By Dan Hiner
“We have to start off faster. We started off slow and that played a major role in the game toward the end game. We just have to come out faster this week,” Jody Webb, Youngstown State University’s running back, said.
The YSU football team escaped its game against Robert Morris University by the skin of its teeth. The Penguins needed overtime to come away with a 21-14 win on Saturday.
For the second straight week the Penguins had trouble stopping the run. YSU allowed 325 rushing yards to the University of Pittsburgh and gave up 155 yards to Robert Morris, 152 to Colonials’ running back Rameses Owens.
YSU head coach Bo Pelini said he thought the team played well verses the run against Robert Morris, but that the tackling has to improve as the season progresses.
“The one long play we blitzed and we missed a gap, and you gotta tackle it for an 8-yard gain and we missed the tackle. Probably the biggest concern for me as far as stopping the run is the yardage after contact,” Pelini said. “We’re there we make contact at the line of scrimmage, and instead of it being second and 10, its second and five because we missed a tackle. We put a huge emphasis on tackling — we do it everyday. We need to tackle better and usually sometimes you have that early in the season, but it has to get better.”
YSU quarterback Hunter Wells struggled against the Colonials. Wells competed 11-27 passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns. YSU receivers had trouble catching passes and the offensive line allowed two sacks. Pelini said the Penguins must play better around Wells.
“I don’t think we played well around him the other night in the passing game,” Pelini said. “Obviously some drops and things hurt us, and we complete a fairly long one down the field and we’re in motion. Some things happened — we didn’t play well around him. He missed a couple throws. He missed a third down throw, and one on a third down throw late in the game where he should have probably taken his check down, and we probably move the sticks.
“He’s still growing; he’s still a young player. I think he’s a very good football player and what I like about him is he’s usually pretty accurate. You got to play well around the quarterback too. At times our protection broke down. One time we called the wrong protection. We put the back on the defensive end for instance, when the back should have been out on the route. Because the back didn’t get out on the route the primary receiver, which the route would have been there, ended up being double covered because the back didn’t get out. It’s little things like that are hurting us.”
The 16th-ranked Penguins will play St. Francis University on Saturday. YSU’s run defense will be tested again this week. Last season, St. Francis running back Khairi Dickson ran for 151 yards against the Penguins in their week four matchup.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge for us,” Pelini said. “It’s a different running back than we’ve seen the first couple weeks. He’s a little bit more of a scat back, really quick, has great vision. There are times you watch on film and you stop the film thinking it’s going to be a two or three yard play or no game, and next thing you know he can make guys miss in a small area. Which for us, has been an issue for us. We need to tackle better and really take the technique that we teach to the field.”
YSU defensive tackle Steve Zaborsky said the defense will have to improve in practice this week. He said the Penguins will play one of the “top backs” in the nation.
“You just gotta take the right angles. [That’s] something that we didn’t do quite as well last week and something we’re definitely going to focus on this week. You want to gradually increase your level of play and your consistency,” Zaborsky said. “So I think having another week under our belt to get ready, practice, focus on what we didn’t do well last week or prior weeks, it will help us get ready for the challenge ahead of us.”