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Penguins using running back-by-committee so far
Without Jamaine Cook, the third-leading rusher in the Missouri Valley Football Conference last year, Youngstown State has rebuilt a ground game by committee this season.
The Penguins (3-1), who re-entered the Football Championship Subdivision coaches poll Monday at No. 25, have started two different tailbacks and distributed carries to five runners.
Senior Adaris Bellamy, who had 203 yards in Youngstown State’s season-opening win over Dayton, missed two games with an ankle injury but returned to the field in Saturday’s win over Duquesne. Senior Torrian Pace started in Bellamy’s place, and enters this weekend’s game against SIU (2-2) with 173 yards and four touchdowns on 42 carries.
True freshman Martin Ruiz was the Missouri Valley Football Conference newcomer of the week after rushing for three touchdowns against the Dukes, an FCS team from the Northeast Conference that offers 35 scholarships instead of 63. Redshirt freshman Jody Webb and sophomore Demond Hymes have also had carries.
“We had some questions at running back,” said Youngstown state coach Eric Wolford. “We lost Jamaine Cook last year. He’s played around here for a long time, and we’ve got a group of guys back there now that are pretty efficient. They do all we ask them to do.”
The Penguins have the top rushing offense in the country at 238.8 yards per game. They have rushed for 16 touchdowns and thrown for six in wins over Dayton, Morehead State and Duquesne and a loss at Michigan State.
Dayton and Morehead State are both non-scholarship programs.
Youngstown State returns one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league in senior Kurt Hess and several players on defense, but SIU coach Dale Lennon admitted Monday there was some mystery to what kind of team the Penguins really are.
Youngstown State has outscored its opponents, 171-95, through four games.
“We’ve played against Youngstown enough to kind of know what they’re going to try to do, so familiarity does help you in preparation,” Lennon said. “We’re kind of curious, too, to see where they’re at as a football team. You never really know about that first conference game until you get there. That’s kind of the anticipation where you just gotta wait and see.”