WAID RISES TO THE OCCASION: YOUNGSTOWN — With two quarterbacks beaten up as North Dakota State University battered Youngstown State into submission on Saturday, Penguins coach Bo Pelini had no choice but to turn to true freshman Mark Waid.
The hometown boy was ready.
While this wasn’t the way the Girard High School product envisioned receiving extensive playing time as starting QB, Waid stepped in and stepped up during an otherwise awful 56-17 loss to the Bison.
Waid was a bright spot, finishing 5-of-10 passing for 51 yards and zero interceptions. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Waid also led YSU in rushing with 79 yards and a 27-yard TD on eight attempts (nearly 10 yards per carry).
Waid didn’t blink when his name was called against No. 1 NDSU.
“Like you saw tonight, anything can happen,” Waid said, “so like coach Bo tells us, you never know, so prepare like you’re the guy every single week. Compete on the field, compete in the classroom and just be the best person and player you can be every single day.”
Waid was forced into action after starter Nathan Mays suffered a gruesome injury in which Pelini said his leg was broken and his ankle dislocated. That occurred in the first quarter, and his back-up, Joe Craycraft, endured a rib injury on the first play of the second half, leading to Waid’s first lengthy time under center.
He played in two other games earlier this season but only for a handful of downs. With this being his third game, Waid can only play in one more before his redshirt is removed. Pelini was hoping to allow Waid to learn under the two veterans in a redshirt season, but he may be forced to change his plan.
“We’ll have a decision to make on what to do with Mark if (Craycraft is seriously injured),” Pelini said. “Hopefully Joe’s OK.
“Mark did a nice job,” Pelini later added. “He’s one of the few guys that played well.”
In his five-year tenure at YSU, Pelini has yet to have the same QB start every game in a season. It won’t happen this year as he said Mays is done for the season.
Pelini could pick Waid to start over a healthy Craycraft, but that would be a surprise as Craycraft was in a preseason battle with Mays for the starting spot. Waid isn’t worried either way.
“I’m just going to practice, and coaches will make that decision,” he said. “I’ll just control what I can control and work as hard as I can.”
≤ MORE BAD THAN GOOD: The game seemed to start off quite well for the Penguins, who forced a three-and-out on NDSU’s initial possession.
But punt returner Jake Coates, who has been one of the league’s best returners this season, was hit hard after catching the ensuing punt and fumbled. NDSU recovered in YSU territory and scored a few plays later for a 7-0 lead.
YSU was then forced to punt on the following drive and failed to corral a fumbled punt by the Bison, which would have given the Penguins the ball inside the Bison 15-yard line. NDSU scored on a 69-yard pass three plays later, and what looked like a strong start was suddenly a disastrous one.
“That (fumbled punt) was just one play, but obviously you don’t want to start like that,” Pelini said. “But we just got our (butts) kicked in all three phases of the game.”
≤ INJURIES PILING UP: Aside from the quarterbacks, leading rusher Joe Alessi limped off the field late in the first half and did not return.
Pelini didn’t know the extent of Alessi’s injury. The senior has a team-high 691 rushing yards.
≤ PLAYOFF PICTURE: The loss is another damaging blow to the Penguins’ playoff hopes.
Their 4-0 start is a distant memory after blowing a 12-point, third-quarter lead against third-ranked South Dakota State and losing badly to unranked Southern Illinois and now NDSU. There’s a chance that if YSU wins out, which would include victories over South Dakota (3-6, 2-3), Indiana State (3-6, 1-4) and No. 7 Illinois State (6-3, 3-2), they could sneak into the 24-team playoff.
Waid said YSU still has faith.
“Yeah, it doesn’t feel good,” he said. “This (loss) is terrible. This is a testament for everyone in the locker room. It doesn’t feel good. It’s a terrible feeling, but like I said this is a hard-working group of guys. We’re going to come back. We’re going to work as hard as we can starting (today), Monday, Tuesday, and we’re going to get this thing going.”