Better Bears coming to YSU
By Brian Dzenis
Missouri State is the ideal opponent for the situation Youngstown State faces.
The Penguins (5-5, 3-4 Missouri Valley Football Conference) are playing in what is very likely their season finale today and with that situation in mind, the goal is to send the team’s 20 seniors out on a high note.
“That’s the mission for this week: to send them boys out with a W and a good memory, something they can think about in their lifetime,” cornerback D.J. Thomas said.
The Bears (3-7, 2-5) have had a dismal season, but have won two of their last three contests. Before last week’s 25-10 setback against Northern Iowa, the had decisively taken down winless Indiana State, 59-20, and Southern Illinois, 36-28. Before those two wins was a four-game losing streak.
“They’re a better football team than they have been in the past, from what I’ve seen on film on defense,” quarterback Hunter Wells said. “I think they’ve been playing better football than people have given them credit for. I think they made a lot of strides from last year, and for anybody thinks this game doesn’t mean anything, it does.
“This is a big game for both our programs. You want to win this game and roll over into the offseason.”
The Bears may be better, but only to a point. When Wells was pressed on what exactly Missouri State was better at on Tuesday, he said he was going to “plead the fifth.”
The Bears’ improvement from last year to this year in year three under head coach Dave Steckel wasn’t as pronounced as it was from years one and two — where they went from one win to four.
Their points-per-game on both sides of the ball is right where it was last year, the only difference is that they are not last in the Missouri Valley Football Conference this year, but Indiana State’s football futility is to thank for that.
The Bears have taken a step backward in the rushing defense as the league’s only team to give up more than 200 rushing yards a game at 210.2. The secondary has also regressed, giving up 24 passing touchdowns this year compared to 16 last season. It’s no surprise that they don’t get to the quarterback with the MVFC’s lowest sack total at 14.
Sophomore quarterback Peyton Husling is the team’s leading rusher with 497 yards and four scores. By air, he’s got more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (nine) and 1,936 yards.
Malik Earl has been a bright spot for the visitors as he’s second in the MVFC in receiving yards with 737 to go with three touchdown catches.