Published November 4, 2012
1. Yes, it came against the Missouri Valley's worst team and, yes, it was only by three points, but Youngstown State got a win on Saturday, which beats the alternative.
The Penguins dominated the Coyotes in just about every statistical category but there were about a half-dozen plays that YSU just didn't make, which kept USD in the game.
The blocked field goal and the missed extra point stand out, but YSU made a call at the end of the first half that still has me scratching my head.
The Penguins had a first-and-10 at the South Dakota 18 with about a minute left before halftime. Wide receiver Michael Wheary lined up in the backfield, took the handoff and threw the ball into double coverage in the end zone, where it was picked off by Devin Taverna.
YSU led just 6-0 at that point, so it was no time to get cute. And if you're going to run that play, you shouldn't ask a true freshman to throw the ball, since he's not going to see the safety help and he's not going to know what to do with the ball if his first option is covered.
So, he threw it. And I blame the coaches for that interception, not him.
2. Running back Jamaine Cook had a monster game, once again. I've said this before, but he's like Linus' blanket. He rushed for 42 times, which is a good indication that YSU's coaches were really worried about losing this game. When things get tight, he gets too many carries. But it's hard to blame them -- he was the difference between winning and losing.
3. I thought defensive tackle Aronde Stanton had another good game and I thought YSU's offensive and defensive lines did a nice job all day. Cook made a point to really praise his line afterward and you could tell he meant it.
4. At one point in the fourth quarter, when it looked like the Coyotes might tie the game or go ahead, I wondered, "If YSU loses, would this be the lowest point since Tressel left?"
A loss would have dropped the Penguins to 4-5 and things would have gotten really ugly for YSU coach Eric Wolford, who has come under fire by disgruntled fans.
Instead, the Penguins kept their slim playoff hopes alive. They should beat Western Illinois next weekend -- the Leathernecks are playing like a team with nothing to play for -- which sets up an intriguing game against Indiana State in the finale.
I don't think YSU will win that game, but, hey, I didn't think Missouri State had a chance to beat the Penguins in last year's finale. Funnier things have happened.
5. Kurt Hess has come under fire over the last month, both from the coaches and guys like me, and he didn't exactly light things up on Saturday. But he took care of the ball and avoided the big mistake, which had to be a confidence booster.
I thought Hess was poised for a huge season and he played as well as I've ever seen him play in the win over Northern Iowa, but he hasn't been the same guy since. He's got to earn the coaches' trust again. When he's playing well, YSU is a totally different team.
6. This has become a broken record, but YSU's special teams were bad once again. In addition to the kicking mishaps, Christian Bryan nearly fumbled away a punt return and the other units were completely unremarkable. Every week it's something new.
7. I talked to South Dakota coach Joe Glenn afterward and the first thing he did was tell me a joke. (It was an Italian joke because, like half the people in Youngstown, I have an Italian last name.) He's got the perfect personality for his team, which is 1-8 and struggling through its first season in the Missouri Valley.
It's going to take some time for the Coyotes to build a program and you need a coach that isn't going to freak out after every loss.
8. Oh, and in case you're wondering, here's the joke.
Q. Why are there so many Italians in this country named Tony?
A. Because when they came over on the boat, they shaved their heads and wrote, "To N.Y."