Youngstown State put together a fourth quarter rally for all time last night, scoring 20 points to rally and beat Eastern Washington 40-38 to earn a trip to the FCS Championship Game January 7th and a date with James Madison.
When the Penguins came to Fargo on November 5th, it was a team that was being hindered by its offense. The YSU defense had been fantastic for a majority of the season, but its offense couldn’t find any rhythm. Head coach Bo Pelini had shuffled quarterbacks and Hunter Wells was inserted as the starter, Wells was just 13 of 26 for 101 yards and two interceptions against Indiana State. He was a bit better against the Bison going 18 of 27 for 227 yards with an interception, he had a fumble that just killed the Penguins that day, as they were beaten by NDSU 24-3.
After the game, Pelini promised “offensive changes”. He wasn’t specific to the media on what that was going to be, but whatever it’s been, it’s certainly worked. Starting with the season finale against Missouri State, the Penguins have scored 30 or more points in all of their games. YSU has always been able to run the ball, between Martin Ruiz and Jody Webb and they’ve carried the Penguins to this point. With Ruiz unavailable yesterday because of suspension, Tevin McCaster stepped in and ran for 154 yards and 3 touchdowns in the win over Eastern Washington.
Youngstown broke a few memorable streaks yesterday, first one that fans that read this blog know well, as we’ll have a champion that won a road game in the postseason. That had not happened since Richmond won the championship in 2008 as both JMU and YSU won road semifinals. The other streak is more impressive, as Youngstown becomes the first team to reach the championship game since the playoffs were expanded from 16 to 20 in 2010.
Another streak continues as the Missouri Valley will be represented in the FCS title game for the sixth consecutive year. Youngstown has not played for the title since 1999 when Georgia Southern knocked them off in Chattanooga. The Penguins have won four national titles (1991, 1993, 1994 and 1997) , I encourage anyone who hasn’t seen the “30 for 30” on the Youngstown Boys to watch it over the holidays, it shows the rise of Youngstown football with then coach, now president of the school, Jim Tressel.
This promises to be a great matchup, YSU’s defense against JMU’s skill guys really intrigues me. What also is intriguing is the amount of fans in Frisco, these are two schools that have large fan bases, that play in two of the larger stadiums in FCS, will they travel to Texas? We’ll see what happens on January 7th.