Brian Dzenis: Life goes on for YSU football

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Years ago, I remember watching an episode of “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” with Neil DeGrasse Tyson. The show devoted an entire episode to lead. Yeah, I was surprised the show lasted just one season.

Apparently with lead, you can tell how old the Earth is — it’s about 4.5 billion years old.

To conceive how much time that is, Tyson had a graphic of a calender and basically, if you mapped out all of recorded human history, it wouldn’t fill a day.

I thought about that sometimes at Stambaugh Stadium watching Youngstown State’s football team prepare for today’s season opener against Samford — the last YSU football game to be documented in The Vindicator.

What I take away from the Earth being so old is that there was a lot life before me and there will be after me and that thinking applies to this newspaper when it publishes its last issue on Aug. 31.

In between thoughts about my future, I’ve also thought about what’s in store for the Penguins.

It’s good that there’s some renewed stability with the coaching staff in head coach Bo Pelini committing to another three seasons and Carl Pelini returning to the fold.

I never really bought into the idea that Nathan Mays and Joe Craycraft were fighting for the starting quarterback job through fall camp — it’s going to be Mays as he’s the only guy on the roster who’s thrown a pass in a college football game. Eventually, the Penguins need to learn about what they have in Craycraft, but there’s no need to rush an answer to that question. If I’m wrong, I’ll quit the beat at the end of the month.

In the grand scheme of things, what happens today won’t matter much win or lose — and not in a the-Earth-is-really-old way. It’s an extra game on top of the usual 11-game schedule. Nobody on the playoff committee is looking very hard at what happened on Aug. 24 to see if YSU is fit for the postseason.

But on an intangible level, it would be a huge lift for the team to have a strong showing, especially after last year’s 23-21 loss to Butler to kick off a 4-7 campaign. After a season in which the team couldn’t get out of its own way, the Penguins need to prove that they’re focused on the task at hand. If any lessons can be taken away from last year, it’s that these non-conference games can’t be penciled in as wins.

The Missouri Valley Conference’s preseason poll has the Penguins picked to finish seventh in a 10-team league. That’s a fair assessment after last season and some of the questions facing this team.

A lot of key players are coming out of bubble wrap and off an injury-filled seasons in Mays, defensive end Justus Reed, safety Kyle Hegedus and tight end Kierre Hawkins. What will they look like in 2019? Mays’ health and Craycraft’s inexperience make the QB position a source of trepidation. Who will be the best option? Can an offensive line that was bolstered by transfers click right away? The defense looks to be in better shape with depth at every spot and the older Pelini brother back in the fold. Special teams could be an adventure with new players at kicker, punter and long snapper.

Where does this leave the Penguins? I’m feeling 6-6. Too many unknowns have to go right for this team to do better.

I enjoyed my two years on the YSU beat. This has been an awkward two months previewing a season I won’t cover, but I know I enjoyed my time in Youngstown and there is still a lot of life ahead of me.

Brian Dzenis covers YSU for The Vindicator. Write him at and follow him in Twitter, @Brian_Dzenis.