Published October 5, 2013http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd">
1. Saturday's game felt a little like a reverse of Eric Wolford's first year.
Indiana State put up some impressive numbers, outgaining the Penguins 478-360 with a five-minute edge in time of possession, but YSU made plays in the game's biggest moments and Indiana State didn't.
YSU held a 2-0 edge in turnovers, including a 95-yard interception return by Jameel Smith, and it felt like the Penguins were in control the whole time. In 2009, YSU was good enough to hang with Missouri Valley teams but the Penguins never made enough plays to win. Now, you feel like YSU is deep enough and good enough to win, even when it's not playing its best.
2. Freshman TB Martin Ruiz was one of those diamond-in-the-rough recruits by Wolford and he's taken advantage of his opportunity after YSU's top two running backs, Adaris Bellamy and Demond Hymes, went down with injuries.
He got his first start on Saturday, setting career-highs in carries (23, up from 20) and yards (141) and matched the three touchdowns he scored against Duquesne. He's still learning — he missed a couple blocks — but his combination of speed and size is the best on the team.
3. Redshirt freshman Jody Webb carried four times for 34 yards (he got clobbered on his first carry when Ruiz missed a block) and he's obviously a talent. I'd like to see more from him, especially when teams are keying on Ruiz. QB Kurt Hess was able to fake the handoff to Ruiz and get the ball to Webb on the corner, where he's most dangerous.
4. Speaking of talented freshmen, DE Derek Rivers has given YSU a spark on the edge. He had two tackles on Saturday, including a sack, and has really improved the Penguins' pass rush the past two weeks. DE Kyle Sirl added two sacks.
The thing that separates the best teams in the conference from the worst are the offensive and defensive lines and Rivers could be a monster in a couple years.
5. As I noted in Saturday's Vindicator story, YSU had been 0-6 in its second and third conference games under Wolford, which is why the ISU win is so big. The Penguins won their MVFC opener for the fourth straight year but they were finally able to improve to 2-0 this year. It's also the first time YSU has been able to win back-to-back road games under Wolford.
As radio analyst Chris Sammarone said several times, "Championship teams win on the road." Now YSU heads back to Stambaugh for Illinois State and Western Illinois and should be favored in both those games.
6. I've said this before, but YSU's schedule was perfect. The Penguins got a big win over a playoff contender last week (as proof, Southern Illinois bounced back to beat South Dakota State on Saturday) and got four straight games against the bottom half of the conference.
They should be 5-0 heading into the final stretch: At UNI, home against North Dakota State and home against South Dakota State. If the Penguins can finish with six conference wins, they're a no-brainer playoff team. Five might even be enough.
7. I'm writing this blog while on a van ride home from Terre Haute. I'm expecting to be in bed around 4 a.m. Last week I got in bed at 3:30 a.m.
So, yeah, part of me wishes YSU was in the Mid-American Conference.
8. Indiana State is obviously a basketball school — Larry Bird played for the Sycamores — and it shows.
Even though they played two Big Ten teams to start this season, they're not plowing that money back into the football program.
The stadium looks like Warren's Mollenkopf Stadium, only if there were no seats on the visiting side. And the locker rooms are high school level, not to mention the lights. (I tweeted that they look like the lights from the Bugs Bunny cartoon where he plays all the baseball positions.)
They do have a nice videoboard but there seems to be some law against showing replays on it, so I'm not sure what good it does. Unless you're in Dallas, no one watches the videobard when the game is going on.
Of all the Missouri Valley teams, only South Dakota State's facilities compare. And the Jackrabbits are working on improving theirs.
9. On the way to Terre Haute, you'll see billboards for Tom Raper RV, which reminds me of this: http://simpsons.wikia.com/wiki/Stinking_Fish_Realty.
10. Finally, this isn't really YSU related, but I wanted to wish best of luck Joe Aulisio, who left WKBN last week to move to Buffalo with his wife.
I've never met someone less impressed with himself, which (as you might guess) is something I'd typically say about someone in sports broadcasting. You could say, "Hey Joe, your hair looks really brown today" and he'd say, "It's not that brown." And then he'd tell you he was going to comb it, but he ended up watching reruns of "The Andy Griffith Show."
Aulsio is just a good due. He loves thrift store T-shirts and hates reading. I lent him a copy of Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers" four years ago. He never read it. Never gave it back, either.
The thing I appreciated most about him was he was one of the few local reporters willing to ask tough questions in press conferences, which is not an easy thing to do when you're getting the stink eye from YSU men's basketball coach Jerry Slocum.
And, like former WYTV sportscaster Bill Castrovince, Aulisio preferred covering high school kids to pros, believing they made for better interviews, and better stories.
I'm gonna miss him.