by Drae Smith
Host of "The Drae Smith Show" Tuesdays 7pm-9pm
The 21st ranked Youngstown State football team returns home this weekend to play Missouri State. YSU is coming off a 23-21 win at Western Illinois which broke a three game losing streak. The Penguins are now 4-4 overall and 2-3 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Missouri State was defeated 39-0 last week against South Dakota State. The Bears come in at 1-7 overall and 0-5 in conference play.
YSU will look to build on the momentum of last week’s victory against a team which has struggled mightily this season. Missouri State’s only victory this year came against Chadron State in Week 2. That was the only game in which the Bears did not give up at least 38 points to their opponent.
The Penguins will look to continue their success on the ground against a defense which is allowing 271 rushing yards per contest. Youngstown State is averaging 182.9 yards rushing per game, doing so with an offensive line which has been in flux over the past month.
True freshman guard Gavin Wiggins was inserted into the lineup last week, making his first career start at left guard. Dylan Colucci was moved to right tackle after starting 17 games at right guard over the last two seasons. Justin Spencer was moved over to left tackle after starting the last 19 contests at right tackle.
YSU should also have an advantage defending the pass against a Missouri State squad who is averaging just 117.2 yards per game through the air. The Penguins have allowed opponents to complete only 62 passes in 152 attempts, an impressive 40.8 percent. The unit has allowed opponents to hit double figures in completions just twice this year.
YSU backup QB Ricky Davis is expected to see continued playing time in certain situations. Davis has been used mainly as a runner in the read option game the past few weeks. Head Coach Bo Pelini said, “Ricky gives us a different dimension, he opens up some different parts of the playbook.”
The Bears do feature a few stand out players who have performed at a high level this season. Wide receiver Deion Holliman leads the nation in combined kick return yardage with 977. He also owns the school’s single-season record for kickoff return yardage with 806.
Missouri State junior linebacker Dylan Cole currently leads the Missouri Valley Football Conference and is third nationally in tackles per game at 12.9. Cole has led the Bears in tackles in all eight games they have played this season.
Youngstown State has to win their final three games to have any chance of advancing to postseason play. They will have to guard against a let down, facing a 1-7 team who they are expected to beat easily. Coach Pelini said, “I think this comes at the right time for us, we’re going to find out the level of maturity that our football team has.”
Running back Martin Ruiz needs just 17 yards to become the seventh player in YSU history to rush for 3,000 career yards. Wide receiver Andrew Williams needs only 27 receiving yards to tie Rick Shepas for second all-time.
Kickoff is slated for 2pm this Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium in Youngstown, Ohio. Fans can watch the game live on ESPN3 and the Watch ESPN App. You can also listen on 570 WKBN or iHeartRadio.com