Penguins hit rock-bottom in 35-0 loss

By Brian Dzenis


The Youngstown State Penguins played like they wanted a trip to the offseason instead of the postseason.

YSU brought nothing to the table on Saturday against Illinois State in a 35-0 rout. After going to the Football Championship Subdivision National Championship game last year, the Penguins’ season will likely end on Nov. 18 after facing Missouri State.

YSU (3-5, 1-4 Missouri Valley Football Conference) entered the game on a three-game losing streak and needed to win out to have a shot at the playoffs. The Penguins were shut out for the first time since 2008, when Southern Illinois trounced the Penguins 33-0.

It’s the first time a Bo Pelini-coached team has been shut out.

“I just want to apologize to everybody associated with Youngstown State University, our football program, the city — that was an embarrassment. I’m the head coach and I’ve never been so disgusted in my life,” Pelini said. “I don’t have an answer for it right now, but I’ll search for it. We didn’t show up today and this is what happens, it’s a total embarrassment and I’m responsible for it and I’m sorry.

“That was the worst football team I’ve ever seen play the game. Across the board, worst coach, worst playing, no character, no heart, no discipline — you can go right down the list.”

The Penguins didn’t even bother with the run game — Tevin McCaster and Christian Turner combined for six carries going into the fourth quarter — and the pass game was about as nice as the rainy weather at Stambaugh Stadium. The team finished with 84 yards.

For the fourth straight game, sacks were a problem. The YSU offense didn’t give up 10 sacks like it did against Northern Iowa last week, but gave up five to the Redbirds.

“Did you see the way our offensive line was playing?” Pelini said. “It’s a bad combination when you’re not run-blocking or pass-blocking and your quarterback is not making his reads.”

Adding injury to insult, the Penguins lost quarterback Nathan Mays. ISU’s Tyree Horton blew up the sophomore quarterback in the first quarter, causing a fumble that defensive tackle Matt McCown returned for a touchdown. Mays limped to the sideline and Ricky Davis had to finish the quarter. Mays returned for the second quarter, but returned from the locker room at halftime with his arm in a sling. Pelini did not have a status for him after the game.

Davis was the leading passer of the two, going 5 of 13 for 47 yards and a pick. His longest completion was 13 yards.

“We couldn’t run the ball — it’s the second week in a row,” Davis said. “I don’t know what’s going on as far as me getting hit. It doesn’t bother me as much, but I wish I had time to throw.

“I made some good throws, but there were ones that I could have back. There were times where I felt like we could get something going, but we just shot ourselves in the foot.”

Illinois State (6-2, 4-1), running behind an offensive line that boasts three 6-foot-6 linemen and one that is 6-10, piled up 299 yards. James Robinson rushed for 119 yards and three scores while Markel Smith gained 124 and a score. The Redbirds threw just 11 times.

“We didn’t expect this kind of game,” Illinois State head coach Brock Spack said. “We thought it would come down to the last possession.”

The Penguins travel to winless Indiana State on Saturday.

“We’re guaranteed three more games and as a senior, I’m going to enjoy it. You only have so many of these nights,” Davis said. “I love playing for the city and this university. I’m just going to enjoy the guys and give every week we had with everything I’ve got.”

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