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FOOTBALL Penguins' opponent is toughest


Published: Sat, September 24, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.


Pitt might be the best team YSU has ever played on the gridiron.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Youngstown State University football team will play perhaps its toughest opponent in history before what is expected to be the largest crowd in YSU history.
Today at 2 p.m., the Penguins take on Pittsburgh, a team that is 0-3 but was ranked in the Division I-A top 25 at the start of the year.
A crowd of more than 40,000 is expected for today's game at Heinz Field.
YSU sold out its allotment of 3,000 tickets and many more YSU fans purchased tickets through Pitt's outlets.
The Penguins are riding a three-game winning streak, but they haven't played any team nearly as good as the Panthers.
Pitt's losses have come to Notre Dame and Nebraska, and an upset loss in overtime to Ohio University.
YSU owns wins over Slippery Rock (0-3), Northeastern (0-3) and Liberty (1-2).
Largest crowd
The largest crowd the Penguins have played before was 35,874 at Western Michigan in 1999, a game the Penguins lost 46-28.
YSU hasn't defeated a Division I-A team since Kent State (26-20) in 2000 and they have only played two I-A opponents since, losing to Marshall 38-24 in 2001 and to Kent State 16-13 in 2003.
The Penguins have been explosive in their first three games, averaging 40.3 points a game, while the defense has limited the opposition to just 10 points a game.
The Penguins are just one of two teams still unbeaten in the Gateway Conference.
Hilltoppers at Auburn
Western Kentucky (2-0) will take on Auburn at 1:30 p.m. This is the second meeting between the Tigers and Hilltoppers, with Auburn winning 48-3 in 2003. Western Kentucky was idle last week.
Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois, both 2-1, are idle this week. Gateway Conference play begins Oct. 1. Missouri State's game at Sam Houston State was canceled because of Hurricane Rita and will not be made up.
In other games today, Illinois State (2-1) will play host to Murray State at 7:30 p.m. in Normal, Ill. The series is tied 1-1 with ISU winning the last meeting in 2003, 24-23.
Western Illinois (1-2) will be at home tonight against Iowa Wesleyan at 7:05 in Macomb, Ill. WIU leads the series 6-3 and has won the last six meetings, most recently in 1995, 86-0.
Indiana State is still searching for its first victory for new coach Lou West, a Niles native. The Sycamores (0-3) play at Texas Tech tonight at 8 in the first meeting between the schools.
mollica@vindy.com


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