By Joshua Fitch
After two consecutive losses to begin the 2018 season, attention to detail is key to avoid an 0-3 start as the Youngstown State University football team welcomes the Valparaiso University Crusaders on Saturday.
With such a big loss to West Virginia University in week two (52-17), the “little things” certainly added up. However, going forward it shouldn’t hold the team back knowing so much can be corrected.
“I don’t really think we stepped back with the loss against West Virginia,” Penguins senior left guard Gavin Wiggins said. “It’s the details that we’re missing. It’s the little things, not climbing to the right backer, not getting to the linebacker at all.”
Wiggins has played in 33 straight games and was a second team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference selection last season while earning the third letter of his career.
“I thought the kids played really hard,” head coach Bo Pelini said. “We’re just not always playing very smart. Too many details that are getting missed and not being able to carry over what we’re coaching to the field. Our level of execution is inconsistent and it hurts us.”
Valparaiso is also seeking its first win of the season, following a 23-21 loss to Duquesne University. In the loss, the Crusaders had over 325 yards of offense, scoring once through the air and twice on the ground.
“Offensively they’re a little bit of two tight end stuff. They’ll run multiple quarterbacks in there,” Pelini said.
The Crusaders gave up over 400 yards of total offense in the loss to Duquesne, including 178 rushing yards, while allowing the Dukes offense to convert nine times on third down. Still, Pelini takes caution when assessing the Valpo defense.
“They’re kind of all over the place defensively,” Pelini said. “… lot of multiple fronts and mainly a single high team. They do a nice job on defense and they try to confuse you and give you multiple looks. You have to be prepared for that.”
For the Penguins, the ability to run the ball will be important after the Crusaders bad run defense last week. YSU ran for 215 yards against WVU and 235 yards against Butler University.
This is just the third meeting between these two teams. The Penguins have won both matchups so far, beating the Crusaders 77-13 in 2011 and 59-0 in the most recent meeting during the 2012 season.
Senior running back Tevin McCaster will be the biggest key for that. He ran for 126 yards on 14 attempts and a touchdown last week against West Virginia.
McCaster enters week three needing just 27 yards to surpass the 2,000-yard milestone during his YSU career. He has 238 yards on 43 carries this season, averaging 6.8 yards per carry.
“It’s a process,” Pelini said, referring to how the Penguins can get a win on Saturday. “Every single day we have to keep growing as a football team and start getting more efficient, more accountable and more disciplined. Our execution is an ongoing process each and every day.”
As the Penguins finish another week of practice, there’s still optimism for the 2018 season, despite an 0-2 start.
“I see the potential still with this football team,” Pelini said. “There’s really good potential, but we have got to keep getting better. It’s an everyday thing.”
Kickoff between the Penguins and Crusaders is set for 2 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.