COLLEGE FOOTBALL YSU's lengthy streak against Div. II on line
The Penguins are 24-0 against Division II schools.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- When the Youngstown State football team takes the field Thursday night against Slippery Rock, it will be the 25th game the Penguins have played against Division II teams since 1981, when YSU moved up to Div. I-AA.
The Penguins are 24-0 all-time against Div. II opponents.
Thursday's contest, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium, will mark the ninth meeting between YSU and The Rock. YSU is 8-0 against Slippery Rock, and none of the games have been closer than two touchdowns. Last season, the Penguins won 45-12.
The Rock had its best showing in 2002 when they lost 24-10, but has been shut out only once by the Penguins, that coming in 1996, 22-0.
During the Penguins' 24-0 streak against Div. II opponents, they have defeated Edinboro and Clarion five times each, and also have defeated Ashland, Indiana (Pa.), Lock Haven, New Haven, North Alabama and Wingate.
Disadvantage in polls
A lot of YSU fans don't like the Penguins playing Div. II teams, feeling that it hurts the team in the I-AA polls and in the NCAA selections for the playoffs.
That was probably true in 1996 when the Penguins finished 8-3, but played three Div. II teams and were left out of the playoffs. It also hurt them in 2001, Jon Heacock's first season as coach, when YSU again finished 8-3, but with two Div. II teams on the schedule was omitted from the playoffs.
But one Div. II team on the schedule shouldn't matter, and Slippery Rock is a good opener, especially since the school is just a short distance from Youngstown and The Rock probably brings more fans to Stambaugh Stadium than any other opponent.
But over the years, not all of YSU's Div. II opponents have been patsies.
Take 1994 for example.
YSU had what was considered its best team, which went 14-0-1 and won the school's third national championship, but the Penguins' toughest opponent that year just might have been a Div. II school.
North Alabama tough
North Alabama, a perennial Div. II contender and holder of several national titles, came to Stambaugh Stadium and battled YSU right to the wire before the Penguins prevailed, 17-14.
Then in 1996 New Haven came to Youngstown and nearly upset the Penguins before losing, 18-15, and Indiana (Pa.) threw a scare into YSU in 1999 before falling 13-7.
Thursday night the Penguins will also carry a streak of eight straight season-opening victories. Seven of those are against Div. II opponents, including three against Slippery Rock.
The last time the Penguins lost a season opener was in 1995 at Kent State, 17-14, and that same season they also dropped their home opener to Stephen F. Austin, 27-0. The Penguins finished that season 3-8.