By joe scalzo
Last weekend, Michigan State showed what can happen when a team doesn’t look past a less talented opponent.
Today, Youngstown State can do the same.
After getting overpowered by the Spartans on the Big Ten Network, the Penguins play host to Duquesne this afternoon in what looks like a classic “trap game.”
“It’s very important that we play well … to get a little bit of confidence back,” YSU coach Eric Wolford said. “Every game is important and we need to play lights out.
“We can’t take anything for granted.”
The Dukes (1-1) had two weeks to prepare for YSU (2-1) following a 23-20 loss to non-scholarship Dayton. Duquesne is a partial scholarship FCS team — it offers 35 scholarships, well below the maximum of 63 — and, on paper, should be no match for YSU.
But as the old saying goes, the only thing more dangerous than a game you don’t think you can win is a game you don’t think you can lose.
Wolford doesn’t expect that be a problem today.
“We going to get a good shot from Duquesne,” Wolford said. “They’re a neighboring school to Pitt and they’d like nothing more than to say they beat the team that beat Pitt.
“They’re going to come in here rip-roaring and ready to play.”
The Dukes are a pass-first team, featuring redshirt freshman quarterback Dillon Buechel, who has thrown for 604 yards and four TDS in his first two starts.
Defensively, they run a base 3-4, but like to vary their fronts in order to confuse opposing defenses. The starting lineup includes former Ohio State linebacker Dorian Bell (a preseason All-America) and former Florida safety Chris Johnson.
Their defense is similar to Southern Illinois, which plays host to Youngstown State next week.
“They run a weird defense,” YSU senior center Chris Elkins said. “They run like a 3-3-5 with all kinds of stand-up linemen. They do all kinds of different things.”
After rolling up more than 700 yards in a win over Morehead State, YSU’s offense struggled against Michigan State, managing just 51 yards rushing and 121 passing.
The Penguins could get a boost today if injured running backs Demond Hymes (who has yet to play this season) and Adaris Bellamy (who hasn’t played since gaining a career-high 203 yards in the opener), but last week’s problem had more to do with blocking than running.
“I want to see better play on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball,” Wolford said. “Whether it’s getting off blocks or finishing off blocks, it’s something we’ve been talking about quite a bit.”
Youngstown State has won 20 of its last 21 non-conference home games, including an 8-0 mark under Wolford. The Penguins are also 9-0 at home in September under Wolford.
With road games looming the next two weeks, it’s important for YSU to take care of business today.
“It’s a good game to set up for the conference,” junior linebacker Teven Williams said. “We definitely want to go into the conference rolling.
“That’s what we plan on doing.”