Dana Holgorsen vs. Bo Pelini. E. Gordon Gee vs. Jim Tressel. For a game that has only been played once back in the 1930s, there will be plenty fun narratives built up before the West Virginia Mountaineers welcome the Youngstown State Penguins into Milan Puskar Stadium on September 10th. Such as the nature of narratives, none of them really have anything to do with actual football. There are signs, however, that WVU needs to take this game seriously to dodge a loss causing embarrassment on a national scale. Going on the road and knocking off a Power 5 program in their house is a feat that YSU is familiar with, more specifically of the Pitt variety.
The second installment of the 2016 Game Preview Summer Series previews the Penguins of Youngstown State and if they have a shot at another famous scalp. Since that fateful day in 2012, "the 'Guins" haven't had much success in the record books, but there are plenty of things that the Mountaineers must respect going into this game.
Game #2: Youngstown State Penguins
|2015 Youngstown State Record: 5-6 (MVC 3-5)
||21-14 (OT)||W||1-1 (0-0)|
|19-Sep||St. Francis (PA)||48-3||W||2-1 (0-0)|
||at South Dakota
|17-Oct||South Dakota St.||38-3
|24-Oct||at S Illinois
||38-31 (OT)||L||3-4 (1-3)|
|31-Oct||at W Illinois||23-21||W
|7-Nov||Missouri St.||47-7||W||5-4 (3-3)|
|14-Nov||North Dakota St.||27-24||W||5-5 (3-4)|
|21-Nov||at Indiana St.||27-24||L
Seeing that Youngstown State is in the Missouri Valley Conference, they pretty much get one shot at a FBS program per year and the Mountaineers are it for 2016. Last year included a trip to Heinz Field where YSU put up a pretty good fight against "secretly-decent Pitt." Life can be tough in the MVC having to go against the Jackrabbits and Bison respectively, but Head Coach Bo Pelini (and his cat) looks to sure up the offense this year after having a helluva defensive season.
Defense is Nationally-Ranked Good (in FCS)
Youngstown State might have not had much of a 2015 season to write home about, but their defense is legit. In the FCS, YSU ranked in the FCS Top 10 in six defensive categories according to the final stats by the NCAA. Of note, the Penguins led the nation in Fewest Passing Yards Allowed (116.7), Fewest Completions Allowed (83) and tied for first in First-Downs Defense (145). The most important part is that their top six tacklers from last year are returning, so YSU can ball for passing defense which creates an interesting matchup against this Mountaineer offense. Expect Rushel Shell to see the ball early and often behind the capable WVU offensive line.
Penguin Offense: Run The Dang Ball
Youngstown is FCS Top 25 in Rushing Yards (199.8), but average on everything else. With a dual-quarterback setup, Hunter Wells is the passing arm while Ricky Davis comes in as the Wildcat-type running signal caller. Real quick, can we check out the stellar heads of hair on these guys? A+ salad.
Back to business. Running backs Jody Webb and Martin Ruiz combined for nearly 1600 yards last year on the ground, so look for them to be sharing the load on the ground. The defensive strategy should not be too complicated: stack the box against Davis and drop into coverage for Wells. The secret is out about how much the Mountaineers lost in the NFL Draft defensively, but WVU should not have a problem containing this offense.
Prediction: Mountaineers Should Win and Cover
Who knows what that Missouri game contains, but West Virginia should not lose this game. It is at home against a less-talented team that does not compete for FCS conference titles. They are not North Dakota State, Appalachian State, nor South Dakota State. This is Youngstown State. CountryRoads.mp3