Saturday, September 9, 2017
By Brian Dzenis
Home is where the wins are for Youngstown State.
Today, the Penguins have their home opener against Robert Morris, a team searching for its first winning season since 2010. At Stambaugh Stadium, the home team was 7-0 last year.
Mother Nature did more to slow down YSU than the Colonials in 2016, when its 38-6 win featured a rain delay.
Coming off a 28-21 overtime loss to Pittsburgh last week, some of the veterans on the team know RMU has the potential to be a trap game if they let it.
“Two years ago, we weren’t prepared for them and it showed. We went to overtime,” tight end Shane Kuhn said, referencing the team’s 21-14 overtime win. “We were ready for them last year and the coaches will make sure we’re ready for them (today).”
Robert Morris has something going for it coming to the Ice Castle that it hasn’t had for nearly a decade: momentum.
The Colonials (2-9 last year) won their first season-opener since 2008 in a 13-10 win against Dayton. Nick Bisceglia kicked a 26-yard field goal with four seconds left in regulation to beat the Flyers for the first time since 2000.
This offseason, former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman turned RMU coach John Banaszak brought in two FBS transfers — quarterback Jimmy Walker (San Diego State) and center Eric McCallister (Army) — to revive an offense that was dead last in total offense last year in the Northeastern Conference, averaging 11.1 points per game.
“They’re a physical team, they give you multiple looks defensively,” YSU coach Bo Pelini said in his assessment of the Colonials. “Their offense starts with the running game, but they’re capable of throwing the football.”
ANOTHER CALI QB
The Penguins face another FBS castoff under center from the Sunshine State this week. After going against Southern California-expat Max Browne at Pitt last week, Walker takes over as the Colonials’ QB. He spent two seasons playing junior college ball before joining the Aztecs in 2016, where he did not play a single down.
His task this season is to fix a passing attack that was a disaster in 2016. Eight different players threw a pass for the Colonials and collectively chucked 16 interceptions to five touchdown passes. Condense that group to their two passing leaders, quarterbacks Joe Carroll and Andrew Romanchak, and that ratio becomes 15 picks to three TD passes. Carroll graduated and Romanchak is now a wide receiver.
Walker was 14 for 29 for 198 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception in his Colonials debut.
Poland graduate Adam Wollet is the Colonials’ leading tackler from 2016 with 89 tackles. Last week against Dayton, the junior linebacker had seven total tackles with half a tackle for a loss.
Also putting up seven tackles is New Castle (Pa.) native Drew Allen at cornerback.
Struthers’ Adam Sedzmak and Neshannock (Pa)’s Frank Antuono are both in their freshman seasons at Robert Morris at offensive line and linebacker, respectively. Both have yet to see the field.