By Jordan Boitnott
Youngstown State University football opened their season on the road against the No. 1 ranked defending champions North Dakota State University Sunday. The game didn’t go in their favor, with YSU losing 25-7.
The Penguins dug an 11-0 hole early in the game by halftime. They were able to hold the Bison to 11 points until the second half, where they scored an additional 14 points. YSU responded with a 15-play touchdown drive making it 18-7 before NDSU closed the game with a final touchdown.
Doug Phillips, YSU’s head football coach, said in a post-game press conference the opener and his first game with YSU showed what kind of character his team has. He added that they evaluated the team based on their attitude, effort and competitiveness.
“I wanted to see how our young men would react in adverse conditions. The one thing we said before the game, ‘Don’t look at the scoreboard…’ We walked away and believed our kids competed and stuck together when things got tough,” Phillips said.
One of the big problems YSU faced last weekend was their rush defense. They gave up 248 yards on the ground to the Bison. Phillips said the offense needs to help the defense so they can stay rested in the coming games.
“I thought we kept our defense on the field way too long. In the first half, we took care of that a little bit. In the second half, I think our time of possession was 31 minutes, which you wouldn’t realize you had the ball that much without getting those first downs in the first half,” he said. “So, we got to take care of our defense. We got to create some explosives [plays]. If you look at the touchdown drives North Dakota State had, it was probably off of explosive plays, whether it was a big run. So, we [have to] eliminate that.”
James Jackson, junior defensive end, said he liked the team’s mentality throughout the game.
“I think the biggest thing is everybody just stayed together. There was no arguing on the sideline — everyone was just trying to figure out what we needed to do to get a win. So, I love that about us and I love how hard we fought through adversity. It’s a great sign,” he said.
The Penguins will open the Ice Castle this weekend against No. 5, the Northern Iowa Panthers. Both teams will come in with an 0-1 record. It will be Phillips’ first game at Stambaugh Stadium.
Josh Burgett, junior tight end, said he thinks playing at home will give the team a much-needed boost.
“I think it’ll add that little more spark underneath us, not that North Dakota State didn’t, but playing in front of your own people, you know a lot of family is going to be there,” he said. “It’s going to bring us together a lot more. Everybody’s going to be coming out giving that little bit more that we need to get this win this weekend.”