Under the helm of a new head coach, Waynesburg University’s football team opened the 2017 regular season against the Muskingum Muskies.
Last year, against the same team, the deciding factor was a field goal that went wide by inches. A year later, it was a lackluster offense that never found the scoreboard.
In the opening quarter, the Yellow Jackets took advantage on a failed fourth down conversion by the Muskies and recovered the ball on the 9-yard line of Muskingum. After several failed rushing attempts, the Yellow Jackets were put in a fourth-and-goal situation. Interim head coach Chris Smithley elected to attempt the conversion, which was unsuccessful after sophomore quarterback Tyler Perone’s pass missed the mark.
The Yellow Jackets would enter the red zone one more time before halftime. During their second possession of the third quarter, the Yellow Jackets put together one of their stronger drives of the game, moving the ball from their own 27-yard line up to the Muskies 10-yard line. The Yellow Jackets were eventually pushed back five yards and stopped at the 15-yard line, setting up a field goal attempt for sophomore kicker Mike Ryhal.
In a recurrence of last year, the 32-yard field goal attempt by Ryhal sailed wide right and the Yellow Jackets remained scoreless in the first half. However, Muskingum managed to get the ball into the end zone with only 10 seconds remaining in the half, aided by a 43-yard completion to junior Darius Hayes-Carruth.
In the third quarter, the Muskies took advantage of the Yellow Jackets, stopping their offense from ever leaving their side of the field while going on to score a pair of field goals, making it 13-0 in favor of the Muskies entering the fourth.
In the final quarter of the game, the Yellow Jackets had a pair of scoring opportunities, getting into the red zone twice, but both times the offense was shut off trying to convert on fourth downs. Then, with just under eight minutes remaining in the game, the Muskies ran in a 67-yard touchdown. Although the point after went wide, the game was already set in place and Muskingum went on to win it 19-0.
In the first game of the season for the Yellow Jackets, Perone completed 11 passes on 36 attempts, totaling 95 yards with two interceptions. Smithley said the focus for the offense was running the ball.
“I think it comes back to the same plan—we have to run the football, we have to find different ways to run the football,” said Smithley. “People are so balanced in the attack…you have to run the football.”
The Jackets leading rusher in the game was junior Austin Wilson, who compiled 28 yards on 10 carries.
Outside of the offensive struggles, Smithley said the defense performed well against Muskingum.
“I thought our defense played good today, that’s not something we’re soft about,” Smithley said. “[Defensive coordinator Scott Venick] always puts a good defense out there…our defense playing the way they did [and they were able] to create some turnovers for us that we just didn’t capitalize on offense.”
Next on the schedule for the Yellow Jackets is the Westminster Titans. In preparation for that matchup, Smithley said the focus for the next week will be the offense and running the ball.
“Defensively [we] just [have to] keep doing what we are doing, keep creating turnovers and playing hard,” Smithley said. “Offensively, we have to score when we are in the red zone—red zone offense is obviously a priority and building that into running the football.”
Waynesburg University’s home opener is against Westminster on Saturday, Sept. 9, with a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.