Hannan says YSU looks like a playoff contender
By Greg Gulas
Currently in his 28th season as the radio voice of Youngstown State University football, Bob Hannon has witnessed the Penguins’ deep play-off runs as well as disappointing rejections and post-season misses.
As he sits in the catbird seat and calls all of the action during head coach Bo Pelini’s second season at the helm, he feels that this year’s team is finally built for a play-off run.
Addressing the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly luncheon session at Avion Banquet Center, he noted that their quarterback play is an area that still needs tweaked if they expect to make the play-offs and advance each subsequent week.
“I really believe that this year’s team can go deep into the play-offs and the reasons are very simple —it’s because of their defense and special teams,” he said. “They are good enough to make that run, but still need adequate quarterback play in order for that to happen.”
The Penguins (6-2, 4-1) have used four signal-callers so far this season, including Hunter Wells, Ricky Davis, Trent Hosick and Nathan Mays. Coupled with Saturday’s 13-10 win over Indiana State, they now join South Dakota State (5-3, 4-1) and North Dakota State (7-1, 4-1) atop the Missouri Valley Conference standings.
YSU will head to the Fargo Dome this Saturday, where they will take on the five-time defending FCS national champion Bison.
“To be on top of the MVC standings as you head to the ninth week of play only shows you what Bo has done in less than two years at the helm. North Dakota State, however, is a different level of play,” Hannon said. “They are five-time champions for a reason and believe they can make it a sixth consecutive crown. They are the gold standard of the FCS right now, but a win over the Bison though, especially on the road should go a long way on selection Sunday.”
Hannon noted that the Penguins’ defense has two All-America caliber players in ends Derek Rivers and Avery Moss, both of whom are seniors.
“Derek is a tremendous pass rusher and should be drafted this spring while Avery, who transferred in from Nebraska, is also a great pass rusher. Opponents cannot block nor can they double team that dynamic duo,” he added. “Add players of their talent level to Bo Pelini’s expertise and you see the reason why we have been so successful this season. Bo definitely knows defense and that’s what is carrying us right now. Five seniors in the secondary also helps.”
Quarterbacks have thrown seven touchdown passes to date but 11 interceptions, some at critical junctures of games have proven costly according to Hannon.
“We’ve struggled to make the big pass play and that only puts pressure on your defense. We lost two great receivers in Andre Stubbs and Andrew Williams off last year’s team and have some young, talented receivers this season,” he stated. “Those talented receivers, however, are inexperienced and with struggling quarterback play, that has caused some difficulty in sustaining drives,” Hannon said. “If we can run the ball like we did last weekend against ISU, which was also our formula of success in the 90’s, even though the game has changed then I feel we can once again make that deep play-off run.”
Hannon also said that special teams have factored into the team’s success thus far.
“Zak Kennedy is an all-conference kicker and Mark Schuler has been a pleasant surprise as our punter,” Hannon said. “That’s been an underrated part of YSU’s success thus far.”
Next week, Channel 21 sports director Dana Balash will be the featured speaker.