YSU Scouting Report: Week 2

A season can’t be lost in one game, but it sure felt that way after Youngstown State’s stunning defeat to Butler in Week 1.

The Penguins blew a 21-7 fourth-quarter lead to a non-scholarship Butler team that had never defeated a Missouri Valley Football Conference team.

The only possible way to make up for such a jolting blow would be to pull off a miraculous upset of their own. A win over West Virginia might be more shocking than Butler beating the Penguins.

The Mountaineers possess one of the nation’s elite quarterbacks in Will Grier and are coming off a 40-14 thrashing of Tennessee. They’re one of the favorites in the Big 12 conference and a team some have even suggested could reach the College Football playoff.

The Penguins will have to play near perfect and somehow find a way to rattle Grier. That won’t be easy against a well-balanced team like the Mountaineers. YSU was tied, 14-14, with WVU at halftime two years ago, but the Penguin were overwhelmed in the second half of a 38-21 loss.

QUARTERBACKS

YSU — It took about two quarters, but Montgomery VanGorder found a rhythm in the second half and looked like the quarterback most expected after transferring from Notre Dame. He completed 18-of-27 passes, going 9-for-10 in the second half with two touchdowns. He’ll need to find an early rhythm and put together four complete quarters for the Penguins to have a chance against WVU.

WVU — Grier started off a Heisman campaign in impressive fashion, torching Tennessee for 429 yards and five touchdowns while completing 25-of-34 passes ( 73.5 percent). The 6-foot-3, 223-pound senior is coming off a breakout season in which he completed 250-of-388 passes for 3,390 yards, 34 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Unless he overlooks the Penguins like they did Butler, it’s going to be tough to slow down the multi-faceted star.

EDGE — WVU

RUNNING BACKS

YSU — The numbers looked great for starting running back Tevin McCaster, who ran for 166 yards on 29 carries in the loss to Butler. The problem was the way he and the Penguins finished. They totaled just 14 yards rushing in the fourth quarter. McCaster is big and strong enough to pound teams into submission late in the game, but that didn’t happen, which is just as much the offensive line’s fault as it is his. Scatback Christian Turner was solid (8 carries, 46 yards), but he had his best run of the day — a 56-yard TD — called back for a hold.

WVU — The Mountaineers use a running-back-by-committee approach, led by Martell Pettaway. The 5-9, 212-pound junior led WVU with 58 yards on nine carries. West Virginia didn’t have to do much running with Grier lighting up the Volunteers offense. Expect to see Leddie Brown, Kennedy McKoy and Alec Sinfield in the backfield as well.

EDGE — Even

RECEIVERS

YSU — There weren’t any spectacular plays by the Penguins’ wide receivers against Butler, but there weren’t any drops either. A new group still creating timing with a new QB played fairly well, overall. Kendric Mallory showed off some speed on a 44-yard TD pass down the sideline, and tight end Miles Joiner caught a 3-yard pass in the red zone, two things you’re looking for from both positions.

WVU — The Mountaineers have a pair of stars at wide-out. David Sills V is coming off a huge game and a huge year. In 2017, the 6-4, 200-pound WR caught 60 passes for 980 yards and an incredible 18 TDs — second most in school history. He lit up UT for 140 yards and two TDs on seven receptions in Week 1. Gary Jennings Jr, a senior, was just as good. He caught 97 passes for 1,096 yards in 2017. He matched his season total in TDs (1) last week with six catches for 113 yards.

EDGE — WVU

OFFENSIVE LINE

YSU — The line did a great job improving on a horrendous year protecting the quarterback. They were one of the worst in the nation in allowing 36 sacks in 2017. They didn’t yield any against Butler (granted, it was Butler). The problem was that they weren’t able to finish off the Bulldogs and run the football in the fourth quarter, a staple of most YSU football teams.

WVU — The offensive line is mostly upperclassmen, and while they allowed two sacks last week, it can be hard to protect a quarterback who moves around the pocket as much as Grier. YSU does have a decent front four, so WVU can’t sleepwalk through this one, but their size and strength should wear on the Penguins.

EDGE — WVU

DEFENSIVE LINE

YSU — The line played fairly well. Butler only ran for 86 yards, and the line had two sacks against a quarterback who got rid of the ball very quickly. They’ll have to be at their best to keep Grier in the pocket (he really excels when he extends plays). If they can somehow put a few shots on the standout QB, it would go a long way in sparking a struggling defense.

WVU — The line is deep and talented for West Virginia. Reese Donahue, a 6-4, 280-pound junior, had two tackles for loss and a sack in Week 1. Darius Stills (6-1, 293) had another 2.5 TFLs. Senior Ezekiel Rose (6-2, 278) added another TFL. Rose is the team’s leading returner up front, with 4.5 sacks in 2017.

EDGE — WVU

LINEBACKERS

YSU — It seemed like a rather quiet night for senior all-conference linebacker Armand Dellovade. Yes, he had seven tackles (second most) and a TFL, but there weren’t any big plays or hard hits. The backers never seemed to show an enforcer-type style to intimidate Butler. They, too, will need to be better and strike a little fear into any receivers coming over the middle. This is a senior-laden group that must be the strength of the Penguins defense.

WVU — David Long Jr. leads a solid crew at the linebacker spot. He had 56 tackles, 16.5 TFLs and four sacks as a sophomore last year. He had 13 tackles in the opener. He’s joined by Dylan Tonkery, a sophomore who made a nice first impression. He had eight tackles and 1.5 TFLs in the win over the Volunteers.

EDGE — WVU

SECONDARY

YSU — The play of the defensive backs — specifically the corners — was one of the biggest disappointments against Butler. Corners Bryce Gibson and DJ Smalls both started last year and looked to be two of the best players on the defense. They made numerous mistakes, and it was a huge reason Butler pulled off the upset. The safeties were OK, but there’s going to need to be major improvement across the board against a WVU team that is significantly more talented.

WVU — The Mountaineers are a bit young in the secondary, but sophomore Kenny Robinson is one of the better safeties in the Big 12. The 6-2 200-pound Robinson was a third-team all-conference pick who had three interceptions last year. He set a career high with nine tackles in the Week 1 win over UT. Fellow safety JoVann Stewart, a junior, played sparingly last year. Corners Keith Washington Jr., a junior, and Derek Pitts, a sophomore, are first-year starters.

EDGE — WVU

SPECIALISTS

YSU — This may be place-kicker Zak Kennedy’s final chance to prove he’s worthy of keeping the job. The senior appears to be dealing with confidence issues as he’s made just 8-of-15 kicks going back to last season. He missed a 33-yarder last week, and coach Bo Pelini said they’re looking at different options. Punter Mark Schuler was one of the conference’s best punters in 2017. He was mostly solid last week, but he picked an awful time for a bad punt as his last boot went just 28 yards and set Butler up for a late touchdown. The Penguins’ coverage units must be on their game. Big plays in special teams will squash any type of an upset.

WVU — Kick returner Marcus Simms is a big threat. A first-team preseason all-Big 12 pick, he averaged 26.3 yards per kickoff return, with a long of 80. Place kicker Evan Staley was a walk-on who earned a scholarship. He’s been steady, making 8-of-9 field goals but none longer than 36 yards. Punter Billy Kinney averaged 41 yards per boot last year.

EDGE — WVU

PREDICTION

YSU picked a bad time to endure one of the biggest upsets in school history. It has to follow it up with a showdown with a WVU team that is loaded offensively. How they respond to last week’s embarrassing loss is going to show a lot about this team’s character.

Their first order of business is fixing a leaky defense. Will Grier will throw for 600 yards if the secondary performs like it did last week. Pelini has been great at formulating schemes to slow great pass attacks, but the players must step up and make plays.

The offense has to be more consistent. They essentially played one good quarter against what was one of their weaker opponents on the schedule. They’ll need to be good from start to finish against WVU.

In the end, the Mountaineers are just too good and too talented.

WVU, 49-10.

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