Brian Dzenis: Penguins should get first win

Youngstown State beats a scholarship-free football team, take two.

Initially looked at as a tune-up on the Penguins schedule between No. 14 West Virginia and the start of Missouri Valley Football Conference slate, today’s game against Valparaiso has some serious stakes. Another loss as a 30-plus point favorite — the Penguins are -32.5 as of press time — would drop the Penguins to 0-3 and probably spawn a spirited debate as to who gets more wins at Stambaugh Stadium, YSU or its high school occupants, Cardinal Mooney and Ursuline.

It’s hard to think YSU can be caught sleeping twice.

This isn’t the Valpo (0-1) that visited Youngstown twice in the Eric Wolford era and lost both games with a combined score of 136-13. The Crusaders are coming off their first winning season since 2003 at 6-5, which includes a win against noted Penguin-slayer Butler. Valpo also returns nine starters on offense that is certainly going to mimic some of the death by a thousand cuts-style passing game that Butler used to trip up YSU.

Some progress was made in last Saturday’s 52-17 loss to the Mountaineers. Quarterback Montgomery VanGorder had his first pick and sack, but still shows a penchant for avoiding negative plays and he’s found a real weapon in sophomore wideout Zach Farrar. If the ex-Chicago White Sox draft pick can put up 135 receiving yards against a Big 12 defense, imagine the possibilities against one in the Pioneer League.

Despite rainy weather in Morgantown, W. Va., the special teams unit had a much better outing than in the opener. Mark Schuler’s 56-yard punt to pin the Mountaineers at their own 1 in the first quarter is one of the highlights of the game for YSU — too bad WVU mounted a 99-yard touchdown drive afterward. After missing two field goals in the home opener, Zac Kennedy made his first field goal from 45 yards. Another quality game or two may let the Mooney finish his collegiate career without questions about his job status.

That leaves the defense with the most to prove today. Four of the team’s top five tacklers are defensive backs, led by safety Chrispin Lee’s 18 — 15 came in his starting debut last week. How about somebody in the front seven having a breakout game? So far, defensive end Shereif Bynum has noticeable numbers with four tackles for a loss, including a sack. Armand Dellovade has split his 15 total tackles between the first two games with one for a loss. That’s OK, but not great.

It will take a really decisive win to return Bo Pelini’s side to a sense of normalcy. Anything less than a three- or four-score win will have things looking pretty dire for conference play.

Brian Dzenis covers YSU sports for The Vindicator. Write him at and follow him on Twitter, @Brian_Dzenis.

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