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Pregame thoughts for YSU-South Dakota State

By Joe Scalzo (Contact)


Published October 27, 2012

Untitled document

1. At Tuesday's press conference, someone pointed out to me that Youngstown State's 1991 team started 4-3 and didn't lose another game.
I looked at him like he was nuts.
"Do you know the difference between that team and this one?" I said. "Jim Tressel was walking the sidelines for that one."
There was one other difference: Tressel had already made the playoffs three times before that season.

2. Earlier this week, I wrote a column saying it was time to win. (You can read it here: http://www.vindy.com/news/2012/oct/25/penguins-need-to-turn-on-the-lights).
Barring a complete catastrophe, Eric Wolford will be given the full five years to prove that he's the solution, but there's a lot riding on today's game.
Wolford is 13-16 in his three seasons but he's just 6-14 in conference games. That's not nearly good enough. A loss today pretty much ends the Penguins' playoff hopes and guarantees a lot of empty seats in the final two home games.

3. A loss today would also irritate an already-disgruntled fan base.
Wolford said the team is insulated from a lot of the outside criticism, but the players have the Internet, too. (Not to mention their parents.) I'm sure they're aware of it.
Wolford said that criticism comes with being a Division I athlete.
"If you're man enough to be the guy in that arena, you've got to take the good with the bad," he said. "When things are going well, everybody loves you and pats you on the back. When things aren't going well, they throw bricks and sticks and stones. It's part of being an athlete."

4. I know Wolford's cockiness turns off some fans, but you're not going to hear any complaints from me about his approach with the media.
Tressel liked to control the media (often bullying reporters behind the scenes) and Heacock was never comfortable with that aspect of the job. But Wolford understands we have a job to do and (so far), he's been professional and accommodating.
In fact, in 2 1/2 years, he's only taken issue with one of my stories. It came after last year's loss to South Dakota State when I wrote an obituary for the Penguins' playoff hopes.
(They proved me wrong, by the way. At least until the Missouri State finale.)

5. South Dakota State's 3-1 record in the conference is a little bit misleading because the Jackrabbits haven't yet played the heart of their schedule. But I've got an uneasy feeling about today's game.
SDSU's biggest weakness is turnovers and YSU just doesn't create any with its defense.
A month ago, I thought YSU would win this game. Today? I'm not so sure.

6. I did not travel with YSU this weekend, which means this is the first game I won't see in person. (We hired a writer in South Dakota to cover the game for us.)
Instead, I'm covering the regional cross country meet at Boardman High School, which means I'll probably miss the first half. So, if you're hoping for Twitter updates, my apologies.
You can still watch the game live on WFMJ or ESPN3.com.


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