By Marc Weems
The Youngstown State University football team has struggled to find any sort of consistency. The Penguins are currently 2-4 with a 1-2 Missouri Valley Football Conference record. The Penguins now come home for two straight home games, which may be just what they need.
The first of two games is against the University of South Dakota, who are coming off a 42-28 loss to the University of Northern Iowa.
“It’s pretty simple. We can’t make as many mistakes as we’ve been making,” YSU head coach Bo Pelini said. “It’s as simple as that. It isn’t a physical thing. We make too many mental errors and we’re not executing to the level we need to. You can’t do that.”
Pelini said that he felt that when he walked off the field against South Dakota State University at halftime that they should have been up 10 or 14 points instead of down nine points.
“We’ve been our own worst enemy. We have to play better,” Pelini said.
In YSU’s 36-7 loss to SDSU, YSU started with the ball with 55 or less yards to go four times and came away with zero points.
Despite the score, YSU’s defense played very well. The Penguins held the Jackrabbits to 331 total yards with just 78 passing yards.
Now with a game against the University of South Dakota, the Penguins must continue to use defense to their advantage.
“South Dakota looks like a good team,” defensive tackle Wesley Thompson said. “They are 3-3 right now. That is obviously a tough thing to do in our conference. They played UNI pretty good but they lost. It’s going to be a tough challenge this week.”
The Coyotes use a mostly passing attack on offense. Quarterback Austin Simmons has thrown for 1,924 yards with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has completed 61.4 percent of passes so far this year.
Running the ball has been tough for the Coyotes, but the Penguins have struggled in run defense.
Ben Klett is the leading rusher with 247 yards on 54 attempts with three touchdowns.
“We’ve had a couple of tough losses but everything we want is still out there,” Thompson said about getting to the playoffs again. “Especially when we have the No. 1 and Illinois State is No. 7. If we win out, we can still get in.”
YSU’s offense has been the Achilles heel of this team so far. Averaging just 23.7 points per game, the Penguins will need to move the ball better to beat South Dakota.
Last season on the road, USD defeated YSU, 31-28, on a game-winning field goal with seven seconds left.
“You can’t play football that way,” Pelini said on playing nervous. “We’ve talked about it. To me, a lot of that is that you have to believe in your preparation and lean on your preparation. The thing that has me shaking my head goes back to the game. I’m having a hard time putting my finger on it.”
YSU ranks in the top 50 of the FCS for total defense and for passing defense.
The Penguins offense has been inconsistent to say the least. The rushing attack has lacked as the Penguins are gaining just 163.5 yards per game which is down 59 yards per game from last year’s average.
“The consistency just isn’t there and you can’t live that way,” Pelini said. “I’ve been coaching a long time and I’ve never been this frustrated as I am right now. I know the ‘want to’ is there. The effort is there. We have to coach it better and stay the course. It’s not an x and o problem. It’s an execution problem.”
YSU gets this two-game homestand started on Oct. 20 at 6 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.