Starting offense dominates STARTING D
By Joe Scalzo
Youngstown State receiver Andrew Williams spent most of this year’s spring practice with the defense yapping in his ear.
“They got cocky,” he said. “They were like, ‘We put it on y’all the whole spring’ and then they were talking trash going into this game.”
Williams caught a gorgeous 54-yard touchdown pass from starting quarterback Dante Nania, running back Jody Webb did his best Barry Sanders impression in rolling up 172 yards and four touchdowns and YSU’s starting offense dominated the starting defense, leading White to a 48-13 victory over Red in Friday’s spring game at Stambaugh Stadium.
“When you’ve got a good defense like ours and they’re beating you up every day, at some point you’ve got to hit back,” Webb said. “I feel like today was that day for the offense.”
YSU’s starting defense played well in the first series, with sophomore cornerback Eric Thompson jumping Williams’ out route on third-and-11 and returning the interception 27 yards to the Red 14. Three plays (and zero yards) later, Joey Cejudo hit the first of two field goals, a 31-yarder.
Then the floodgates opened.
White scored on four of the next five possessions, with none of the drives lasting more than 2:22. Webb had 98 yards rushing and two TDs by halftime, Nania hit a streaking Williams for a 54-yard TD and backup quarterback Ricky Davis added an untouched 12-yard TD to make it 34-3 at halftime.
The second half was more of the same, with YSU’s coaches twice skipping White possessions to give the Red offense more reps.
Nania finished 4 of 6 for 79 yards and Davis was 5 of 6 for 66 yards. The two are battling to replace four-year starter Kurt Hess and that battle will continue into the summer, YSU coach Eric Wolford said.
“We’re fortunate that we have two guys coming out of spring that we feel really good about,” he said.
When asked if he could play both during the regular season, Wolford said, “Yes, and that’s something Shane [Montgomery, the offensive coordinator] and I have talked about. We’re not in a big hurry to make this decision.”
Third-string quarterback Tanner Garry was 8 of 17 for 66 yards for the Red team, while running back Sidney Sandidge led Red with 12 carries for 87 yards, including a 70-yarder in the second half.
“I know one thing,” Wolford said, “we’ve got five running backs.”
Safety Jameel Smith had eight tackles to lead the Red (starting) defense. In fact, the top four Red tacklers were all in the secondary: Smith, Thompson (4.5 tackles, along with a forced fumble), nickel back Julius Childs (3.0) and safety Kevon Caffey (2.5).
Wolford said he kept things basic on both sides of the ball, but admitted it was a poor night for his defense, which switched defensive coordinators in the offseason from Joe Tresey to Jamie Bryant after a poor 2013.
“One thing that glaringly showed up was that’s probably as poor as we’ve tackled all spring,” he said. “But understand, the whole spring our defense has been shellacking our offense.”
Maybe so, but Friday’s chilly weather wasn’t the only thing that reminded YSU fans of last November. Five months wasn’t enough to fix the defense’s woes. Will nine be?