Published November 5, 2011
1. Let's start with the bad. There was absolutely no excuse for giving up a touchdown just before halftime.
The Penguins needed 15 plays to score with 27 seconds left and take a 10-7 lead, then gave up 61 yards in two long pass plays. Put the blame squarely on YSU's secondary, which lost one-on-one matchups on both plays.
That said, YSU is getting almost no pressure on redshirt freshman QB Jared Lanpher, who is 11 of 15 for 162 yards and two TDs in the first half of his first career start. The Penguins have been reluctant to bring the blitz in the first half and, consequently, Lanpher has been able to stay in the pocket and scan the field.
2. Starting QB Tirrell Rennie is in sweatpants on the sidelines so it looks like he's a no-go today. The way Lanpher is playing, there's no reason to bring him in anyway.
3. OK, now the good for YSU. Offensive coordinator Shane Montgomery stuck with the one in the first half, even when UNI kept a safety in the box to stop the run, and the YSU offense line started opening up some holes late in the second quarter. UNI runs a Cover 2, designed to stop big plays, and its defense is built on speed. And the one thing you can do against speed is push it over.
After gaining 22 yards in the first quarter on the ground, the Penguins gained 66 in the second quarter. Cook has 59 yards on 17 carries and Adaris Bellamy looked good in relief, gaining 28 yards on four carries.
4. Kurt Hess has completed 10 of 15 passes for 84 yards and has had success when he steps up in the pocket or takes a few steps laterally to buy time. Ed Muransky noted in the radio broadcast that Jamaine Cook is open almost every time he pops out of the backfield for a quick checkdown. That's a good safety net for Hess because UNI's DBs can close very quickly on the ball.
5. When Eric Wolford took over, he talked about the need to upgrade the talent base and YSU finally has some athletes to compete with UNI, which has talent everywhere.
Problem is, UNI's talent is also experienced and YSU's, particularly on defense, is not. The Penguins look like a team that's a year away, especially in the secondary.
Hess fumbles the snap on second down, setting up a 3rd and 18 at the YSU 38. Hess hits Jelani Berassa for 12 yards and the Penguins will have to punt again. UNI gets a fair catch at the 12 with 13:29 left.
It's 7-3 UNI.
YSU's defense gives up 6 yards on first down but that's as much as UNI will get, as the Penguins again force a punt.
YSU starts its next drive at the 40. The Penguins keep trying to run but it's just not there. UNI has been bringing up safety Garrett Scott to take away the run. After a Kurt Hess gains a yard on second down, the Penguins get a break with a personal foul on UNI. Jelani Berassa and DB Varmah Sonie have been chippy and Sonie got hit with a dead ball penalty on that one. YSU gets a first down at the UNI 43, then gets another one on second down thanks to another UNI penalty.
Three plays gain 5 yards and Wolford at first opts for a field goal attempt, then calls timeout and changes his mind. Hess hits Andre Barboza in the hands on a fourth down inside slant but Barboza drops it. Wouldn't have mattered -- YSU was called for offensive pass interference anyway.
UNI will take over at the 27 with 9:32 left and immediately hits WR Jarred Herring on what looked like a wheel route down the sideline. The play picks up 30 yards. The drive then stalls three plays later and Lanpher is sacked by LB Teven Williams on third down. UNI will punt again.
YSU takes over at its own 15 and get 5 yards on first down as Cook is finally starting to get a little room. That's going to help set up the play action, too, as Hess hits Kevin Watts for 13 on second down. After two runs get four yards, Hess hits Cook over the middle for 6 yards, with Cook hanging on despite a vicious hit over the middle.
Cook then gets his best run of the day, gaining 11 yards on first down. On the ensuing play, Andre Barboza runs a wide receiver option and tries to hit Christian Bryan but the throw was short and late and falls incomplete.
Cook gets 9 yards on second down. I mention this all the time, but you really have to watch Cook on a regular basis to appreciate how good he is. He is the king of gaining 4 yards when only 2 yards is there.
Bellamy picks up the first down on the ensuing play, giving YSU the ball at the UNI 32. There's 3 minutes left. They stay with Bellamy and two carries gains 18 yards. YSU is starting to get push up front.
Bellamy then gains 7 on first down and Cook comes in. Hess fakes it to Cook and picks up two yards to set up third down at the 5. Cook picks up 4 on a quick pitch to the right. It's first and goal at the 1 with 30 seconds left. Timeout, YSU.
Cook dives over for the TD, again on a quick pitch the right, for the TD and the UNI-Dome goes silent. The Penguins lead 10-7 with 27 seconds left in the first half after a very impressive drive: 15 plays, 85 yards, 7:08.
UNI gets a nice return to its own 39 and, naturally, YSU gives up a deep ball on first down. That one goes for 30 yards to the YSU 31 with 11 seconds left. The next play goes for 31 yards. Unbelievable. Lanpher to Terrell Sinkfield for the touchdown.
YSU's DBs get beat on back-to-back plays. Two plays, 61 yards, 12 seconds. That's just a case of UNI's receivers winning one-on-one matchups. It's 14-10 with 6 seconds left.
YSU will take a knee with 1 second left and go into halftime feeling a lot worse than it did 18 seconds ago.
It's 14-10 UNI.
YSU wins the toss and elects to receive. Kevin Watts returns the kickoff to the 27.
Watts also catches the first pass (2 yards) and gets the ball on a reverse on second down (5 yards). Hess hits Christian Bryan for 10 yards on third down. Jamaine Cook then gets 8 yards on two carries, setting up another third down and Cook barrells through the middle for three yards.
After an 11-yard pass to TE Will Shaw (nice athletic jumping catch), the Panthers are hit with a 15-yard personal foul penalty, moving the ball to the UNI 18.
Hess drops the snap on first down and is forced to pick it up and throw it away. After a Cook run gets 2, Hess hits Cook over the middle fror 7 yards, setting up David Brown's second field goal attempt of the year. He hits from 28 yards away for YSU's first made field goal of the season. It's 3-0 YSU with 9:40.
If YSU had been playing just about anyone else, Wolford might have gone for it on fourth-and-1. Instead, he takes the 3. Drive goes 63 yards in 11 plays over 5:20. Nice start for the Penguins.
UNI returns the kickoff to the 33 but is hit with a holding penalty. The Panthers will start at their own 22.
Jared Lanpher, the redshirt freshman, gets the start and Tirrell Rennie stays on the sideline. Bit of a surprise there. Rennie must have told the coaches he couldn't go.
Two third down conversions move the ball to the YSU 31. YSU gets no pass rush so far. They need to make Lanpher uncomfortable.
On third-and-11 at the 32, Lanpher hits a WIDE OPEN Terrell Sinkfield for the touchdown. Busted coverage there, as there were two wide open receivers on that play. It's 7-3 UNI with 5:37 left.
UNI went 3-for-3 on third downs on that drive.
YSU starts it drive at its own 22. Three plays gain 9 yards and the Penguins are forced to punt. You could really see the speed of UNI's defense on that drive. Open space doesn't stay open very long.
UNI will take over at the 30.
LB Davion Rogers absolutely engulfed UNI WR Chad Owens on second down. Rogers is a monster. On third down, Lanpher is flushed out of the pocket and Aronde Stanton pushes him out of bounds and Lanpher goes over the bench. Lanpher gets up and looks OK. These sidelines are really, really tight, so if you're running out of bounds, you're going to hit a wall or a bench.
The Panthers punt and Josh Lee calls for a fair catch at the 31. It's 7-3 UNI with 1:33 left in the first quarter.
After two plays gain 2 yards, Hess steps up in the pocket out of pressure and finds Jelani Berassa for a good third down pickup at the 46. Cook loses two yards on first down and that'll be the quarter.
It's 7-3 UNI.
1. The YSU buses just arrived and the 3 p.m. scoop on UNI QB Tirrell Rennie is that he's likely to start.
YSU sports information director Trevor Parks said he was standing near Rennie a few minutes ago when one of the Northern Iowa coaches spotted Rennie (whose left thumb was wrapped) and said, "You feeling OK? You ready to go?" And Rennie said yes.
Then they saw Parks and immediately stopped talking.
UPDATE: Rennie is now warming up on the field and looks OK throwing the ball. Haven't seen him run yet, though.
UPDATE II: He's in uniform and, 40 minutes before game time, all indications are he will play.
2. YSU, of course, has lost 10 straight overall to UNI and hasn't won here since 1999.
There's definite optimism around the team that the Penguins can end that streak today, but as former athletic director Joe Malmisur told me at the airport, "I've seen us bring a lot of good teams come here and get our a---- kicked."
3. Before the season, I thought YSU looked like a 7-4 team. But, thanks to the South Dakota State loss, the Penguins will need to win two of their last three to reach that mark.
And to make the playoffs? They'll almost certainly need all three.
I don't see all three, considering they travel to play No. 1 North Dakota State next week.
4. You can watch today's game live on WBCB, the Valley's CW, which is the sister station of WFMJ, which is owned by the same wonderful people who own The Vindicator. If you happen to see one of these wonderful owners, make sure you tell them about all the nice things I've written about them.
In the meantime, sit back on your couch and watch this one.
5. YSU's lone injury scratch is likely to be right tackle D.J. Main, who missed last week's game with a quad injury and will probably be replaced again by redshirt freshman Eric Franklin.
TE David Rogers made the trip but he's out. LB John Sasson is a game-time decision but he plays mostly special teams now.
6. Not a fan of UNI's band uniforms but, then, I pretty much hate all band uniforms.
The Panther Pride looks like they're going to a purple-themed Civil War reenactment.
Look, we can all agree that your coolness level generally doesn't go up when you join the marching band, right? So why do you have to add ridiculous uniforms on top of it?
KEYS TO THE GAME
Here are the three things I'll be watching for today:
1. Can YSU run?
UNI is No. 4 in the nation in scoring defense (15.0 points per game, a number that goes lower at home) and a big reason is its run defense. Led by DT Ben Boothby (who Eric Wolford calls the best DT in the conference the past two years) and LB L.J. Fort (second in the nation in tackles per game at 12.75), the Panthers are third-best in the conference in run defense (123 per game).
YSU, meanwhile, is averaging 259 yards rushing per game and leads the conference in just about every offensive statistic.
If YSU can run, it can win. If not, it can't.
2. Can Rennie run?
UNI QB Tirrell Rennie is the MVFC's most dynamic running QB in the league but figures to be less than 100 percent today.
So much of the Panthers' offense revolves around him, so if he's hurt or significantly less than 100 percent, that's a huge break for the Penguins.
3. Will special teams be special?
YSU's kickoff coverage has been poor at times this season and the Penguins have yet to make a field goal, so those are two areas of concern.
I saw YSU kicker David Brown hit a 50-yarder in warmups, and kickers always love domes, but he's 0-for-1 this season on field goals. UNI's kicker, meanwhile, is 12 of 13 this year and made a 48-yarder last week.