Joe Scalzo: Playoff drought begins with D

The wise philosopher Tom Sims once said this about football: “This is not a peace rally. Attack and hit stuff.”

He said it this spring, actually, to a redshirt freshman defensive tackle named Milton Williams III, who stands 5-foot-11, weighs 250 pounds and looks absolutely nothing like a Milton.

“It’s football,” said Sims, YSU’s defensive line coach who was featured on the school’s “Mic’d Up” feature on “We hit stuff in football.”

Sometimes the stuff is other people. And sometimes, like during YSU’s spring game on Friday night, it’s the ground, which happened a lot whenever running back Jody Webb had the ball. Or when running back Ryan Moore had the ball. Or wide receiver Andre Stubbs had the ball.

It didn’t happen when quarterback Ricky Davis had the ball, though, because the starting defense didn’t hit anything. Late in the first quarter of the starting offense’s 48-13 rout, Davis kept the ball on a zone read play, rolled right and ran for a 12-yard touchdown, which is pretty difficult to do when the quarterbacks are playing under touch football rules.

Youngstown State’s biggest problem through the first four years of the Eric Wolford era was its defense. Its biggest problem on Friday night was its defense. The only thing different was the coordinator was named Jamie Bryant and not Joe Tresey or Rick Kravitz.

“They [the defense] were beating us up the whole spring ball,” YSU receiver Andrew Williams said after Friday’s spring game, which the White (starting offense/backup defense) won 48-13. “Then I told them, when the spring game comes, it’s nothing after that. We gonna play.”

(In fairness, Williams only caught one pass all night. It went for a 54-yard touchdown, but still.)

The Penguins kept it bland on both sides of the ball on Friday, but you don’t need an exotic scheme to diagnosis a simple misdirection play or tackle in space. It’s not a peace rally. You attack and hit people.

Tackling Webb (12 carries, 172 yards, four TDs) is easier said than done, yes, but it’s a bad sign when your first-team defense gives up 468 yards in 20 minutes to an offense featuring two inexperienced quarterbacks (Davis and Dante Nania) and an offensive line that lost four starters to graduation.

“That was probably as poor as we’ve tackled all spring,” Wolford said, “which is actually kind of surprising.”

Actually, it kind of wasn’t. His defense gave up 425.4 yards a game in the Missouri Valley last season. That ranked last in the league ... by 55 yards.

Wolford spent most of the spring touting his defensive line (“That was one group that did the best all spring,” he said), his new coordinator (Bryant) and new safeties coach Michael Zordich.

But on Friday night, his new defense looked a lot like his old ones.

That’s not the end of the world in April, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world in November, either. Just the end of YSU’s season.


Joe Scalzo covers YSU football for The Vindicator. Write to him at or follow him on Twitter @JoeScalzo1.

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