Published October 13, 2012
1. While Saturday's loss isn't quite the worst of the Eric Wolford era — last year's collapse against Missouri State in the regular season finale still wins that contest — it might have been the most confounding.
The offense didn't commit any turnovers. YSU got flagged just four times. The weather wasn't great but it wasn't anything unusual for October in the Midwest.
There was no obvious reason why an offense that scored on its first four possessions got shut out over the final 39 minutes. Illinois State just played better.
2. YSU's defense gave up 35 points but I think the offense deserves a larger share of the blame for this one. I've written this before but I'll say it again: outside of Andre Stubbs (who has been mostly held in check since his big game against Pitt), the Penguins don't have anyone explosive on offense.
Jamaine Cook is a terrific running back, but he's not a home-run hitter. (That's about the only criticism you'll ever hear me say about Cook, who was the team's best player on Saturday.) YSU's receivers are just average. And tight end Will Shaw has been pretty quiet recently.
There's no one who can take a 5-yard slant and turn it into a 55-yard touchdown. Consequently, the Penguins score off a lot of 10-play drives.
3. Speaking of not being scary, who is YSU's best defensive player?
I posed this question to someone in the program before last week's game and after a slight pause, he kind of shrugged and said, "[Defensive tackle] Aronde Stanton is playing pretty well."
YSU had no pass rush against North Dakota State and, while it was a little better against Illinois State, the Penguins didn't have a sack. Redbirds defensive end Colton Underwood had as many tackles for loss (three) as YSU's entire defense.
4. At a game last year, Ed Puskas (now the Vindicator's sports editor) watched YSU's defense and said, "They need a Harry Deligianis."
Now, this is a little like saying Tiger Woods just needs to start making his 50-foot putts, but Puskas had a point. There's no NFL-type player on YSU's defense. Deligianis had 17 sacks for the 1997 national championship team and was picked in the fourth round of the 1998 draft.
The Penguins had 23 sacks — total — last year. They had just 12 (!!!!) in 2010. They have seven so far this year.
Those numbers aren't good enough.
5. YSU's defense also doesn't create turnovers. The Penguins recovered a fumble on Saturday but only because an Illinois State receiver dropped a pass that was ruled a lateral. A week after Redbirds quarterback Matt Brown threw four interceptions, the Penguins didn't come close to picking one off.
YSU's defense has one interception this season. It's recovered five fumbles.
Again, those numbers aren't good enough.
6. While the season isn't lost, it's clear this team isn't as good as everyone thought. Southern Illinois — YSU's next opponent — beat Northern Iowa on Saturday. North Dakota State, which waxed YSU last weekend, lost to Indiana State.
The Penguins need to win three more games to make the playoffs. Two weeks ago, that seemed like a lock. Now they need to go 3-2 the rest of the way against Southern Illinois, South Dakota State, South Dakota, Western Illinois and Indiana State.