Published October 20, 2012
Postgame thoughts from yet another disappointing Youngstown State performance:
1. I really like Kurt Hess (I can't tell you how many times he's been stuck talking to me after tough losses when his struggling teammates get to hide in the locker room) and I felt he deserved his first team all-conference selection last season. But he's really struggling.
Youngstown State's special teams were bad and the line couldn't open any holes for Jamaine Cook in the second half but Saturday's loss falls squarely on Hess' shoulders.
Hess committed four second half turnovers -- two interceptions and two fumbles -- and all four were preventable. Athletic director Ron Strollo told me before the game he thought Hess was pressing and it looked like it on Saturday. Both interceptions came on poor decisions (one of them was returned 100 yards for a touchdown, although by that point, the game was already decided) and one of the fumbles came on a bad snap that he simply has to handle. (That one led to a touchdown when the game was very much in doubt.)
2. It continued a troubling trend for Hess, who played the best game of his career against Northern Iowa, then struggled big-time against North Dakota State.
He played better last week against Illinois State but he didn't make the type of plays that a first-team all-conference quarterback needs to make.
Bottom line: He needs to play better. A lot better.
3. Yes, Southern Illinois scored 38 points but I felt the defense had a winning effort.
In Saturday's Vindicator, I wrote that YSU needed to do three things to win: score a quick touchdown, get pressure from its front four and make a play on special teams.
The front four did its job, particularly defensive tackles Aronde Stanton (10 tackles, 4.5 for loss, one sack) and Nick DeKraker (three tackles, two for loss, with 1.5 sacks).
Also, linebacker Travis Williams played great, recording 13 tackles. He was really active.
Before the season, I gave Stanton and Travis Williams first-team all-conference votes in the preseason poll. I thought they were the team's two best defenders and they looked like it on Saturday. And YSU's much-maligned secondary deserves some praise too; Dale Peterman had eight tackles, Jeremey Edwards had seven and the coverage was pretty good all game.
4. I don't know what else to say about Youngstown State's special teams. They're just awful and they've been awful all three years under Louie Matsakis, who is very close with Wolford.
I can't remember the last time YSU's special teams made an impact in a conference game.
5. After the 4-0 start, people were asking me how long Wolford was going to stick around. Now, they're wondering if he's the answer.
Thing is, I don't know. I think Wolford has done (and mostly said) all the right things since he's taken over but the blame for the three-game losing streak falls squarely on the coaching staff. They're just not getting it done.
After Saturday's loss, Wolford said he was going to simplify some things on offense. That means figuring out which plays work best and throwing out the rest.
6. I thought sophomore WR Andrew Williams had a terrific game. When WR Jelani Berassa tore his ACL before the season (a huge blow in hindsight), the staff was hoping either Williams or Kintrell Disher would step up and grab Berassa's spot.
It took seven games, but Williams finally did so on Saturday with six catches for 64 yards. Three went for first downs.
7. YSU needs to win at least three of its last four to be eligible for the playoffs. With the way the conference is going, the Penguins might need to win all four.
Before the season, Strollo said the "expectation is the playoffs." The school has poured a ton of money into the program since Wolford was hired with the expectation that this would be the year to make a deep playoff run.
Now, the season is in serious danger.
Wolford signed a five-year deal and, if YSU misses the playoffs, there's no way he'll get an early extension, which puts a ton of pressure on him to win next season.
I think Wolford will figure things out, but he might need to make some more coaching changes. Given YSU's tradition, fan base, facilities and budget, there's no excuse for this much losing.