Playoff push begins at YSU
Way for YSU to get into postseason is to go win out, says coach Pelini
By Brian Dzenis
It may seem crazy to think that a Youngstown State football team that just took the No. 2 team in the Football Championship Subdivision into overtime is on the verge of missing the playoffs. But that’s where the Penguins are.
YSU coach Bo Pelini brought up the postseason picture after his team lost to North Dakota State, 27-24, in overtime.
“There’s one way we can guarantee getting to the tournament at the end and that’s to go win out,” Pelini said. “That’s starts tomorrow where we prepare to go on the road and play in a tough environment against a good football team.”
That team is Northern Iowa (3-3), which is unranked, but decisively beat No. 7 South Dakota State, 38-18, on Saturday.
The Penguins have cleared the most difficult part of the schedule, three of their five remaining opponents rank below them in the Missouri Valley Football Conference standings. After Northern Iowa, YSU has No. 17 Illinois State (4-2), Indiana State (0-6), Southern Illinois (3-3) and Missouri State (1-5).
NEW GUARD, SAME RESULTS
YSU made an adjustment on the offensive line, starting Cole Newsome at right guard over West Branch graduate Jacob Zinni. The change comes after the O-line conceded six sacks during last week’s 31-28 loss to South Dakota.
The O-line gave up another six sacks on Saturday.
“We were atrocious last week, but I thought this week, we did some better things,” Pelini said. “I thought [QB Nathan Mays] could have got rid of the football a couple times. All the sacks weren’t on the offensive line tonight.”
MA’LIK STEPS UP
Defensive end Justus Reed, who’s tied with Fazson Chapman as the Penguins leader is sacks with four, did not dress for the game as he is dealing with a separated shoulder.
Ma’lik Richmond took Reed’s spot behind Chapman on the depth chart. The sophomore, whose presence on the team sparked controversy, made just one tackle Saturday, but it was an important one: a loss on third down with 6:24 left to play in regulation that forced the Bison to punt. The subsequent Penguins’ drive resulted in the game-tying touchdown.
“He’s growing as an every-down player. He’s more of a third-down guy right now,” Pelini said. “He’s a work-in-progress and with Justus out, we need him.”
North Dakota State tight end Connor Wentz was ejected in the second for throwing a punch at a YSU player while playing on special teams.
Wentz is the cousin of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.