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Lack of enthusiasm

Penguins thumped, 43-17, by Sycamores

YSU's #52 Savon Smith sacks ISU's QB #10 Ryan Boyle during 1st Qt. action...by R. Michael Semple

YOUNGSTOWN — Considering the intensity Youngstown State coach Bo Pelini brings to a football game, it is hard to imagine his team lacking energy.

They lacked that and a lot more Saturday as they were bludgeoned, 43-17, by Indiana State at Stambaugh Stadium.

“We’re a bad football team,” said Pelini as he opened up a press conference in which he ripped every area of the football team, including himself. “Anybody is a bad football team when you take the field like we did today. I’m trying to get our guys enthused and juiced up. We’re coming out, and there wasn’t an ounce of enthusiasm. I wish I had answers for you. Never in my life have I been this disgusted.

“I don’t know how guys can take the field with no enthusiasm,” he added. “And it’s way too many guys. It’s like they don’t even like to play the sport.”

The ugly performance erased any chance of a playoff berth for the Penguins, who fell to 3-5 and 2-3 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. This was a must-win scenario for YSU, which made the showing even more disappointing.

YSU's #37 Tevin McCaster follows the blocking of teammate #68 Connor Sharp during 1st half action against ISU...by R. Michael Semple

Somewhat surprisingly, considering the lack of excitement, YSU came out strong, going 97 yards on its first drive and scoring on a 25-yard pass from Montgomery VanGorder to Jeremiah Braswell. The teams traded field goals on the next two drives, giving the Penguins a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter. Everything fell apart from there.

The Sycamores (4-4, 2-3) outscored YSU, 40-7, the rest of the way, with a litany of mistakes occurring on both sides of the ball for the Penguins. VanGorder was eventually replaced by Nathan Mays with the offense sputtering and YSU trailing, 23-10, late in the third quarter.

“We weren’t getting it done,” said Pelini of replacing the senior Notre Dame transfer. “Let me tell you, that collection of garbage on offense, it was one guy after another. The offensive line was awful in the first half. Then we come out in second half and we’re dropping balls, and the quarterback made some bad reads. We weren’t ready to play.”

The defense wasn’t much better.

A week after holding the conference’s top passing attack to 158 yards, they were gouged for 351 passing yards against the MVFC’s worst passing team. ISU’s Ryan Boyle completed 17-of-28 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 68 more yards, a team high, compiling 393 total yards. Wide receiver Dante Hendrix, a freshman, caught seven passes for 186 yards and two TDs.

YSU's 10 Jake Coates gets tackled by ISU's #24 Hehemiah Montague during 2nd half action...by R. Michael Semple

The Penguins missed numerous tackles, were flagged for seven penalties, lost two fumbles (one that was returned 80 yards for a touchdown) and fell flat in a critical game. Considering YSU was coming off a mostly dominant performance last week against South Dakota, the lopsided defeat was puzzling — and frustrating — to the players as well.

“It’s want-to,” senior defensive tackle Savon Smith said of what’s missing. “If you don’t want to win the game, you’re not going to do it. If you don’t want to beat the guy that’s lined up over you, you’re not going to do it. It’s want-to at this point. It’s Week 8. We’re tired. We had a long camp. We’re practicing all week, for weeks on end, and guys don’t want to do it. So, that’s the result.”

The ones who did want to kept things close for three quarters.

When Mays entered the game for VanGorder, who finished 9-of-19 for 125 yards, he engineered a touchdown drive to make the score, 23-17, with 44 seconds left in the third quarter. But Boyle continued to carve up the YSU defense as the Sycamores quickly responded with a score and then tacked on two more to make for another embarrassing home loss for the Penguins.

YSU opened the season with one of the most shocking upsets in school history, losing to lowly Butler, a non-scholarship program, and now head to top-ranked and defending national champion North Dakota State next Saturday.

YSU's #7 Bryce Gibson tackles ISU's #87 Joe Wildt after making a 1st half reception...by R. Michael Semple

Pelini said changes will be coming, and he also placed blame on himself

“I’m going to find some people that want to compete, that want to play hard and have some pride,” he said. “Because that was a disgusting performance, and obviously I’m at the head of it. I wish I had an answer for you as far as how a group of men can come out on the field like that. It’s so far outside of my (understanding), I can’t fathom that, but it happened.”

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