Many questions face the Youngstown State University football team after last week’s unimpressive finish against Duquesne University.
The Penguins came out firing on all cylinders in the first half, jumping out to a 31-7 lead, but they lost momentum after halftime, with Duquesne outscoring the Penguins 16-3. This is the second straight week the Penguins have struggled in the second half; they were out-scored 21-11 in week one against the University of Illinois.
YSU head coach Eric Wolford said a major factor contributing to the team’s second-half struggles is its inability to convert on third downs. Through two games the Penguins are 8 of 31 on third downs.
“The second half I was really upset about it. Our overall third-down execution is not where we expect it to be. Our third-down production has been really below average as far as our standards go,” Wolford said. “We know we have to play better in the second half, and that starts with us coaches at halftime getting guys’ motors going and making sure we’re ready to go.”
Senior tight end Nate Adams was also displeased with the offense’s second-half struggles, but thinks that their mistakes are all correctable.
“We just weren’t hitting our stride there in the second half,” Adams said. “We just all got to be on the same page. As long as we’re all together — clicking — on the same page we’ll be OK.”
The Penguins also suffered a blow late in the fourth quarter of last week’s game when starting quarterback Dante Nania left the game with an ankle sprain. Wolford lists Nania’s status for this weekend’s game against Butler University as probable.
“He said he felt 100 times better than he did on Sunday,” Wolford said. “I think it’s going to be a judgment call — how much practice he can get in on Wednesday and Thursday.”
A decision on Nania’s status for this weekend’s game is expected to come Sept. 11. If he is unable to give it a go, freshmen Hunter Wells will most likely get the start with Ricky Davis backing him up.
Whoever is to line up behind center for this weekend’s game will be facing a Butler team that likes to pressure the quarterback. In Butler’s 22-16 win last weekend against Wittenberg University, the Bulldogs defense came away with 10 sacks.
“I think the glaring thing that stuck out from the first game was they are heavy blitz, brought a lot of pressure, basically almost every play,” Wolford said. “I don’t know the last time I’ve seen a team have 10 sacks in one game.”
Butler is a non-scholarship program, but junior linebacker Dubem Nwadiogbu says that the Penguins cannot overlook the Bulldogs.
“We don’t really look at scholarship; we treat every team like they’re the best team and we have to go out and prepare like they’re the best team,“ Nwadiogbu said.
YSU takes on Butler Saturday at 4 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.