Something to Prove

YSU Prepares for West Virginia

By Dan Hiner

The Youngstown State University football team started its season with a 45-10 win over Duquesne University. After a 10-day break, the Penguins are viewing their game against West Virginia University as a chance to prove they can play against a bigger program.

West Virginia (1-0) beat the University of Missouri 26-11 in Morgantown, West Virginia, on Saturday. Running backs Rushel Shell and Justin Crawford combined for 201 rushing yards on 37 carries and two touchdowns.

Defensive back Eric Thompson breaks up a pass by hitting Duquesne University receiver Nehari Crawford during the catch.

The biggest challenge for the Penguins will be quarterback Skyler Howard, a dual-threat quarterback. Howard threw for 253 yards against the Tigers. Howard threw for 3,145 yards and ran for 502 yards last season.

YSU (1-0) had trouble stopping dual-threat quarterbacks last season. YSU was 0-5 when opposing quarterbacks registered 180 or more yards of total offense. YSU also allowed 11 touchdowns to those five quarterbacks.

“They’re big, they have two good running backs, their wide receivers are pretty good, they’re quarterback likes to run the ball — he’s a pretty good passer too. We’ll see how it goes,” linebacker Armand Dellovade said.

YSU quarterback Ricky Davis said the West Virginia defense is aggressive and will blitz frequently, and the offensive line will need to be ready.

“We just have to be ready to pick up protections. Their defense seems to be the strong point from what I hear, and I’m hoping we got what it takes to match up with those guys,” Davis said.

Dellovade said the Penguins are ready for a team as talented as West Virginia after playing in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

“Our conference is just as tough as any of these nonconference games we play, maybe even tougher,” Dellovade said. “North Dakota State [University], South Dakota State [University] or Illinois State [University] — I think they’re just as tough as a West Virginia or a Pitt.”

YSU will need to find an alternate way to communicate while the offense is on the field. West Virginia’s football stadium can hold over 60,000 fans. This week, YSU has worked on a silent count between the offensive line and the quarterbacks.

Head coach Bo Pelini said Davis played well against Duquesne University but needs to improve the finer points of his game.

“I think he played well. There were a couple little things game management wise that I think he’ll learn from, grow from,” Pelini said. “But overall, I think he played pretty well, played pretty efficiently. [He] made some good decisions in the passing game, in the run game. I thought he executed our plan pretty well. There were some little things he’s got to get better at, just like everybody else.”

For Davis, this is the game of the year. He has played in three FBS stadiums in the past, but this will be the first time he’s played against a Big 12 team.

“It’s exciting. I think they hold 70,000 fans,” Davis said. “This is my fourth year here, and I had an opportunity to play in front of Michigan State [University], Illinois and Pitt — playing at West Virginia is an exciting one. It’s the one I’ve been looking forward to all year.”

The Mountaineers are considered the favorites in Saturday’s game. Dellovade said the Penguins are excited to see how they matchup with West Virginia, but the players need to view it as the next game on the schedule.

“When you go in as the underdog, I think you go in with a lot more motivation, but I’m just looking at it as the next team in line,” Dellovade said.