|« Boise State’s Peterson Ready to Suit Up for Yale||NDSU football: Bison find their back »|
YSU looks to spring into summer routine
YOUNGSTOWN - The first phase in the coaching career of Youngstown State’s Eric Wolford came to a close on Saturday afternoon, but the real quest was just beginning.
The Penguins closed out spring practices with the annual Red-White Spring Game, but the journey to return YSU to a national contender begins in the coming weeks.
‘’I'll know more about what our football team is about, whether they’re giving me lip service or it’s real, this summer,'’ Wolford said after the game.
‘’If these guys show up, work out, go to 7-on-7s and do the things they need to do and bond as a team, I’ll feel pretty good about it. That commitment that we need from every player is going to be the difference in this program.'’
The initial chapter of the Wolford era appeared to be a success. The Red team, which consisted mainly of starters, beat the White team, mostly backups, 48-20.
The Penguins treated the scrimmage a lot like a regular-season game.
There were 15-minute quarters, regular clock stoppages and penalties. The fans handled it the same way, as a large crowd of more than 2,000 people showed up - several who tailgated hours before the game - to watch the matchup.
Most onlookers came to see if anyone took an edge in the quarterback competition between Marc Kanetsky and Kurt Hess. Once again, both performed well, and it appears the quarterback controversy could continue into the fall.
‘’If we had a game today, they’d both play,'’ he said. ‘’We came after them (on defense), and really, offensively, we did a pretty good job handling some of those things and getting rid of the ball.'’
The deciding factor as to who will be the starter could come over the summer. Several players said that dedication during the offseason last year was an issue that severely hampered the team. Some would come, some wouldn’t, and even those who did show up weren’t there all the time.
‘’Last year it was kind of rough because we didn’t have a lot of guys here - we were trying to get stuff together and you’ve got a couple guys coming out and some other guys not coming, so it was tough,'’ said Kanetsky, a junior who started with the White team. ‘’This summer is setting up better. You’ve got to be here, and if you’re not, you’re falling behind and out of favor.'’
Hess, a redshirt freshman, began the game with the Red team, but Wolford said that was simply how things worked out and didn’t mean he had an advantage. Hess finished an efficient 19-of-23 for 256 yards and two touchdowns while quarterbacking the Red quad. Kanetsky received fewer chances but also played well, completing 9-of-13 passes for 131 yards and a TD when with the starters. Neither threw an interception, though Kanetsky had one dropped by a defender, and both made good decisions with the football and appeared comfortable in the pocket.
Hess said he wasn’t sure how things will play out, and he wasn’t worried about another quarterback being brought in during the fall to join the competition. He’s focused on improving.
‘’Competition makes people better,'’ he said. ‘’If they bring somebody in, they bring somebody in. We’re still going to work hard because we want to win games.'’
The running game had some high points as well, mainly through Torrian Pace and Dan Banna. Pace led the Red team with 103 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. The strong and powerful 230-pound Pace continued to display a bulldozing style, while Banna, who possesses a similar brand of running, also ran well. The redshirt freshman out of Canfield ran for 93 yards on 10 carries, including a game-high 42-yard run. Jamaine Cook started the game with the Red team, but the elusive and agile sophomore fumbled on the third play from scrimmage. He played fairly well other than the turnover, finishing with 48 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.
‘’I like to see not bounce the ball so much, but he’ll get better at that,'’ Wolford said. ‘’He’s got to just develop confidence in that. It was good to see Torrian Pace … he’ll lay it on you. You get tired of tackling him, and then guys start cutting him, and he’ll jump you and hopefully put it in the end zone.'’
Receiver Dominique Barnes continued to star during the spring. Coaches lashed out at him at the outset of spring practices, and apparently it lit a fire. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior led the Missouri Valley Conference in touchdowns last year (eight), and he was easily the best receiver on Saturday, catching 10 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns.
All in all, it was a very positive conclusion of spring for the Penguins, but they understand that if they expect the end of the regular season to be better than in recent years, it’s going to take commitment in the offseason.
‘’We want to be winners,'’ said Cook of why he expects a better turnout this offseason. ‘’We had all the championships in the ’90s, and we want to get back to that level. (Coach Wolford) is really instilling that winning attitude.'’
By JOE SIMON
Warren Tribune Chronicle