and I think he looked good doing it.”
When asked about why he made the change, Pelini said, “To get our best 11 on the field, it gets Avery (Moss), Derek, and Terrell (Williams) all on the field at the same time.” Moss, a 6’3 265 pound athletic specimen who transferred from Nebraska, has struggled to see the field playing behind two high level defensive ends in Rivers and Williams. The thought of Rivers at LB and those three players on the field together is sure to keep offensive coaches in the MVFC awake at night. The upcoming bye week should give Pelini and his staff plenty of time to further examine their personnel combinations and possibly make more tweaks going forward.
5. Even in a blowout victory, emotion and intensity was at a very high level for Youngstown State. After a lackluster, uninspired performance against Robert Morris, you could tell there was a different mindset and attitude heading into this game. To me, its was clear the scare against RMU really got this team’s attention and sharpened their focus. With the game well in hand during the second half, there was not much celebrating. Up 41-0 late in the game, Coach Bo Pelini got extremely upset with an official and gave him the patented earful we saw from him over the years at Nebraska. The coaches and players continued to act as if they were in a close game, which to me is a very positive sign. That type of high level focus and intensity will be crucial if the Penguins expect to compete in a loaded Missouri Valley Football Conference.
YSU will be back in action on October 3rd when they travel to South Dakota to open conference play.