YSU’s role reversal

YOUNGSTOWN – The first-team offense heard about the butt kicking all spring long.

With an ongoing quarterback battle and a retooled offensive line, Youngstown State’s first-team defense was fairly dominant throughout spring practices, and they let the offensive players know about it.

“They were getting cocky, saying ‘We’ve been putting it on you the whole spring,’ ” junior wide receiver Andrew Williams said. “And then they were talking trash going into this game, so it feels good to come out on top.”

Talk really is cheap, apparently.

The White Team (the first-team offense) embarrassed the Red Team (first-team defense) in the annual Red-White Spring Game, 48-13, on Friday at Stambaugh Stadium.

Running back Jody Webb did most of the damage, rushing for 172 yards and four touchdowns on just 12 carries (a 14.3 yards-per-carry average). The quick and shifty sophomore showed off all his skills – outrunning players, breaking tackles, making people miss and powering his way into the end zone on a short-yardage situation.

“Most people know that if I get a little room, I can make some things happen,” said the 5-foot-9, 175-pound Webb, who added that it was about time the offense made its presence felt. “When you have a good defense like ours, and they’re beating you up every day, at some point you’ve got to hit back. I feel like today was that day for the offense.”

The biggest question for that offense is who will be the starting quarterback, and it remained unanswered.

Both QBs in the mix to start, junior Dante Nania and redshirt freshman Ricky Davis, were given equal opportunities, and their numbers were similar. Davis completed 5 of 6 passes for 66 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown or an interception, but he did score on a 12-yard run in which most of the defense was faked out by a would-be handoff to Webb.

Nania started the game at quarterback and finished 4 of 6 for 79 yards. He threw a pick on the third play of the game when corner Eric Thompson jumped an out route and nearly scored on the return. Nania made up for the turnover later in the half when he threw a near-perfect 54-yard bomb to Williams to put the White Team up, 27-3.

Coach Eric Wolford didn’t give any indication as to which QB has the upperhand, and he said a two-quarterback system isn’t out of the question if a favorite doesn’t surface.

“That’s something (offensive coordinator) Shane (Montgomery) and I have talked about,” Wolford said. “They can both throw, and obviously they can both run. We have two guys coming out of spring that we feel good about. That’s a good problem to have. We’re not in a big hurry to make this decision. Both of those guys are starting to realize you have a lot of weapons around you. You just need to do what you’re coached to do.”

The downside of the game was the sad showing by the defense, which, despite a strong spring, demonstrated a lot of the same problems as last year’s team, which finished dead last in the Missouri Valley Football Conference in total defense. Missed tackles and players out of position was a reoccurring problem in the frigid conditions Friday.

“That’s one thing that glaringly showed up,” Wolford said of the bad tackling. “That’s probably as poor as we’ve tackled all spring. That was surprising.”

True freshman Ryan Moore, who started school early so he could play at YSU in the spring, showed he’s ready for FCS football. The powerful 5-11, 200-pound running back out of York, S.C., ran for 91 yards and a touchdown, displaying a good combination of speed, power and sharp cuts. Overall, the White Team ran for 342 yards and six touchdowns and compiled 468 total yards.

Thompson, who said he had an idea the out route was coming because it’s one of the offense’s favorite plays, said the defense isn’t as bad as it looked on Friday.

“We can bounce back,” he said. “The offense had a good day. We’ll learn from this, look at the film and come back ready in the fall.”