Top-ranked Bison dominate Penguins
By Joe Scalzo
The Youngstown State football team suffered its worst loss of the Eric Wolford era on Saturday.
But, Wolford emphasized, that’s all it was. One loss.
“It was a good lesson for us,” said Wolford following the Penguins’ 48-7 loss to top-ranked North Dakota State at the Fargodome. “The thing now is, we can’t let North Dakota State beat us twice.
“We’ve got to take care of our business and hopefully we’ll get the chance to play again.”
The game started bad and only got worse as senior running back Jamaine Cook lost a fumble on YSU’s first offensive play, helping the Bison take a 7-0 lead less than four minutes into the game.
Add in a pair of first-half interceptions by Kurt Hess — his first of the season — and it’s easy to see how the Penguins fell behind 35-7 at halftime.
“I felt like we gave them 21 points early in the game,” said Wolford.
The game’s turning point, if there was one, came with nine minutes left in the second quarter. Trailing 14-7, YSU faced a second-and-10 at the Bison 20.
Facing zone coverage, Hess tried to hit wide receiver Andre Stubbs in the end zone but North Dakota State’s all-conference cornerback, Marcus Williams, stepped in front, caught it at the 2 and returned it 98 yards for the touchdown.
“It’s a play I can’t make,” said Hess. “I made the wrong decision. I take full blame because even though I did throw the pick, I should have tackled him.”
The Penguins went three-and-out on their next series, gave up a 73-yard scoring drive on defense and the game was never again in doubt.
“When you’re playing the defending national champions, the margin of error is a lot smaller,” Hess said.
YSU’s offense entered the game averaging 446 yards and 41 points per game but was held to just 211 total yards and its fewest points since last year’s opener against Michigan State.
Hess finished just 11 of 20 for 117 yards and a touchdown and played under uncharacteristic pressure all game. When asked if he’s ever felt that frustrated on a football field, he said. “Not recently. Probably not since I’ve been here, no.”
But Bison coach Craig Bohl and his players were subdued in their postgame press conferences, with Bohl saying, “We try to stay grounded in our statements. It doesn’t take long to go from the penthouse to the outhouse.”
The Bison dominated in ways that went beyond the stat sheet, although their time of possession (33:12) and third-down conversion rate (11 of 15) said plenty. And while they did score on a 46-yard flea-flicker — the second time YSU has been victimized by that play this season — the domination was due more to effort and execution than anything else.
“Even after this loss, I really can’t be mad because of the way we played,” said defensive tackle Aronde Stanton. “If we played good and lost, maybe. But the way that we played is disappointing.
“Next week we’ve got to play a lot better than that.”