YSU secondary figures to be tested by SDSU


By Charles Grove

cgrove@vindy.com

sioux falls, s.d.

“Overcoming adversity” is one of those cheesy, generic, cliche buzzwords coaching staffs like to throw around that typically make a reporter throw their eyes so far back into their head they can see what’s behind them.

But if the Youngstown State football team picks up another win today, which would be its fifth in a row, those two words would be very applicable considering the uncertainty that has surrounded this team.

Can’t find the end zone for three quarters at Illinois State? YSU scored 17 fourth-quarter points.

Can’t finish drives in the red zone against South Dakota? YSU’s defense limits the Coyotes to 4 of 17 on third down and forces three turnovers.

Both of the top two quarterbacks forced out with injuries and facing a 10-0 deficit against Northern Iowa? YSU’s offense picks up 226 yards on the ground and keeps the ball all but about eight minutes in the second half.

More of the same is likely to required today as the Penguins try to solidify themselves in first place in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

The first thing that jumps out is South Dakota State averages 40.7 points. YSU’s pass defense isn’t as comparable to swiss cheese as it was against West Virginia, but it will require a stand-out performance from someone in the secondary to slow down quarerback Taryn Christion, who averages 323 passing yards and has 22 touchdowns to two interceptions.

“He’s a little bit better thrower than the guy last week,” YSU head coach Bo Pelini said. “They don’t do as many designed runs as the guy last week. He’s a little bit more conventual, but they’re not afraid to run him.”

The other thing that immediately stands out is the series history. SDSU only holds a 10-7 lead in the all-time series, but the Jackrabbits have won seven of the past eight meetings, including a 38-8 beatdown last year at Stambaugh Stadium. YSU’s only win during this stretch was two years ago when the Penguins pulled out a 30-27 road win.

What doesn’t immediately jump out on a stat sheet but could play into YSU’s favor is the lack of yards the Jackrabbits are gaining on the ground.

Brady Mengarelli leads the SDSU rushing attack with just 46 yards per game on 49 total carries. That’s not much compared to YSU leading rusher Martin Ruiz, who averages 82.3 yards on 94 carries.

Perhaps the SDSU offense isn’t rushing because they haven’t felt the need to with the success of their passing game. On the other hand though, SDSU likely hasn’t faced a defensive front like the one YSU brought to town which has totaled 21 sacks this year.

It’s a real strength vs. strength matchup fans will be eager to see.

If the game does come down to the final quarter, the edge must be given to the Penguins. YSU is outscoring opponents in the final quarter 69-21 while the Jackrabbits only hold a 57-56 margin.

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