By Dan Hiner
The Youngstown State University football team lost its season opener to the University of Pittsburgh 45-37, but it’s not time to call it quits on the season just yet. YSU head coach Bo Pelini wanted to reiterate that the sky isn’t falling.
“It’s not a time to panic because we lost a football game. Like I said, it’s going to be the team that’s standing at the end — that keeps getting better throughout the year,” Pelini said in his postgame press conference on Saturday.
The loss should come as no surprise. Historically, the Penguins haven’t faired well in games between Football Bowl Subdivision schools. With the loss on Saturday, the Penguins are 1-10 against Bowl Championship Series schools [automatic bowl qualifying schools] and 20-28-1 against FBS programs [formerly Division I-A].
YSU will try to rebound on Sept. 12 when it hosts Robert Morris University at the home opener at Stambaugh Stadium, but the football team has a few problems they have to fix heading into week two.
Starting running back Martin Ruiz suffered a leg bruise in the loss to Pitt and was unable to play the final three quarters of the game. Pelini is hopeful the star ball carrier will be able to play against Robert Morris.
“Martin’s OK. He has a thigh bruise. I’d say he’s probably questionable,” Pelini said. “You don’t know how long those take sometimes. Everyone’s a little bit different. He’s a tough kid and we’ll just have to see what happens there. I thought, in his place, Jody [Webb] played very well. We have other options at the running back position. Demond [Hymes] got in there and did a nice job. We’ll have to see how the week place out.”
The offensive line had trouble handling the Pitt pass rush last week. The Penguins’ offensive line allowed six sacks in addition to a quarterback hurry that knocked YSU quarterback Hunter Wells out for the final drive of the game.
Brock Eisenhuth, YSU’s starting right guard, said the offensive line needs to learn from their experience at Pitt and the team should focus on last week’s game because it could affect the team’s play against Robert Morris.
“I felt like we didn’t play to our full potential — we had a lot of missed assignments up front,” Eisenhuth said. “That game has passed; we have to move on to Robert Morris. You got to play the next play, no matter how many times you mess up. You’re always going to have missed assignments or bad plays in a game. You can’t let one play bring you down. You got to move on to the next play.”
Despite the constant pressure, Wells finished the day completing 19-38 passes for 274 yards including a 77-yard touchdown pass to receiver Andre Stubbs. Wide receiver Andrew Williams said the pass rush might have gotten to Wells mentally, but “it’s nothing to worry about.”
Pelini said the team made fundamental mistakes against the Panthers, and Pitt was able to capitalize on the opportunities. Pelini went on to say the team needed to “execute at a higher level,” and thinks adjustments need to be made in all areas of the team to ensure they don’t happen again.
“On a positive note, I think all the things that happened are really correctable, but they’re not going to correct themselves,” Pelini said. “We’re going to have to work hard to get it done and be more focused, more disciplined and keep getting better — that’s the key. We have to take advantage of today, tomorrow and this week to be a better football team this Saturday than we were last Saturday.”
After losing a one-possession game to Pitt — a game the Penguins thought they could have won — YSU has become more focused on their upcoming game against the Colonials.
“We left plays out there on the field and I feel like it’s going to motivate us this week,” Williams said. “We’re going to come into this game with intensity — we shouldn’t lose anymore.”