By Marc Weems
With the Youngstown State University football team coming off its biggest upset in more than a decade, the Penguins will look to advance to the FCS playoffs semifinals.
YSU gets another playoff home game after knocking off No. 3 Jacksonville State University 40-24 on Saturday.
This week, YSU takes on Wofford College, who had its own upset by defeating No. 6 The Citadel by a score of 17-3 on the road.
With YSU’s offense finally matching its defensive effort, YSU will look to continue scoring.
YSU is averaging 39 points per game in the playoffs while gaining 475.5 yards per game in the first two rounds.
YSU’s defense has given up 24 points per game and 426.5 yards per game while allowing 170.5 yards per game rushing.
YSU head coach Bo Pelini said their conference slate prepared the team well for the teams they have faced, and will face, in the playoffs. The Missouri Valley Football Conference has good teams from top to bottom, and Pelini said that has helped the team tremendously.
“You get challenged week to week in our conference,” Pelini said. “We are battle tested so to speak, and you look at the non-conference we played. All those things have done us good.”
For Wofford, their defense has been stout this season. Wofford has given up just 16.1 points per game and 8.5 points per game in the playoffs. They have also given up just 277.5 yards per game but have given up 320.5 yards per game in the playoffs.
“It was nice to help out the defense. Obviously these past couple weeks, the offense has played much better than we have before,” YSU quarterback Hunter Wells said. “I think that’s because things have been different. I came in, and people weren’t used to me yet. Once we’ve gotten on the same page, I feel like we’ve gotten better each week.”
The offense has improved a lot in recent games. Wells took over the starting job in week 8 against Indiana State University. The Penguins are 5-1 in that span, and after the first two games, YSU has averaged 41 points per game in the last four games.
“For so long our team has been dependent on our defense, and we have a couple defensive guys banged up,” YSU running back Jody Webb said. “We are going deep into the depth chart on that side of the ball. At some point, the offense had to say that we would put the team on our back. That’s what we did on Saturday, and when your defense is on the field a lot, we have to put points on the board.”
Although the time of possession was almost even against JSU, YSU’s offense scored quickly when they got the ball.
YSU has dealt with a lot of adversity, including the questions at the quarterback position. Wells started the year as the fourth string before he was the starter.
“Just like that, I wasn’t the guy anymore. It was something that I’ve never experienced,” Wells said.
Wells said that not being the starter was definitely something that he never experienced before.
“It was a great lesson for me,” Wells said “It was something that matured me a lot and grew me up as a man.”
YSU will have a tough task as Wofford is one of the few schools in the country that uses a “Triple Option Offense.” Pelini said that all that matters in this game, and any more to come, is that everyone needs to be on the same page on every play.
YSU plays Wofford College at 2 p.m. on Saturday in the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs.