Pelini’s Penguins have no more room for error


Three-game skid

leaves Penguins no

more room for error

By Brian Dzenis

bdzenis@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Youngstown State football coach Bo Pelini is done talking about the playoff picture. If his Penguins don’t win Saturday’s game against Illinois State, there won’t be a reason to bring it up anymore.

YSU hasn’t won a game since Sept. 30 and the Penguins (3-4) find themselves in a three-game losing streak and on the outside looking in on the postseason.

“That’s the furthest thing from my mind. That is not in my control,” Pelini said of the team’s playoff outlook. “Our focus is Illinois State. If we handle our business, the chips will fall where they may.”

Saturday’s 19-14 loss to Northern Iowa marks three consecutive losses by less than a touchdown.

“Nobody has been happy with what’s going on. We need to step up and make a change,” running back Tevin McCaster said.

UGLY NUMBERS

After the Northern Iowa loss, YSU slid out of the top 10 in the Football Championship Subdivision poll down to No. 19. The loss also marked the offense bottoming out with just 47 yards rushing while conceding 10 sacks — tying an FCS high this season.

The Penguins have given up 22 sacks in their last three games. The Penguins rank 117th in the nation in sacks allowed.

“It’s been a big talking point in the offensive room. [Line coach Carmen Bricillo] is taking it personally,” quarterback Ricky Davis said.

“It’s something we need to fix if we’re going to make this stretch and prove ourselves worthy of the playoffs. We’re definitely going to need time to throw the ball.”

Pelini echoed the sentiment that the sack issue has become an offense-wide problem.

“We need to help by getting rid of the football, [and] sometimes they just need to play better,” Pelini said. “Sometimes you can put everything on the quarterback and sometimes statistics lie. Is a sack always on the offensive line? Our offensive line coach might say yes, but that isn’t always true.

“To me, one sack is too many. Are they playing at the level they need to? No.”

DAVIS BACK UNDER CENTER

Davis found himself at QB when Nathan Mays injured his right ankle against UNI. Davis switched from quarterback to wide receiver in the spring after falling down the depth chart, but has been practicing under center since Hunter Wells injured his shoulder in Week 2. Both Wells and Mays practiced on Tuesday, but are considered questionable for Saturday.

“I took a lot of two reps last week, but it looks like I’m going to take all the one reps because Mays is a little slow,” Davis said.

ALVIN AND THE REPORTERS

Senior wideout Alvin Bailey made a cameo appearance in the media room on Tuesday, posing a question to Davis as he stood at the podium.

“What’s something the offense can do to help out the other side of the ball and help the team out?” Bailey said.

Davis rolled with it.

“I think we just have to play better. I think we have to convert on third down — we had too many three-and-outs Saturday and just play better,” he said. “What do you think?”

HOMECOMING CONNECTION

The Penguins’ lead rusher won’t be the only McCaster on the field Saturday. His sister, Tierney McCaster, is one of five candidates to become homecoming queen.

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