By Brian Yauger
The Youngstown State University football team began the first leg of its redemption tour with a victory, beating the Valparaiso University Crusaders, 42-7.
Despite the score, there was plenty to improve on according to Penguins head coach Bo Pelini. Namely, the overall sloppiness.
“There were some very good things out there, but still too sloppy for my liking,” Pelini said. “We had 13 penalties, which is way too many. We had to use some timeouts that we shouldn’t. Those are things that are going to get us beat in close games. When we’re not our own worst enemy, we’re a really good football team.”
The Crusaders (0-2) struck first and struck big. Late in the first quarter, Crusaders quarterback Chris Duncan threw a 75-yard bomb to wide receiver Griffin Norberg for a touchdown, giving the Crusaders a 7-0 lead.
That didn’t last for long however. On the next possession, quarterback Montgomery VanGorder threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to receiver Natavious Payne to tie the game at 7-7.
The Penguins (1-2) put up 465 yards of total offense on the night. VanGorder had his best performance of the season so far as he went 13-for-21 for 202 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions.
YSU’s defense impressed, only allowing 45 rushing yards for the Crusaders. The defense sacked Duncan three times for a combined 50 yards.
With Valparaiso driving down the field, momentum could have gone in the Crusaders’ favor heading into halftime. Instead, momentum shifted back in the Penguins favor with a second quarter interception by Armand Dellovade. That interception set the tone for the rest of the game.
“They kept running that little slant by No. 2, and they kept doing it, kept doing it, so I kind of expected it,” Dellovade said. “I was helping the safety on No. 3, and I felt No. 2 coming in and I felt like they were going to do it again, so a little bit of instincts.”
Tevin McCaster made history early in the first half. He surpassed 2,000 career rushing yards during his time at YSU. That made him the 20th running back in program history to surpass the 2,000-yard mark.
McCaster finished with 141 yards on 25 attempts including two touchdowns in the second quarter that helped YSU build a 21-7 halftime lead.
“It means a lot,” McCaster said. “Coming in as a walk-on, to do that is amazing. My line is amazing too so a lot of credit to them. I’ve learned a lot here. On the field and off the field. Great coaches, great teammates and a great city.”
With the victory, the Penguins avoided their first 0-3 start since 1986, when they started 0-4. The Penguins finished that season 2-9.
YSU has the week off as it heads into the first game of Missouri Valley Football Conference play. The Penguins are back at it on Sept. 29 in Macomb, Ill. for a game against the Western Illinois University Leathernecks.
YSU Co-Defensive Coordinator Richard McNutt will be returning from his suspension for the next game, and the team is eager to have him back.
“It’s awesome,” McCaster said on getting McNutt back. “We as a team love Coach McNutt. He brings a lot to the team, a lot of energy, so that’s good for us.”