Published October 20, 2012http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd">
1. The Youngstown State coaches worked on simplifying the defense this week, believing the players are thinking too much about their assignments, which is making them play slower.
At this point, it's obvious the Penguins aren't fooling anyone with their schemes, so it's worth a shot. YSU does have a lot of athleticism on its defense, so maybe the switch will lead to some big plays. The Penguins could use some.
2. I talked briefly with YSU athletic director Ron Strollo at last night's Mooney-Ursuline game (Strollo's son is a senior basketball/baseball player at Ursuline) and he mentioned something I wrote about after last week's loss: YSU doesn't have that one guy who can wreak havoc on the opposing quarterback.
Whether it's Harry Deligianis or Mychal Savage or Tim Johnson, you need that one guy that teams have to account for. Illinois State has Colton Underwood, Indiana State has Ben Obaseki and Aaron Archie, North Dakota State and Southern Illinois have a bunch of guys. Last year, Northern Iowa had Ben Boothby and L.J. Fort and without those guys, the Panthers' defense has struggled.
Maybe YSU's schemes have been too complicated but, at the end of the day, they need a guy who can get off a block and make a play.
3. Strollo thinks YSU's offense is pressing, believing it has to score on every series for the Penguins to win. He thinks that's why Kurt Hess has had a couple off games, pointing to the pick-six against North Dakota State as evidence of trying for the big play instead of taking what's there.
4. Southern Illinois has a two-game winning streak but I'm not convinced the Salukis as significantly better than they were earlier in the season.
Illinois State QB Matt Brown threw four interceptions against SIU and Northern Iowa fumbled the ball at the 1 and SIU returned it 100 yards for a touchdown. Also, the Salukis blocked punts in each of the last two weeks. Those kinds of things are tough to sustain.
While Eric Wolford has had some awful losses over his three years, I'll give him credit for this: His players have never quit on him.
5. YSU was in a slightly similar position last year entering the Southern Illinois game. The Penguins had lost two straight and they looked very average.
(After the second loss, to South Dakota State, I wrote an obituary for YSU's playoff chances, which Wolford still busts my chops about.)
Of course, the Penguins came back and beat SIU on the road to start a three-game win streak, lost a close one to UNI and then beat North Dakota State.
The lesson? Don't overreact to two-game losing streaks. And don't count YSU out just yet.
6. According to Michael Wheary's Twitter account, the freshman wide receiver will not play today. He wrote early this morning: "I wish they would let me play tomorrow.. Major let down."
7. Wolford talked about the need to spell Jamaine Cook more -- I call Cook "Linus's blanket" because the offensive coaches can't stand it when he's not in there -- so we'll see if Torrian Pace and Demond Hymes get more carries. Hymes seems to think he will, writing on his Twitter account late last night: "Damn I'm feelin good can't wait until tomorrow. Give me da ball and watch wat I do wit it !"
8. My prediction? YSU stops the skid. Penguins 31-24.