Unbeaten South Dakota next for YSU

By Brian Dzenis



Youngstown State’s Missouri Valley Football Conference slate has quickly become a murderer’s row of the Football Championship Subdivision’s elite.

After dispatching then No. 4 South Dakota State, 19-7, last Saturday, the Penguins (4-1, 1-0) have their first proper road trip to No. 7 South Dakota. The Penguins have never lost to the Coyotes in five meetings, but their opponent is something of an upstart. South Dakota (4-0, 1-0) was predicted to finish seventh in the conference, but now has a win over FBS Bowling Green and two top-25 FCS victories. After that trip, the Penguins have No. 2 North Dakota State at home.

The challenge isn’t a burden. It’s a selling point.

“It’s why you come and play at YSU in this conference. You’re going to get challenged week to week,” head coach Bo Pelini said. “It’s something that as a competitor and as a team you relish and embrace.”


The Penguins’ win against the Jackrabbits have them ranked No. 3 in the nation, up two spots from last week. The rankings are a passing curiosity for the players.

“I’ve seen them on social media. I was interested in them after we won the game,” defensive tackle Savon Smith. “I was looking at how (No. 9 Sam Houston State) did and where everyone else was.”

YSU is one of four MVFC teams in the top 10 of FCS. Aside from some of the previously mentioned teams, SDSU is No. 8. The other league teams in the Top 25 are No. 11 Illinois State and No. 15 Western Illinois.


Hunter Wells is doubtful for Saturday’s contest, Pelini said. The senior quarterback re-injured his throwing shoulder — one he originally hurt in Week 2 — last Saturday on the team’s first drive.

Sophomore Nathan Mays will start against the Coyotes and Ricky Davis will back him up. Freshman Joe Craycraft is the third option. Pelini did not explore the Armageddon scenario where all three are unavailable.

“Maybe I need to go out and bring a few more in,” Pelini said. “Don’t curse us.”


Smith and his fellow d-linemen spent 45 minutes on the sideline last Saturday, making film of themselves a bit sparse the following week.

“It actually didn’t feel like [we didn’t play much], but watching the film, we only played 38 snaps,” Smith said.

The Penguins defensive line has 10 sacks in four games and all the questions about the unit following the departures of Derek Rivers and Avery Moss have been answered.

“I love my guys. We’re doing a great job,” Smith said. “Fazson Chapman and Johnson Louigene aren’t new. They’ve been in the program as long as I have and have played under Bo. They know the playbook like the back of our hands.”


The Penguins will play in the DakotaDome this Saturday, the team will get its first taste indoor football.

“Going to South Dakota and North Dakota State, the crowd is right there screaming your ear,” Smith said.

The team will practice in the WATTS with loud music to simulate the environment. It tends to be more of an adjustment for the offense than defense.

“We’ll go to a hand clap because the noise of the hands is a little bit crisper and we can hear that across the line,” tight end Kevin Rader said. “That’s where we go if we have trouble with the snap count.”

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