By Nathanael Hawthorne
The 2019 football season has had many ups and downs for Youngstown State University. What started out as a promising year quickly turned disastrous for the Penguins.
Like all things, the season must come to an end, and YSU will close out the season at home against the sixth-ranked Illinois State University.
The Penguins went on a tear early in the season by going undefeated. The offense seemed to be clicking and the defensive output was substantially better than the 2018 season.
The winning record was short-lived once the team entered play in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
After last week’s loss, the team sits at a 5-6 overall record and a 1-6 conference record.
Compared to last season, the team has had a statistically better season. A few things to note are the overall team record, total points scored and, most notably, the defensive output. YSU defense has almost doubled the number of turnovers it had during all of last season.
Freshman linebacker Griffin Hoak said he believes the season is an improvement from last year.
“It definitely is some ups and downs of the season that are upsetting, and I think there’s a lot to work on in the offseason,” he said.
These small statistics, however, don’t sell tickets or put fans in the stands. Penguins coach Bo Pelini knows that when a team is winning, people are more likely to attend games.
“I get it. I get how it goes,” Pelini said. “If we have 10 people in the stands or 10,000, we’ve got to be ready to play. We’ve had good support here since I’ve been here. … You’re going to get more people when the games mean more.”
“I don’t know what’s going to happen Saturday, how many people we’re going to get or how they’re going to react, but I hope we get a good crowd,” he added. “We’re going to play football no matter what.”
The contest against Illinois State University is also going to be an emotional day. The game doubles as a senior night for the seniors on the team, but Pelini has to make a decision about who is going to take the field for YSU.
“We’ve been playing more young guys and giving them some experience,” Pelini said. “I want to win. We want to win in the here and now, but this is about the future and about honoring these seniors playing their last football game. There’s a lot that goes into it. But at the end of the day, we want to play well and win the football game.”
When it comes down to it, the Penguins have had a more successful season, though the record doesn’t reflect the success.
“The record might reflect what you are at the time, but this team could be a lot better than what the record shows,” Hoak said. “I just think we could be better than what 5-6 shows.”
Kickoff for the final game of the season is scheduled for Nov. 23 at noon at the Ice Castle.