N. Iowa, YSU set for key battle
The winner will remain in first place in the Gateway race.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State, ranked No. 5 in Division I-AA, will square off against No. 14 Northern Iowa today in the homecoming contest at Stambaugh Stadium. Kickoff is set for 4:07 p.m.
The Penguins (6-1, 3-0 Gateway Conference) have won four straight games, including a 35-28 victory at Western Illinois last Saturday.
YSU broke open a 14-14 halftime tie by scoring 21 consecutive points, then had to hold on as WIU scored two late touchdowns. The victory was the 400th in school history.
UNI (4-2, 2-0) beat Indiana State 34-14 last Saturday. The Panthers' two losses have been by a combined five points and they have scored at least 27 points in all six games.
The Penguins have dropped the last five meetings with the Panthers, including a 21-7 defeat a year ago in the UNI-Dome.
Two years ago the Panthers pulled out a 22-20 win on the game's final play, marking the last defeat the Penguins have suffered at Stambaugh Stadium. YSU has won 11 straight at home since then.
YSU has enjoyed great success on homecoming. Since 1992 the Penguins are 13-2 and all-time they are 47-16-1.
Northern Iowa has command in the overall series, winning 14 of the 20 meetings. YSU has won just three times in the last 15 games and only once at Stambaugh Stadium.
YSU senior tailback Marcus Mason, who last week rushed for 266 yards on 20 carries and three touchdowns, is ranked third in the country in rushing yards per game.
Mason is averaging 149.8 and trails only Central Connecticut State's Justise Hairston (178.1) and Drake's Scott Phayavong (152.3). Mason is also third in the country in rushing touchdowns (12).
Three other Gateway games are on tap today.
Illinois State (5-1, 2-0) travels to Western Illinois (3-4, 0-3) for a 2:05 p.m. game.
The Leathernecks lead the series, 47-37-3, and posted a 31-17 win a year ago. This is the oldest rivalry in the Gateway as the teams meet for the 88th time. The first game was in 1904.
Southern Illinois (5-1, 2-1) will play host to Western Kentucky (3-3, 2-1) at 7 p.m.. The Salukis won last year's meeting, 31-20, but the Hilltoppers lead the series, 8-6.
Missouri State (1-6, 0-3) and Indiana State (0-7, 0-3) will battle in Terre Haute, Ind., to see who stays out of the Gateway cellar.
The Bears won a year ago, 31-27, and lead the overall series, 13-7. Four of the last five meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less.