Pregame thoughts for YSU-Western Illinois
by Joe Scalzo - "A blog about YSU Penguin athletics, not the insides of penguins." | 155 entries
1. Before I talk about the football team, how about Youngstown State's women's sports so far this season?
The soccer team set a school record for wins. The volleyball team is in the midst of its best season in a decade. The cross country placed third at the Horizon League meet despite missing its two best runners. And the women's team beat Pitt to open the season on Friday.
Good things are happening.
2. I can't imagine any scenario where YSU's football team loses today.
Western Illinois is really struggling and the Penguins should have talent advantages at just about every position. While I expect YSU coach Eric Wolford to emphasize the run, I don't expect the game plan to be as conservative as last week. Kurt Hess needs to build some confidence heading into next week's game against Indiana State.
YSU can't be one-dimensional in that one. The Sycamores' defense is too good.
3. Earlier this week, I wrote about YSU's playoff prospects if the Penguins can finish 7-4.
(You can read that story here: http://www.vindy.com/news/2012/nov/07/are-playoffs-possible/?newswatch.)
My gut feeling is they'd have a 60/40 chance of making it. That 4-4 conference record isn't great, but three of those losses came on the road against the league's top three teams. And I think the Pitt victory, combined with a three-game win streak to end the season, would be enough.
4. Freshman wide receiver Michael Wheary will play.
Earlier this week, he tweeted that he might be suspended for a helmet-to-helmet hit in last week's win over South Dakota. I was told by someone in YSU's program that he'd be cleared to play and Wheary confirmed it on his Twitter account yesterday.
So, if this is the first you've heard of it, you can just skip past this paragraph.
5. Today's game will be televised live on WFMJ and ESPN3.com.
Also, WKBN's Chad Krispinsky told me last night that they're planning to televise the home finale against Indiana State live next week. That won't help attendance but, at this point, nothing but winning will.
6. In Friday's paper, I wrote a column about Wolford that really struck a nerve.
(You can read that here: http://www.vindy.com/news/2012/nov/09/no-winner-in-wolfords-blame-game/?newswatch.)
Judging by my emails and messages on Twitter/Facebook/etc., there are a lot of fans frustrated with his attitude/cockiness/performance. And these aren't just casual fans. I'm getting messages from former players and veteran high school coaches around the area. That's a problem.
As I've said many times, I like Wolford and I'm going to reserve judgment on his tenure until he's done with his five-year contract. And he deserves credit for getting rid of a lot of knuckleheads that took advantage of Jon Heacock's big heart. I'm also told the team has stuck together, they're not mouthing off or bickering, and Wolford and his staff deserve credit for that, too.
But Wolford needs to win. If he can finish this season with a three-game winning streak (or more), he'll take a lot of heat off himself and his program.
If not? Well, this offseason could get a little ugly.