By Joe Scalzo
Here’s a sampling from Joe Tresey’s list of “Things that Youngstown State’s defense did wrong on Saturday night.”
Didn’t trust its keys.
Didn’t play to its help.
Didn’t take the right pursuit angles.
Didn’t understand where each player fit in the broader scheme.
Didn’t play fast.
Didn’t meet and defeat blocks.
“It was all fundamentals,” said Tresey, the YSU defensive coordinator whose unit gave up 35 points against Northern Iowa. “That’s why we have this off week. We’re really focusing on meeting and defeating blocks, working on our pursuit angles and all those kinds of things.
“We have to get it cleaned up.”
Both Tresey and head coach Eric Wolford made sure to credit the Panthers for some of the defense’s struggles — “I think they’re a pretty good team, you know?” Wolford said — but they also know Saturday’s effort wasn’t good enough to get the Penguins where they want to go.
“The guys were very disappointed in the way they played, especially in the third quarter,” Tresey said. “But we had a good practice today. They were very focused.”
The Penguins, who travel to North Dakota State on Oct. 6, will focus on fundamentals in this week’s practice, hoping to correct several issues that surfaced in wins over Albany and UNI. Both opponents had success in the passing game, with Albany quarterback Will Fiacchi throwing for 228 yards and two touchdowns and UNI’s Sawyer Kollmorgen throwing for 333 yards, three TDs and an interception. And the Panthers took advantage of poor kickoff coverage, an issue that has hampered Wolford’s teams each of the last three seasons.
While Wolford credited YSU’s defense for playing well “for almost two quarters against UNI, part of the Panthers’ struggles in the first half can be blamed on 80 yards worth of penalties.
More troubling, four of UNI’s five touchdowns came on plays of 16 yards or more, with two going for at least 38.
“Give them credit — they made some plays,” said Tresey, who also felt that cornerbacks Parnell Taylor and Julius Childs and safety Donald D’Alesio dropped interceptions. “But two of those touchdowns, they should have been down.”
YSU doesn’t have a single three year-starter on defense — the offense has four — and only two of Saturday’s defensive starters were full-time starters last year, so it’s clear they need time to gel.
Question is, will a week be enough? The next two games are on the road against the conference’s two best offenses — NDSU is averaging 46.7 points and 486 yards per game, while Illinois State is averaging 41 points and 446.8 yards — and it’s a safe bet that those two teams will use the UNI game as a blueprint for solving YSU’s defense.
“I think it’s a good time to have a bye week,” said Wolford. “We’ll get a chance to spend a little extra time on [NDSU]. The next few games are going to be difficult, so we’ll get a jump on that and get ready to play.”