By Brian Yauger
For the first time since 2012, Youngstown State University football is off to a 3-0 start. The Penguins dominated Duquesne University in their second home game to stay undefeated.
While not as critical of the team as he was in the weeks prior, coach Bo Pelini still sees more that the team can work on.
“We did a lot of good things,” Pelini said. “We’ve still got a lot to clean up, but I thought we played good football … We’re a work in progress.”
One player who also thinks the team has plenty to work on is freshman quarterback Mark Waid. Waid scored his first career touchdown for the Penguins in the victory over Duquesne.
“We still have a lot of work to do on both sides of the ball,” Waid said. “We just got to take care of those and just become better and better every single day. That’s what it’s all about: being the best person and the best player you can every single day.”
Waid got the Penguins two touchdowns to open the game with his feet. He rushed for a 6-yard touchdown and a 1-yard touchdown, giving YSU a 14-0 lead.
The Penguins also found themselves in the top 25 teams in two national rankings. YSU is ranked 21st in the FCS Coaches Poll and 24th in the STATS Poll. They are one of five undefeated teams in the poll.
One major contrast between this year’s Penguins and last year’s is their ability to create turnovers. Through three games, YSU has intercepted six passes, which is double what the team managed through all of last season.
“That just shows how much we’re improving, and hopefully we can keep getting more and more,” junior defensive back Bryce Gibson said. “We’re never gonna be satisfied as a defense. We’re always gonna find a way to get more turnovers.”
The Penguins have been playing with a three-headed monster in the most unlikely of positions: quarterback.
Starter Nathan Mays went 8-11 against the Dukes. He also ran for 63 yards and scored a touchdown. Sophomore Joe Craycraft threw one pass but made it count as it went for a 31-yard touchdown to London Pearson. The final “head” of the monster is Waid, the freshman from nearby Girard High School who ran for two touchdowns.
“A lot of hard work has gone into this for the entire team,” Waid said. “Just to be 3-0, that’s our number one priority, and now we’re building for 4-0 … We’re really motivated and we know what our end goal is.”
There’s no game this week, but the Penguins get back on the field on Sept. 28 when they welcome Robert Morris University. It’s their first of two home night games, with kickoff at 6 p.m.
Penguins tailback Joe Alessi is glad to get the rest before the team’s toughest matchups begin.
According to the Sagarin rankings, the Missouri Valley Football Conference is the toughest in the FCS.
“The bye week, the way it is right now — it’s beneficial for us,” Alessi said. “It’s almost right before conference. It’s a good little rest before conference because our conference is a tough one to play in. It’ll be good for us.”