YSU’s Last Chance

By Jeff Brown

Wide receiver Christian Bryan (2) fights for extra yards after the catch during YSU’s 44-13 win against Butler University at Stambaugh Stadium on Sept. 13. Photo courtesy of Sports Information.

November has not been kind to the Youngstown State University football team over the past two seasons.  YSU has come into November with a 8-1 record in 2013 and 7-2 this year and appeared to have excellent chances of making the playoffs. Once November arrives, YSU is a combined 2-5 over the past two years, and the late season losses cost the Penguins the playoffs a season ago.

“Its extremely frustrating because we’ve been right there,” senior Christian Bryan said. “I can’t even put into words, honestly, what to even say. Its just unbelievably frustrating because we have so much talent and ability, and we’re right there and then all of a sudden something happens in November and we just collapse.”

If YSU is to make the playoffs, they will need a win this Saturday in their final game of the season against three time defending National Champion North Dakota State University. The Bison are 10-1 on the year, have won 19 straight at home in the Fargodome and have not lost at home since 2012.

“They’re a great team. I have a lot of respect for them, but there would be nothing sweeter than to go up there and knock them off,” Bryan said.

Head coach Eric Wolford has led the Penguins to success in Fargo. YSU is one of only three teams to defeat the Bison in the Fargodome since 2011.

“It’s loud, it’s crazy, it’s awesome to play at. I love playing there. I mean, it’s tough to play there, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s exactly what college football should be,” senior safety Donald D’Alesio said.

Wolford said that the team would be practicing with the volume cranked up this week to help prepare for how loud the Fargodome will be.

“The fans are on you. They’re into the game. They’re making noise,” Wolford said. “When you practice all week with the crowd noise like we have been, it forces you to communicate non-verbally and that’s something that’s a big part of the game.”

If YSU loses this weekend, it will be viewed as the second straight season where the Penguins blew their chances of the playoffs by losing the final three games of the season.

“You got to lay it all on the line. You might get hurt, but I’m going to give it everything I got for my teammates, for my coaches, for the fans, my family. I’m going to play with my heart and my mind,” Bryan said. “This is what football’s all about.”

North Dakota State enters Saturday’s contest fresh off a 45-10 win over Missouri State University last weekend. NDSU quarterback Carson Wentz threw for a school record five touchdowns and a career high 247 passing yards in the win.

“They play hard. They’ll run the ball until they can’t run anymore, then they’ll take their shot deep,” D’Alesio said.

Defensive end Kyle Emanuel leads the Bison defense with15.5 sacks and 23 tackles for a loss on the year, including two sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss in last weeks win. Emanuel is currently third all-time at NDSU with 36 career sacks

“I really like Kyle Emanuel. One of my favorite guys in the league,” Wolford said. “Just a go-hard guy. Plays hard all the time.”

Kickoff against North Dakota State is set for 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.