Sunday, September 2, 2018
Eleven years to the day after Appalachian State shocked the world and made a college football punchline of Michigan in an FCS-FBS stunner, history repeated itself.
Butler did it this time, ignoring its status as a 351/2-point underdog on the road against Youngstown State and stunning the Penguins 23-21 on Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium.
That’s right. The FCS non-scholarship Bulldogs outplayed the favored Penguins all day.
Butler played YSU to a 7-7 draw in the first half and then rallied from a 21-7 deficit with less than 10 minutes to play and shock the Penguins on a 44-yard field goal with four seconds to play.
This one is going to stick with YSU coach Bo Pelini and the Penguins for a while. Let’s hope, for YSU’s sake, people aren’t still talking about it 11 years from now, as people still do about the Wolverines’ monumental loss to the Mountaineers on Sept. 1, 2007.
But YSU fans are undoubtedly talking about this loss, which might be the worst of the Pelini era for the Penguins. There have been more one-sided defeats, such as last season’s 35-0 stunner against Illinois State at Stambaugh, but in terms of games YSU had no business losing, Saturday’s tops them all.
The message-board coaches’ responses — always measured and rational — range from simple disappointment and embarrassment to outright rage. Some want Pelini and his staff gone. Others suggest cleaning house and bringing back former coordinators Carl Pelini — Bo’s brother — and Shane Montgomery.
Please allow me — for once — to be the voice of reason. (I’m seldom accused of that, so I’m going to make the most of it this time.)
Bo Pelini is not going anywhere, at least not right now and not until and unless he decides to coach somewhere else when his contract runs out after this season.
Pelini was a huge get for YSU when he came here before the 2015 season. The terms of his buyout from Nebraska after his firing there enabled him to take this job at a bargain rate. Beyond the money, there wasn’t a better head coach to hire in 2015 and there isn’t a better one out there today for the Penguins, even though Pelini called his team’s performance Saturday a “comedy of errors.”
But all was not lost. Notre Dame transfer Montgomery VanGorder got better as the game progressed and threw three touchdown passes in his YSU debut. Tevin McCaster ran for 166 yards. Samuel St. Surin and Kendric Mallory combined for nine catches for 163 yards.
The real issues were on defense and special teams. Butler quarterback Will Marty and wideout Pace Temple combined to carve up a defense that wasn’t particularly aggressive in going after either guy and the Penguins missed two field goals and had two short punts.
One of the most time-worn football adages is that a team improves most from Week 1 to Week 2. With a date at West Virginia coming on Saturday night, Pelini and the Penguins better hope that holds true.
The opener was one YSU will do its best to file and forget. Penguins fans might have a tougher time doing that.
But as Bill Belichick might say, we’re on to Morgantown.
Write Vindicator Sports Editor Ed Puskas at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter, @EdPuskas_Vindy.