YSU hopes to end skid at Illinois State
By Charles Grove
As the season grows longer and the days get shorter, the road gets tougher for the Youngstown State football team. The Penguins travel this weekend to Illinois State, where they haven’t won since 2006.
“When you look at our schedule, that’s why we’ve got to keep getting better,” YSU head coach Bo Pelini said Tuesday. “We’ve got to become more efficient and consistent.”
Illinois State’s conference record might not be much to look at. The Redbirds are dead-last in the Missouri Valley Football Conference at 0-2 and have lost three straight since upsetting Northwestern in Week 2.
But that triggers a bit of an alarm in quarterback Ricky Davis’ mind.
“I would say it’s tougher [to win against Illinois State] because they’re hungrier than most teams,” Davis said. “They need this win and they’re going to do anything they can to get it.”
YSU (3-1, 1-0) dropped a 31-29 decision at home against the Redbirds last year. It was one of four games within a field goal the Penguins played in last year, dropping three of them.
Last Saturday, South Dakota nearly pulled within a touchdown of YSU on two separate occasions during the Penguins’ 30-20 conference opening win.
YSU survived despite only scoring two touchdowns in seven trips to the red zone. Both coaches and players know that ratio isn’t going to cut it the rest of the year.
“We should’ve blown those guys out,” Davis said. “If we capitalized when we got in the red zone, the final score would’ve been a lot different had we done that. We would’ve been up in the 50s.”
Still despite the red zone flaws, Davis said the Penguins played an otherwise very good football game to open up MVFC play.
“I thought it was kind of blown out of proportion that we played awful,” Davis said. “I didn’t think we played awful.
“I thought we played a good football game. We just have to capitalize on the red zone and we’re good.”
Davis ran the ball 21 times for 66 yards and slides were few and far between. Davis said he doesn’t believe rushing 21 times was too many because the game situations called for it.
“I wouldn’t say [21 rushes is too much],” Davis said. “The coaches might say it is.
“We were struggling running the ball and we got into a lot of third and longs and there were times where they had good coverage and I was trying to get the yardage.”
Pelini stressed that his team needs all 11 players on either side of the ball all doing what they’re told because one slip up can negate all the work of everyone else.
“There were some guys who absolutely played their tails off but you need 11 on every snap,” Pelini said. “You can have nine, 10 guys doing what they needed to do but if you have one guy fail, which was evident a couple of times the other day, it’s not going to work.
“And if it does work it’s not going to work consistently.”
As far as the defense goes, defensive tackle Cody Squiric said overall so far the defense gets a “B” grade But a tough midterm will challenge the defensive line this week.
“I remember playing [Illinois State] last year and they were great up front as a whole,” Squiric said. “You have to be ready for anything and everything with them. Maybe what they’re not doing is working so they’ll throw everything at you. We need to be ready for everything they can and will give us.”