By Chris McBride
With the homecoming game approaching, the Youngstown State football team (3-4, 1-3 Missouri Valley Football Conference) will look to regroup in the Ice Castle against Illinois State University (5-2, 3-1 in MVFC) this Saturday. The Penguins lost their third straight game in a close contest falling to the University of Northern Iowa (4-3, 3-1 in MVFC) 19-14.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been as disappointed as I was after Saturday’s game and I take that personally,” YSU Head Coach Bo Pelini said. “I point the thumb, I don’t point the finger, and I point it at me.”
Some of those factors can be attributed to the run game which couldn’t quite get it together in the last outing. UNI managed to hold the Penguins to just 47 yards on the ground with UNI notching 181 yards.
Speaking about the struggles of the run game, tailback Tevin McCaster takes their setbacks personally.
“I put that on me to be effective in the running game,” McCaster said. “The RB’s do that as a group and coach Nic [McKissic-Luke] but we’re going to get it going.”
Though it’s not all on the backs, the offensive line was also a question mark in the game having allowed 10 sacks.
While critical, Pelini didn’t place all of the blame on the offensive line, stating that a “combination of factors” can lead to a sack. He also said they need to work on “executing together” in order to get the football down the field.
“Those guys definitely are taking it personal, I can promise you that,” quarterback Ricky Davis said. “It’s something we need to fix if we’re gonna make this stretch and prove we’re worthy of the playoffs. We’re going to need time to throw the ball.”
Despite the losing skid, wide receiver Damoun Patterson, who had a career-high five receptions for 100 yards. He assured that the team’s spirits are still high.
Facing a similar challenge as last season’s, the Penguins will again be challenged with the task of winning its remaining games of the season.
“Our goals are still ahead of us, obviously the conference championship is out of the picture now but we’re still shooting for the playoffs and we realize we have to win out,” Davis said.
Pelini said that their number one priority is winning against Illinois State.
“My mind is on getting this team to do today what we need to do,” Pelini said. “Our focus is on Illinois State, if we take care of our business let the chips fall where they may.”
ISU managed a monumental win against the University of South Dakota in a 37-21, handing the previously unbeaten Coyotes its first loss on the year.
In their last meeting, YSU spoiled the homecoming game for the Redbirds in Hancock Stadium off the strength of a powerful defensive effort, taking a 20-6 win.
“They have some similarities to what Northern Iowa does,” Pelini said. “They’re big and physical up front. They’re a well-coached football team. They do some good things so we have to be ready to go.”
The Penguins will look to thwart any revenge seeking attempts from ISU as it looks to defend the Ice Castle this Saturday with kickoff at 2 p.m.