By Joe Scalzo
For the first time since 2006, the Youngstown State football team finished a season with seven Division I wins.
It needed eight.
Less than 24 hours after a dominating win over Indiana State, the Penguins (7-4, 4-4 Missouri Valley) extended their FCS playoff drought to six seasons when they were passed over for one of the 10 at-large spots.
Appalachian State athletic director Charlie Cobb, the chairman of an 11-person selection committee that included YSU athletic director Ron Strollo, said the group considered 26 teams for at-large bids, with MVFC member South Dakota State (8-3) and Big South co-champion Stony Brook (9-2) snagging the final two.
MVFC champion North Dakota State, the defending national champions, got the No. 1 overall seed and conference member Illinois State also got an at-large bid. But the nation’s top-rated conference will only have three playoff teams, the same number as the Big Sky (No. 2 in the Gridiron Power Index) and the Colonial Athletic Association (No. 6).
YSU’s fate was sealed with an 0-4 record in October that included road losses to NDSU (48-7), Illinois State (35-28) and SDSU (41-28) and a home loss to Southern Illinois (38-21). The ISU loss was particularly damaging since the Penguins led 28-7.
While the Penguins’ resume featured a win over Big East member Pitt, their 4-4 record left them sixth in the conference standings.
YSU was also hurt by a lack of quality wins. Three of their four conference victories came against teams with losing records (Northern Iowa, South Dakota and Western Illinois) and two other wins came against partial-scholarship Albany and non-scholarship Valparaiso.
Before the season, YSU coach Eric Wolford said anything short of the playoffs would be a failure. He didn’t back down from that after Saturday’s game.
“I base success here on the standard, and I’ve said from Day 1 the standard here is the playoffs and championships,” he said.
Since Jim Tressel left after the 2000 season, the Penguins have fallen short of that standard 11 times. Wolford and his staff now have nine months to figure out how to avoid No. 12.