In many ways, the Youngstown State Penguins have mirrored the Nittany Lions the past few years. The two teams once dominated their respective divisions contending for and winning championships often. Both teams fell on hard times in the early 00's, but they both rebounded to win their respective conferences last season. The Penguins went 8-3 winning their first Gateway Conference championships since joining the league a few years ago. This year YSU is off to another good start winning both their games in blowout fashion. The Penguins are the favorites to win their division again in 2006.
Our guest blogger, Anthony, says the Penguins run a balanced attack on offense. But the numbers tell a different story. Through two games this year, the Penguins prefer the run to the pass by a 2:1 ratio. I thought maybe this was a misleading statistic since they have blown out both opponents and may have been avoiding running up the score. So I looked back at the cumulative stats from last year. 474 rushes, 288 passes. Survey says, the Penguins are a team that looks to the rush first. If that doesn't work they try the rush again. If that doesn't work, they will pass it if they have to, but they don't like it.
The Penguins are led by three year starting quarterback Tom Zetts. In two games this year Zetts is 22-34 for 296 yards, 5 TD and 2 INT. Last season Zetts passed for 1949 yards and 14 TD. Here again, a second year starter couldn't get 2000 yards through the air last year. This is a smash mouth rushing team.
YSU's leading rusher is Marcus Mason who has 208 yards and 4 TD on 48 carries through two games. Last season Mason ran for 892 yards and 8 touchdowns as a junior. Monquantae Gibson also gets a good amount of carries. Thus far he has 108 yards and 2 TD on 16 carries. Mason is the smaller of the two runningbacks, but he probably has a little bit more speed than Gibson.
The wide receiver corp for Youngstown was depleted due to graduation. Kyle Smith, Damian Wright, and Jameson Evans all combined for 82 catches and 10 TD last year. Senior T.J. Peterson has proven to be Zetts' favorite target thus far with 8 catches for 157 yards and 2 TD. Rory Berry and Da'Michael Horne are also weapons utilized by Zetts.
Tight End may be their biggest weapon on offense. Max Kling, Louis Irazarry, and Derrick Bush are all big targets with Irazarry leading the group. Given the problems Posluszny had covering Carlson against Notre Dame, I expect YSU will make a point of trying to see if they can get these guys involved in the game.
The offensive line features some good talent and excellent experience. The group features C Ryan Jewell, a preseason All-Gateway selection. While they are experienced, they are not a very big line. The biggest kid of the regular players is only 305 lbs. Penn State should be able to physically dominate this line.
Like the offense, the defense returns a lot of experience and talent from last year. Looking at the roster they are loaded with kids that one either first or second team all conference honors last year. The 2005 Penguins excelled at forcing turnovers, led by All Gateway corner Codero Jackson who had 6 INT last year. The other corner, Jason Perry, was a second team All Conference selection a year ago with his 2 picks. Both safeties have starting experience, but SS Bob Perez is coming off a knee injury that cut his season short last year.
All three linebackers are either returning starters or saw major playing time last year. They are led by returning leading tackler James Terry, who had 71 tackles last year. Jeremiah Wright leads the team with 26 tackles this year. But after their top four linebackers, the depth of experience severely drops off. This group is good, but they are not very deep.
On the defensive line the Penguins have to replace Justin Scholes and Brandon Brown, two all conference players that anchored the defensive line last season. The defensive tackles are pretty deep, but only one defensive end has any experience from last year. Penn State should dominate this front seven.
What's Going to Happen?
On offense I expect to see the Lions try to pound the ball all day. They are not going to want to show too much on film for Ohio State, and this should be a team they can dominate and build some confidence for the offensive line and running backs.
On defense, the Lions are just too big, too fast, and too deep for Youngstown State. Their conservative style of offense will be stuffed by the Nittany Lion defensive line and linebackers. There isn't enough talent at wide receiver to post a serious passing threat and prevent the Lions from blitzing at will.