Pelini wants more from YSU
By Charles Grove
It was a 30-20 win for Youngstown State as the Penguins opened Missouri Valley Football Conference play against South Dakota, but it was not at all what head coach Bo Pelini was looking for.
“I don’t take a whole lot of positives out of this game,” Pelini said. “We had a chance to play good football and we had a chance to get better today and we didn’t do that.”
The Penguins’ offense appeared to do their job on paper. The offense gained 450 yards, had the ball for 38:31 and it never really looked like their lead was in real danger.
But there were plenty of missed opportunities.
YSU (3-1, 1-0 MVFC) scored five times in their seven red zone trips but only two of those were touchdowns. Zak Kennedy kicked field goals of 26, 28 and 29 yards.
“It’s real frustrating,” running back Jody Webb said. “I take blame on some of the touchdowns that should have occurred.”
Also, while quarterback Ricky Davis was at times deadly accurate against the South Dakota (1-3, 0-1 MVFC) zone defense, he also forced the ball on a number of occasions, leading to two interceptions and what could’ve been more if not for a few drops by Coyote defenders.
“[Ricky] is part of it and there’s 10 other guys part of it,” Pelini said. “We didn’t play the way we needed to play.”
Defensively, there were more positives to take away. The YSU defense limited a team averaging 39 points per game to 20 and a team averaging 406 yards per game to 254, while also coming up with three turnovers. But even that wasn’t enough to find many bright spots.
“[The defense was] average,” Pelini said. “Not up to our standard. We didn’t play up to our standards in any phase of the game.”
South Dakota quarterback Chris Streveler came into the game averaging 115 yards per game on the ground. The YSU defense completely neutralized that threat, only allowing 17 yards and stripping him of the football on the first drive of the game.
“That was something we took pride in that we weren’t going to allow [Streveler] to come in and run all over us,” defensive end Avery Moss said. “As a defensive lineman, we take great pride in stopping that and we just wanted to put a hurting on the quarterback.”
YSU held a 23-6 lead when Kennedy hit his third field goal of the night with 13:07 to go. South Dakota countered with a one-yard touchdown pass to Riley Donovan with 5:24 to go and a 23-yard pass to Alonge Brooks with 1:34 to go, getting within 10 points on both occasions, but South Dakota never got a chance to complete the comeback.
The last five minutes was about the only time the South Dakota offense appeared threatening. Through the first three quarters the Coyotes were 2-of-13 on third down conversions mostly because of the amount of third down and long situations the Penguins were forcing.
“[South Dakota] did exactly what we game-planned for,” linebacker Jalyn Kelly said. “We knew they were going to come out and try to run with their quarterback and throw short little intermediate routes and they did exactly that and we just stopped it.”
Still, Moss said the defense was often not playing as a cohesive unit Saturday night.
“It was like half of us were doing something and half of us were doing something else,” Moss said. “If we can all get on one page I don’t think anyone can stop us in this division.”
Next up for the Penguins is a date with the Redbirds of Illinois State (2-3, 0-2 MVFC). The last time YSU won in Normal, Ill. was 2006, ISU beat the Penguins at home last year by two points.