By Dan Hiner
The skeptics were right and the doubters had reason to be hesitant. Yet again the Youngstown State University football team was unable to get a clutch win during the month of November to give it a shot at the playoffs.
With the Penguins receiving a 38-14 beat down from North Dakota State University, YSU has been eliminated from the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs and ended their season with three straight losses. The loss brought flashbacks of the humiliating 48-7 loss the last time the Penguins visited Fargo in 2012.
The YSU offense, if it can really even be called an offense, struggled from the first snap of the game compiling 37 yards during the first half. The offense was unable to get anything going during the first two possessions of the game and was forced to punt both times. The third possession didn’t end with a punt, but quarterback Hunter Wells instead was intercepted—his first of three on the day.
“When you fall back by 14 points it like you have to throw your game plan away,” wide receiver Christian Bryan said. “You have to readjust quickly and sooner or later you’re playing catch up. You put your defense in a bad position… I don’t know what it was, but they whooped us upfront, they whooped us outside and they whooped us in all phases of the game.”
Let’s give credit where credit is due. Quarterback Hunter Wells and the offense did finish two drives with touchdowns, but most of the offense was generated during the second half after the game was well out of reach for the Penguins. Wells finished the day 15-26 for 135 yards and two touchdowns. The offense finished with a
The defense didn’t look much better, but at least they made plays on occasion, every now and then recording a sack or intercepting a pass. The Penguins defense allowed 479 yards on the day. YSU didn’t stand a chance against the Bison running game allowing 353 yards, 123 yards from quarterback Carson Wentz and 169 yards from running back John Crockett.
“When you play these guys you have to play fast. Physically, we’ve played these guys, but I think we have not been able to match up physically against these guys,” head coach Eric Wolford said.
Senior safety Donald D’Alesio said the team was ready to play, but the defense had a tough time after the turnovers gave the Bison a short field to work with consistently in the first half.
“Our team is ready to play,” he said. “Getting all those turnovers early in the game killed us. The defense was put in a bad situation. It’s nothing to blame but we just couldn’t get off the field. We couldn’t find a way. Give them credit they were the best team we played.
As the game went on and the Bison running game took control of the second half, and the Penguins fell apart. They looked defeated and uninterested in the game that alimentally put the nail in the coffin for their playoff chances and the dagger in the hearts of the fans and YSU faithful.
With the loss, the Wolford’s future as the head coach is being called into question. After losing in overtime last week to Indiana State University and blowing a 21-14 halftime lead against Illinois State University the week before; the questionable play calling and lack of fundamentals might have finally caught up with him.