Growing Game by Game: YSU’s Quest for Excellence

Photo courtesy of YSU Sports

By Chris McBride

After a shutout victory at home, the Youngstown State University football team (1-1) sets its sights on Central Connecticut State University (0-2) this Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium.

The last meeting YSU had against CCSU was a 43-24 win for YSU that tied the school record for points and rushing touchdowns back in 2010. CCSU is coming off a two-game losing skid coming into this game.

YSU’s win over Robert Morris University (1-1) last week marked the 19th straight home win in September dating back to 2009 coming into this week’s home game.

Early on in the last game, kicker Zak Kennedy set the tone helping the Penguins get on the board totaling three field goals in the game. His only miss came on a 56-yard attempt to end the first half.

“Any kick you miss you’re definitely gonna get disappointed a little bit, but I had the distance for it. Everyone sees that now,” Kennedy said. “A lot of people I talked to after the game told me they didn’t think I had the leg for it but inside I knew I did. If we get another opportunity, I’m confident I’ll make it.”

Photo Courtesy of YSU Sports

Last game, the run was a big part of the offense as the Penguins amassed 240 yards on the ground with a pair of touchdowns as the result.

A big part of the offensive line is center Vitas Hrynkiewicz. He is one of three members of the offensive line that have started the past 18 games.

“Something we preach here: you just never stop. You’re gonna keep fighting and fighting in those two, three yards gains that turn to four and five,” Hrynkiewicz said. “Then you know us in the end, when Tevin just ran through the whole defense in the last play, so that’s what was preached and embedded in us through our program.”

Coming into next week’s matchup, Hrynkiewicz sees similar patterns to RMU.

“They’re in the same conference as RMU. They run a similar defense,” Hyrnkiewicz said. “They got some good players up front, and we’re looking forward to the game.”

While the offense ran up the scoreboard last game, the defensive line was responsible for preserving the shutout through four quarters. Following a 49-sack season, YSU is keeping in line this season. So far, YSU has gotten to the quarterback seven times through two games, four of which came against RMU.

Justus Reed, a newbie who transferred from the University of Florida, has made a seamless transition to the Penguins having earned three sacks in two games.

“We love to hit the quarterback, you know, we worked on that in practice a lot and tell each other tips on how to get there. It’s definitely a plus we have,” Reed said. “l played all right, I obviously could have made more plays, couple of mental errors. It’s just something with being in a new defense and trying to get my feet wet and understanding, but I feel like I did all right.”

Despite the sacks, Coach Bo Pelini still had choice words to say about the Penguins’ defense.

“I thought we were a little bit sloppy,” Pelini said. “Especially tackling-wise and maybe some communication things and being on the same page but, I mean, you shut somebody out, you’re doing something right.”

Despite Pelini’s criticism, the Penguins have managed to not allow a touchdown in the second half through two games this season. YSU has also managed to win nine straight home wins, the fourth longest win streak in school history.

“Our job is to keep getting better,” Pelini said. “We gotta keep this football team on an upward movement. We’re not nearly where we wanna be, but we understand that. Each day we gotta make use of our opportunity to get better.”

Pelini also gave an update on the injury status of quarterback Hunter Wells who went down with a shoulder injury in the first few plays of the opening drive against RMU.

“It’s day-to-day; we’ll see. It’s nothing long term. It’s something to see how he responds to treatment and see how the week progresses and we’ll go from there,” Pelini said. “For this week, he’s [Wells] probably doubtful.”

YSU will face off against CCSU on Sept. 16 at 2 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.