VanGorder, Mays still battling for YSU starting QB job
By Brian Dzenis
Youngstown State’s quarterback competition is still holding strong.
After some early misfires, Montgomery VanGorder showed a little bit of everything in YSU’s first fall scrimmage, but junior Nathan Mays also did enough for the incumbent to keep his name in the conversation.
“I thought they both did some good things. They both have plays here and there that they want back, but it’s a start,” Penguins head coach Bo Pelini said. “We’re not really game-planning for anything, but they showed some good qualities.
“The guy who starts is the one who’s most efficient over time over the next couple of weeks. [He] is the guy who takes control and not just win a football game for you, but more importantly, don’t lose a football game for you.”
With the exception of some cameo appearances from redshirt freshman Joe Craycraft, Saturday’s scrimmage at Fitch Falcon Stadium mostly featured Mays and VanGorder going back and forth. VanGorder, a senior transfer from Notre Dame, began with the first-team offense and started out 0 for 5 with an interception that DJ Smalls returned 50 yards for a touchdown. After that, VanGorder was nine for 11 for 127 yards and a 32-yard TD pass to tight end Miles Joiner. He also rushed for 56 yards.
“The biggest thing for me is marrying up my feet with my reads and my throws, making the right decisions, taking my checkdowns when they’re there and really being a leader with this offense,” VanGorder said. “That’s what [offensive coordinator Brian Crist] wants from me and Nate. We need a leader on offense to establish that tone and set the standard for others.”
Mays was 6 for 12 for 129 yards. He hit tight end Charles Reeves for a 73-yard touchdown pass and was sacked once by sophomore defensive tackle Wes Thompson.
“Nate is just working to get better everyday,” Pelini said. “I think he is getting better and I think there’s good competition so far.”
TIGHT END TROUBLES
Within a span of a few days, YSU’s depth at tight end heading into Saturday’s took some hits, the severity of which are still being determined.
On Thursday, Chris Durkin left practice with a shoulder injury and on Friday, Ohio State transfer Kierre Hawkins went down with a leg injury. Neither player dressed for the scrimmage and Hawkins was on crutches.
Durkin’s injury is considered to be the more minor of the two with it not affecting his availability for the regular season. Hawkins, a sophomore, is the unknown.
“When it happened, it looked like it was going to be a season-ending injury, but right now it’s not going to be the case,” Pelini said. “We don’t really know how it’s going to respond. I think it’s better today than it was yesterday. It’s week-to-week and we’ll see how it progresses.”
The pair’s absence opened the door for more reps for Reeves, a Pitt transfer who arrived in late July, and Joiner.
The 6-foot-5, 280-pound Reeves left Pitt this summer after redshirting the previous season and when it came time to find a new home, the Steubenville graduate turned to former teammate Ma’lik Richmond. He credits the junior defensive end and volunteer coach Cole Peterson — who once held a similar role at Pitt — for selling him on Youngstown.
“Me and Ma’lik, we’ve been friends since middle school. I told him I needed somewhere to go,” Reeves said. “I just wanted to play ball somewhere.”
Reeves caught two passes for 85 yards and touchdown. Joiner also caught two passes for 52 yards and a score.
Canfield’s Jake Cummings tied the team lead in receptions with four for 35 yards. Cardinal Mooney’s Ray Anderson tied for second in tackles with five and Austintown Fitch’s Nick DeSalvo got a few punts in with the special teams unit on his home field.