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Youngstown uncertain about quarterback position as NDSU game nears

FARGO -- For the second straight week, North Dakota State is spending its week of practice preparing for two quarterbacks. And once again, it's a runner versus thrower proposition.

Youngstown State quarterback Ricky Davis passes during a game against the West Virginia. Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 5, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Youngstown State Penguins quarterback Hunter Wells (6) passes against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the second half at Heinz Field. The Panthers won 45-37. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

FARGO - For the second straight week, North Dakota State is spending its week of practice preparing for two quarterbacks. And once again, it's a runner versus thrower proposition.

Trying to plan for Northern Iowa last week was spent figuring out the strengths of option quarterback Aaron Bailey and deciding how good of a passer sophomore Eli Dunne was in his first start. Bailey never did play because of a sore throwing shoulder and the Bison did just enough against Dunne to come away with a 24-20 win.

Same story this week. Youngstown State comes to Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome Saturday, Nov. 5, undecided on its starting quarterback.

"We'll see as the week plays out," said Penguins head coach Bo Pelini.

It will play out between junior Ricky Davis, the best runner under center, and junior Hunter Wells - a throwing threat who played as a true freshman two years ago at the dome.

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Both have been hurt during points of this season. Davis started six games carrying the ball 83 times for 340 yards, an average of 4.1 per carry. He's completed just over 50 percent of his throws at 55 of 106 for for 864 yards.

Wells saw his first action this season last week completing 13 of 26 for 101 yards and two interceptions. Youngstown has been tested with its quarterback depth chart, having to turn to third string Trent Hosick and No. 4 Nathan Mays. Both have played in four games.

"They should all be healthy, we'll just kind of see how it goes," Pelini said on Tuesday. "Maybe a combination of guys, I'm must not sure yet."

It's been a struggle on offense for Youngstown, which is averaging just 12.3 points in its last three games, with the only touchdown last week a 79-yard punt return by Darien Townsend with just over nine minutes remaining in the game that defeated Indiana State 13-10.

"Difficult loss against Youngstown State," said Sycamores head coach Mike Sanford. "The story is they returned a punt for a touchdown to win the game. Frustrating because we had opportunities."

Youngstown also had plenty of opportunities to score, Pelini said, moving the ball well between the 20-yard lines.

"But we have to turn them into points," he said. "I thought we were in control. Until the punt return I was scared we were going to run out of time."

Wells was 15 of 26 with two touchdowns and three interceptions two years ago in Fargo, a game the Bison won easily 38-14. It was also a year before Pelini got to Youngstown. The Penguins have one of the top defenses in the FCS, but as to who will quarterback their offense remains to be seen.

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"We'll be ready for it," said Bison safety Tre Dempsey. "We did it last week and we got to face one of them."

Youngstown State quarterback Ricky Davis passes during a game against the West Virginia. Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 10, 2016; Morgantown, WV, USA; Youngstown State Penguins quarterback Ricky Davis (12) passes the ball during the first quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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