Fun night, big win for streaking Penguins


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by Joe Scalzo - "A blog about YSU Penguin athletics, not the insides of penguins." (Contact)   | 155 entries"> Untitled document

1. I know Illinois State isn't one of the league's better teams but it's hard to find much wrong with Saturday night's 59-21 win.

The Penguins did give up a touchdown on the opening drive and a long touchdown pass, but these are quibbles. YSU did exactly what it was supposed to do, crushing an overmatched team.

That's the kind of performance that's going to get fans coming back.

2. One of the questions I posed to both QB Kurt Hess and WR Jelani Berassa after the game is whether this year's offense is capable of being better than the 2011 version, which might have been the best offense in school history.

"We have the potential to be just as good or better," Berassa said.

"We could get there," Hess said. "We definitely have the potential to be better, but we still have a lot of room for improvement."

Maybe, but that was as good as I've seen Hess look. Four different wide receivers caught TD passes from Hess, who also ran for a TD.

Two of the TDs were bombs, with Hess passing up open mid-range receivers in favor of going deep to Andrew Williams (40 yards) and Marcel Caver (67 yards). The first one was a laser, the second a rainbow to Caver, who outran double coverage.

When Hess was asked whether that was the best deep ball of his career, he said, "It was a good one, because I made Marcel chase it. He came up to me afterward and said I challenged him. He wasn't sure he could go up and get it."

3. Freshman RB Martin Ruiz has been terrific this season, but YSU showed off its backfield depth when he left the game with a first-half ankle injury.

Speedy freshman Jody Webb ran for a TD (man is he fun to watch) and sophomore Demond Hymes (who has been battling an ankle injury) also scored. Hymes looked like the guy we all saw in the spring and summer, before he got injured. His burst is back and he's got good power.

"He made a couple runs in practice this week and I told everyone, 'That's kind of the guy I remember,'" YSU coach Eric Wolford said of Hymes.

4. I don't think YSU's defense is good enough to challenge for a conference title, but it's getting better.

When LB Travis Williams is on, he's phenomenal. He forced a fumble tonight, absolutely lighting up ISU's Phil Dudley on the play. The defensive line has improved since an awful first half against Southern Illinois and the secondary came up with two interceptions against the Redbirds.

While it's easy to say the Penguins aren't as good on defense as they were in the Tressel years, the bottom line is, you don't see a lot of great defenses anywhere in college football outside of the top few teams in the SEC. Heck, North Dakota State gave up 26 points to a 1-6 Missouri State team on Saturday.

With the way YSU's offense is playing, if the defense can hold teams to 21 points, that's plenty good enough.

5. You don't hear much about YSU's special teams but there's a night-and-day difference in the coverage units. Nick Liste has been booming kickoffs and you no longer see teams ripping off 40-yard returns like you saw in previous years under Wolford.

Also, Wolford doesn't like to kick field goals, but Joey Cejudo has been quietly impressive, hitting a 38-yarder tonight to improve to 4 for 4 this year.

6. YSU's win over Southern Illinois is looking better and better.

The Salukis beat a really good Northern Iowa team tonight in overtime on the road. And maybe the most impressive thing is they did it after missing a 29-yard field goal on the last play of the fourth quarter that would have won it.

I thought SIU was in trouble after the YSU loss but the Salukis have beaten two of the league's best teams in back-to-back weeks, following up last week's 27-24 win over South Dakota State with another big victory.

7. YSU plays Western Illinois next week and I expect the Penguins to roll again. The Leathernecks got pasted by South Dakota State on Saturday, 38-10, and lost to Illinois State last week by two touchdowns.

And with South Dakota State looming after the bye week, it's hard to imagine any scenario where YSU isn't 8-1 heading into the final stretch.

If the Penguins win one of the last three against UNI, North Dakota State and South Dakota State, you have to think they'll get a first-round playoff bye.

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