YSU offense & defense struggle against Butler

YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown State Penguins struggled on both sides of the ball to start the game in their 23-21 upset loss to Butler on Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium.

The offense went three-and-out on the first drive, and Butler went 74 yards on four plays to take a 7-0 lead. BU quarterback Will Marty connected on two long pass plays, and a first-down run was sandwiched in between them. Marty finished the drive off with a 1-yard sneak.

YSU also committed five penalties for 45 yards in the first half. They finished with nine for 97 yards. Several were costly, including two that negated touchdowns.

“Penalties killed us the whole game,” Penguin coach Bo Pelini said. “… I don’t even know how many penalties we had, but there were a lot of them, and they were big penalties. They weren’t 5-yarders, we had 10-, 15-yard penalties, and a lot of them were unnecessary.”

KENNEDY’S STRUGGLES CONTINUE: Cardinal Mooney graduate Zak Kennedy is hoping for a bounce-back year after a rough junior campaign. It didn’t start off the way he wanted.

Kennedy’s 33-yard field goal attempt went off the top of the right goal post and deflected in the opposite direction for a miss. He then missed a 48-yard field goal to end the first half.

He’s coming off a season in which he made 8-of-13 field goals, with a long of 36 yards. His career started with plenty of promise as he made 19-of-23 FGs as a freshman. His sophomore year was a slight step back as he went 19-of-29. That set up last year’s disappointing mark. He still has some time to get himself right — if he keeps the job.

“I don’t know,” said Pelini when asked if Kennedy can regroup. “I’m going to be looking at every option there because we can’t continue down this road. But believe me, everybody on that football team took their turn, offensively, defensively, special teams wise, coaching — it was a perfect storm.”

ALL SHAKE, NO BAKE: The stats certainly looked impressive, with senior running back Tevin McCaster rushing for 132 yards in the first half. The Penguins had 194 total rushing yards — in the half — but still had just seven points.

Kennedy’s misses didn’t help, but the Penguins converted on just one of three red-zone opportunities (Butler converted three of four). The Penguins struggled to finish drives, and an inconsistent run game was part of the problem.

McCaster’s biggest run, a 68-yard jaunt, led to the missed 33-yard field goal. A holding call brought that run back 10 yards, but it was a spot foul in which YSU still had the ball at the Butler 17 (instead of the 4). Fellow running back Christian Turner had a TD run of 50-plus yards that was called back because of a hold. That drive also didn’t result in any points.