Published November 5, 2011
1. Last year, YSU lost to Northern Iowa by four points, 34-30.
This year, YSU lost to Northern Iowa by four points, 21-17.
And yet, the losses felt completely different. I flew home with the team and while there was disappointment, it wasn't a crushing loss. There was a palpable sense that YSU is really, really close.
"I've been watching us play this team for 15 years," one YSU official said, "and this is the first time in awhile we didn't get manhandled up front."
2. YSU gave up two long passes just before halftime, the second going for a touchdown, but it felt different than last year because they came from UNI receivers making a play in tight man coverage, and not because someone broke wide open in space.
3. My three keys to the game were:
Can YSU run? (Outside of one drive, the Penguins struggled to move the ball all afternoon, although they almost quadrupled UNI's 30 net rushing yards.)
Will Rennie run? (UNI starting QB Tirrell Rennie missed the game. Redshirt freshman Jared Lanpher got his first start and was terrific in the first half and flustered in the second half. I think one of the big reasons why UNI went for it on fourth-and-goal with two minutes left was because Panthers coach Mark Farley knew his team would be at a disadvantage in overtime with a struggling running game and a first-year quarterback.)
Will special teams be special?
YSU made its first field goal but the kickoff coverage wasn't great.
Anyway, to me, the key to the game was UNI's defensive team speed.
4. In the summer, I thought YSU was a 7-4 team and was a year away from competing for a league title.
Turns out, the Penguins will probably finish 6-5 and are a year away from competing a league title. But they have the potential to be really, really good next year.
This blog is getting long so I'm going to throw everything before this but the third quarter into a different file. You can find it at Vindy.com/Insider.
YSU trails 14-10 to start the quarter but begins the fourth with a first down at the 50. Two plays go nowhere but Hess hits Cook for a 12-yard catch and run to pick up the first down.
AND THEN HESS HITS WILL SHAW FOR A 38-YARD TD! Perfect pass just beyond the coverage and Shaw runs in the last 5 yards. Six plays, 62 yards, 1:58 and YSU regains the lead. What a tremendous play. First career TD for Shaw, who has moved around from safety to linebacker to defensive end to tight end to defensive end again to tight end again.
Got all that? Who cares. YSU leads 17-14 with 13:42 left.
YSU finally gets a good kickoff and good kick coverage and UNI will start at its own 23.
UNI picks up two quick first downs but a long gainer is hurt a little by a downfield holding call. That's 8 penalties for 76 yards against UNI and YSU has yet to be called for a penalty. The fans aren't happy and I don't blame them.
The drive stalls at the UNI 49. YSU DE Daniel Stewart is absolutely abusing UNI's right tackle right now. He's been in on almost every play. The tackle tried a cut block on that one and all it did was slow him for a split second, forcing Lanpher to run for his life. He gains about a yard on a QB run and the Panthers will punt. This is where not having Tirrell Rennie is really hurting the Panthers. He can elude pressure and gain yards in chunks.
YSU takes over at its own 22 with 11:17 left. A touchdown here would go a long way toward erasing some really bad memories in this place.
YSU gains five yards in three plays and punts. The Panthers' defense is legit. They can really run.
UNI will take over at its own 38 with 9:31 left. The Panthers have basically given up on trying to run on YSU -- they had 18 net yards through three quarters. YSU's defense is legit, too.
Panthers have three straight incompletions and punt it away. What a phenomenal performance by YSU's defense. Other than the touchdown just before the first half, the Penguins have been terrific and, like they have all year, seem to be getting better as the game goes on.
YSU takes over at its own 19 with 9:07 left but three plays only gain 8 yards. Liste gets off another good punt. UNI takes over at the 37 with 7:29 left.
The Panthers explode for a huge 32-yard pass play: Lanpher to David Johnson. I think YSU DL Nick DeKraker got held on that one but YSU doesn't get a call. Teven Williams missed a tackle in the open field that would have held it to about 5 yards.
On second down, YSU's Josh Lee gets called for pass interference in the end zone for the Penguins' first penalty. Lee needed to turn his head at the end there. Too much contact. On first and 10 at the 14, YSU's Andrew Johnson jumps offsides. It's now first and 5 at the 9. Two runs gain 4 more yards and Johnson plows over the right side on third down to give UNI a first and goal at the 3.
Johnson gets stuffed on first down, losing a yard. On second down, Johnson spins down inside 1. YSU calls timeout. It's third and goal with 2:47 left. YSU leads 17-14 but for how long?
Lanpher tries a QB sneak on third down and gets stuffed again. Decision time. Boy, the officials took a long time calling that play dead.
UNI will go for it. Johnson gets stuffed on the initial push, then makes a second effort and gets in. Panthers retake the lead on a gutsy call by head coach Mark Farley.
UNI adds the extra point and it's 21-17 with 1:59 left. Here's the drive: 10 plays, 63 yards, 5:30.
Boy, if YSU loses this one, the Penguins can hold their heads high.
The Penguins will take over at the 26 with 1:54 left. Season on the line.
A swing pass to Cook loses one, then Hess somehow gets off a dink over the middle to Cook on second down that gains 13. YSU at the 38 with 1:15 left.
Hess gets time on first down but has to throw it away. 1:07 left.
He gets hit as his throws on second down and nearly gets picked off deep down the right sideline on second down. It's third-and-10 with 1:02 left.
False start YSU. Now it's third and 15.
Barboza can't haul in a deep pass over the middle on third down. That would have been an amazing catch. Timeout YSU with 56 seconds left.
Here's the game and the season.
Hess looks for Christian Bryan deep over the middle and gets picked off. That's the game. YSU will lose.
There's 46 seconds left and all UNI needs to do is take a knee.
Another big kick return allows UNI to start at the 38. Two plays gain 1 yard to set up 3rd-and-9. YSU brings a blitz, forcing Lanpher to get rid of it quickly and Davion Rogers is all over it, setting up 4th-and-3. UNI was called for an illegal block anyway. Can't blame the officials if YSU loses -- UNI has been called for five penalties for 51 yards and two more have been declined by YSU.
The Penguins have not been called for a penalty. YSU will take over at the 23. After an incomplete pass on first down, Cook gains 9 yards on second down and takes a shot at the end of the run. Cook again picks up the first down on a quick pitch to an overloaded right side. That's the third time I've seen YSU run that play and it's worked every time.
Redshirt freshman Eric Franklin is in at right tackle in place of D.J. Main, who has been battling a quad injury. Main played the first half.
On third down at the 43, Hess tries to hit a receiver (didn't catch who) and the ball ricochets off his hands and Jordan Smith picks it off and returns it to the 42.
First turnover of the game and it could be a big one.
The drive stalls thanks to a holding penalty on second down and Jared Lanpher just overshooting Terrell Sinkfield on third down. YSU brought safety help on that one and Sinkfield still had a step. He can move.
UNI punts and the ball goes out of bounds at the 13.
Two plays gain 9 yards and YSU tries to do a quick pitch to the right again, only this time UNi is ready. Cook is hit behind the line of scrimmage, tries to reverse his field and the Panthers are just too quick. It's a 6-yard loss. Liste absolutely crushes a punt and YSU's coverage does just enough, holding the Panthers at the 35. Can't ask for much more than that.
UNI leads 14-10 with 6:56 left.
On first down, DT Andrew Johnson comes up with a HUGE sack that results in a 12-yard loss. He came right up the middle on Jared Lanpher and he couldn't do anything. UNI calls a draw on second down and picks up 13 yards. It's 3rd-and-9. On third down, Travis Williams knocks away an out route and UNI will punt.
Huge defensive series. YSU goes after the punt but doesn't really threaten to block it and Josh Lee calls for another fair catch at the 23. Lee's a good decision maker on punt returns and he has good hands but he's not really much of a return threat. That's where Andre Stubbs will help over the next few years.
YSU takes over with 5:20 left. YSU tries a play-action pass on first down but a deep out route to Christian Bryan is overthrown out-of-bounds. Not much room to throw. Hess is sacked on second down. UNI's defensive quickness is really causing some problems. An underneath screen on third down goes nowhere but UNI is hit with another penalty, this time offsides. Wow, these penalties are helping YSU stay in this game.
Hess hits Christian Bryan on a huge third down, with Bryan making a tough catch on an inside slant. YSU's drive stays alive. First down at the YSU 37 with about 3:30 left.
That's as much as YSU will get as Bryan drops a pass on second down and Barboza drops a perfect pass on third down that would have gone for 20 yards. That's a brutal drop. Hess finally had some time to throw.
YSU punts and UNI will take over at the 15 with 2:47 left.
YSU's defense holds again, with Daniel Stewart coming up with a sack on third down after Obinna Ekweremuba pushed his man into the backfield. Stewart gets the sack but give Obinna an assist.
YSU again goes after the punt and this time Davion Rogers comes within fingertips of blocking it.
The Penguins take over at their own 38 with 40 seconds left.