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March of the Penguins

The Youngstown State Penguins are a storied FCS program. They have 11 FCS playoff appearances and the third most National Championships. Behind the Herd’s nine and Georgia Southern’s 6. They have four as well as three runner ups (1992, 1999 & 2016). Jim Tressel coached from 1986 to 2000. So, six of the National Championship contenders were under his watch. He brought in Bo Pelini after he was made YSU’s President. The 2016 run was great but Bo’s mercurial outbursts led to Tressel bringing in current coach and former YSU assistant during the glory years, Doug Phillips.

Personally I think he was a good hire and he is laying the right type of foundation. He is recruiting Ohio High School kids versus jumping into the portal. He is developing players through a solid weight training and nutrition program. He has emphasized running the ball and good defense. Sounds very Missouri Valleyish. It is now his third year. Have they arrived at the level of being a top MVFC team? No, but they’re progressing in that direction.

Last year all three of their victories were against playoff teams. They beat Incarnate Word 44-41, Mo. State 41-33 and So. IL 35-18. UND had to score 14 4th quarter points at home to best them 24-21. So far this year they did what MVFC teams should do to Northeast and Pioneer Conference teams, beat them soundly. They played “tough” versus SEC Kentucky, but lost 31-0. Kentucky played poorly (3 TO’s). They had a bye last week, so have had two weeks to prepare for the Bison.

What is Ol Dober expecting from the Penguins this week? Sagarin has the Herd a 21 point favorite. If both teams play their game, I could see a hard fought 35-14 Bison victory. I think YSU is a couple of years away from being in a game decided in the 4th quarter with us.

What could cause deviations from this script? On the negative side, Code Green can’t let Jaleel McLaughlin run free. He is the real deal (held him to 52 yards on 11 carries last year)! Gap assignments and the better tackling we saw from Kubitz and Weerts last week, especially in the second half, need to be our level of play. If we make them one dimensional, it could be a long day for the Penguins.

In many ways, YSU is a lot like the Coyotes. They have a quick hit run game with a somewhat mobile QB and some RPO pass stuff. Crenshaw, the QB, is fast but is only averaging 2.2 YPC and 15.7 YPG. This is down from the 4.5 YPC and 66.7 YPG of last year. He has only thrown one INT this year in three games, but he is only connecting on 32 of 66 passes. A sub 50% completion percentage is like a .200 hitter in baseball, very bad.

What I think is a good chance of happening is that for the first time this year the Herd plays a four quarter game and gets improved play in all three phases of the game. We ran for 454 yards a year ago. I don’t see enough horses in their barn to stop our OL, backs and schemes. They are out manned.

The other factor is this is the first time this team has played in the Dome. Even if a few of them were here in the spring of 2020, it wasn’t before a sellout Homecoming Crowd. (There was only a limited crowd during Covid). I look for some procedure penalties, which can put you behind the sticks.

In summary, I believe the Herd goes over the 21 points and we see a lot of substitutions in the fourth quarter. Go Bison!!

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