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Staring Down the Musket at the Youngstown State Penguins

A wild FCS game appears! You are asleep.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at West Virginia Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Dzenis of the Youngstown Vindicator joins us this week to break down West Virginia and Youngstown State.

So, what the hell happened last week? How does a playoff team from 2017 take a loss to Butler team without scholarship players?

Youngstown State did not make the playoffs in 2017, but did in 2016 when they went to the national title game. The Butler loss was the result of a lot of things being bad, but the biggest culprits were a horrible secondary and special teams. Butler’s offense was pretty simple, throw it to Pace Temple, and he couldn’t be stopped. The Bulldogs were getting 5-yard gain after 5-yard gain. YSU corners took blatant pass interference penalties. Punting, kicking and special teams coverage were all terrible and the game was decided by not letting the ball go out of bounds on a Butler onside kick, which led to the game-winning field goal.

Who should West Virginia fans keep an eye on when the Penguins have the ball?

Running back is YSU’s deepest and most talented position. Tevin McCaster is one of the top running backs in the elite Missouri Valley Football Conference who will see the ball 30ish times. Behind him is one of the program’s more exciting young guys in Christian Turner, who’s a factor in the passing game. I’m not sure how familiar your readership is with WPIAL athletes, but Farrell’s Braxton Chapman has had an excellent fall camp and could see some carries. He’s his school’s all-time leading rusher. Saturday will mark the second career start for senior QB Montgomery VanGorder. The Notre Dame transfer was a bit shaky the first half of his debut, but was much better in the second. He does a good job avoiding sacks and turnovers.

Conversely, who are the best players on YSU’s defense and do they have a prayer of slowing down Will Grier and company even a little?

Well the thing with YSU’s defense is its best players are out for the season. Defensive end Justus Reed has a torn Achilles and starting safeties Kyle Hegedus and Deshon Taylor are done for the year and the latter’s career is over with a spinal issue. Linebacker Armand Dellovade and defensive tackle Savon Smith are the remaining starters on defense from the great 2016 team. Do they have a prayer of slowing down WIll Grier? Sure. It’s never a good idea to sell short a Bo Pelini defense. The secondary will have to be a lot better than it was against Bulter to have a chance. I see the game as YSU hanging around for a quarter or two before the Mountaineers’ talent wins out.

Has the outlook on YSU’s season and Bo Pelini’s job security taken any kind of hit after the Butler loss?

The season isn’t ruined, but the margin for error is a lot smaller for making the playoffs. The MVFC sent five teams to the playoffs last year. Reigning national champ North Dakota State and South Dakota State look to be in a class by themselves, so that leaves YSU to fight with the likes of Northern Iowa, Western Illinois, Illinois State and South Dakota (who just gave Kansas State a hard time) for the remaining three spots. In the likely event YSU loses in Morgantown, the Penguins can only take two more losses to have a shot at the postseason. That means they need to beat the scholarship-free Valparaiso and then go 6-2 in the league.

Bo Pelini’s job security is fine. YSU almost never buys out a contract in a revenue sport. His predecessor, Eric Wolford, was a special exception in 2014 with Bo getting fired from Nebraska and Jim Tressel becoming the president of the university around the same time. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that this is his last season with the Penguins as he’s in the final year of his contract, which is the same time the Nebraska buyout money runs out. AD Ron Strollo has said before the season that he wants Bo to stay, but they won’t have any discussions about his future until after the season. There’s a lot of unknowns like how the coaching carousel will spin in the winter and Pelini’s willingness to take a sweetheart deal again, but ultimately, Pelini will decide if he stays or goes no matter how restless the fanbase gets.