Published September 24, 2011
1. Bottom line: YSU's defenders have to get off a block and make a tackle. They haven't done much of either in the first half. Shakir Bell has carried 10 times for 215 yards and four TDs and the four TDs seemed to come on the same play -- a basic pitch to the right where he finds a big hole and just cruises past everyone.
2. This is a game where you really noticed YSU's youth on defense. Even the seniors that are playing are guys that haven't been here four years, with the exception of Obinna Ekweremuba, who didn't sniff the field until last season. You'd like to have a couple senior leaders that can make a play or settle his teammates down but the only one who can do that is senior LB John Sasson and he seems to have been banished to special teams. (The coaches simply don't think Sasson is athletic enough, so they've decided to take their lumps with the younger guys who have a higher ceiling.)
3. The offense is a different story. YSU fell behind 21-0 before it even got a first down but the offense didn't panic and scored 21 points over the last 15:10 to make it a game. Even though that unit has no senior starters (and very few seniors that play), it's loaded with experience and leadership.
4. Indiana State probably has at least 5,000 people actually in the stands, a stunning achievement for a school that, just a few years ago, would basically have as many YSU fans as ISU fans in the stands.
5. For the second straight game, YSU's defensive coaches have been slow to adjust to a play that was working for the other team. Last week it was a delayed slant over the middle; this week, it's the simple pitch run to the right. They have to take that away.
The Sycamores picked up where they left off, scoring on the first offensive play of the second quarter on a 61-yard run by Shakir Bell. That one was sloppy tackling as he should have been held to a 4-yard gain on the right sideline, only to break the tackle and cruise down the field untouched for the score. Indiana State missed the extra point but I'm not sure it's going to matter.
It's 27-7 with 14:42 left.
After picking up a first down, the Penguins punt again. On third down, Indiana State rushed just three defenders and still got pressure on Kurt Hess. After punting, YSU was flagged for a personal foul at the end of the return. Not sure who got flagged -- the official didn't announce it -- but I have to believe that was a frustration penalty.
It was also a stupid penalty. The Sycamores would have started inside the 10. Now they'll start the 21.
YSU forces a three-and-out and a punt and will start at the Sycamores' 43. Gotta get a score on this drive.
And the Penguins do, converting two fourth downs on the drive, then capping it with a 4-yard TD pass from Kurt Hess to Jelani Berassa. It's 27-14 at 7:02 left.
I'm listening to the WKBN broadcast up in the press box and they have these funny little comedy bits on their commercial breaks. I'm trying hard not to laugh in front of YSU people who look ready to kill someone.
Here's one, from a female comedian:
"People ask me all the time, 'Aren't you a little too attractive to be a comic?' And I'm like, 'Aren't you a little too ugly to be talking to me?'"
I mean, how can you not laugh at that?
Odd play to start the Sycamores' ensuing possession. Shakir Bell was stripped on a run up the middle -- the play should have been blown dead -- and Aronde Stanton rumbled to the 1, got stripped and fumbled it through the back of the end zone. Should have been a first and goal at the 1. Instead, it was basically a redo. (And, like I said, Bell's forward momentum had been stopped, so the play should have been called dead anyway.)
A few plays later, Shakir Bell again broke through the right side of YSU's defense for a 51-yard TD. Unbelievable. Bell has more than 200 yards rushing and the Penguin defense look slow and out of position.
It's 34-14 with 4:03 left and I feel confident saying this is the worst performance by YSU in the Wolford era. Not even last year's defense looked this bad.
The Penguins' offense responds again, cutting the deficit to 13 on a 4-yard TD run by Jamaine Cook. YSU's offensive line is starting to open up some holes in the run game and they've used tight end Carson Sharbaugh as a fullback quite a bit in this half.
It's 34-21 with 53 seconds left and YSU gets the ball to start the second half. If the Penguins can get a stop, they'll go into halftime with a chance.
And they do. YSU trails 34-21 at halftime and, amazingly, is still in the game.
Bad, bad, bad start for YSU.
A short kickoff and a good return gave the Sycamores the ball at their own 38. On the first offensive play, Shakir Bell took simple pitch right, got a huge block and took it 72 yards for a 7-0 lead with 14:42.
The Penguins then go three and out, losing five yards on a first down run, then another six on a sack -- just their second of the season. Kurt Hess then threw deep on third down but it fell incomplete.
Hess, by the way, had his worst game of the season against Indiana State last fall, throwing four interceptions.
Indiana State took over at its own 42 and quickly added another 7. Bell scored on a third-and-2 at the YSU 39, going untouched through the right side of the field. It's 14-0 Sycamores with 11:11.
This is the worst start of the Wolford era.
Linebacker Teven Williams gets first start in place of John Sasson. The YSU coaches want a little more athleticism at that position, so they're exchanging leadership and experience for talent. We'll see what happens.
YSU responds to the second touchdown with another three-and-out. This is ugly so far. YSU's line is having all sorts of problems on both sides of the ball.
Shakir Bell lost 10 yards on his first carry of the Indiana State possession and YSU's defense still didn't look very good. He broke a few tackles but was so far behind the line that it didn't matter. After a completed pass, Indiana State receiver Donald Spencer drops one on third down to force a punt.
YSU takes over at the 21 with 7:58 left but again go three-and-out. Yikes.
Nothing fancy about why YSU is struggling. Indiana State has dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
After YSU's punt, the Sycamores again drove quickly down the field, making it 21-0 on an 11-yard TD pass from Ronnie Fouch to Leonard Riston. There's 4:38 left and YSU is in big, big trouble.
Thanks to a penalty on the kickoff return, the Penguins began their next drive at the 9 but finally picked up their first first down on a second down pass from Kurt Hess to Christian Bryan. The Sycamores have committed to taking away the run and have. Problem is, their defensive line is getting so much pressure that the pass game has struggled too.
The Penguins' offense finally comes alive, going 91 yards to end the quarter, capping the drive with a 15-yard TD run by Jordan Thompson. He went practically untouched over the left side as YSU's line finally started controlling the line of scrimmage. QB Kurt Hess made some nice plays on that drive -- including a Houdini-like pass to Jamaine Cook on a third down when it looked like a sure sack -- so maybe this will give YSU some confidence.
Of course, the defense needs to get a few stops, too.
It's 21-7 after one quarter.