YSU begins exciting — and pivotal — stretch

By Joe Scalzo



On the way out of Tuesday’s press conference, freshman linebacker Teven Williams turned to a YSU official and said, “Man, Kurt’s good at this.”

In a five-minute stretch, “Kurt” (Hess) managed to praise YSU’s fans, running backs, offensive line and coaches, the Missouri Valley Football Conference (and its great offenses and defenses), Western Illinois and WIU’s best linebacker, Kevin Palermo.

And when he was asked whether it was difficult to focus on the Leathernecks this week with road games looming against Northern Iowa and North Dakota State, he said, “It is at times, but I think that’s where preparation and focus really [come in]. You need to be prepared and focused every day to go out there and go into meeting rooms and ... zzzzzzzz.”*

(* Note: No reporters actually dozed off during this quote. We think.)

Three weeks after all but ruining their season with a loss to South Dakota State, the Penguins (4-3, 2-2) are entering their most exciting stretch of the season, even if the quotes don’t quite match up.

That stretch begins with today’s homecoming game against a Western Illinois team coming off a loss to previously winless Missouri State.

Like the South Dakota State game, it’s a should-win. Unlike that game it’s a must-win.

A victory would give YSU a three-game winning streak entering its most crucial stretch of the season. A loss? Well, that would give fans an early start on men’s basketball season, which begins Nov. 12.

(Season tickets went on sale this week.)

“We’ve progressed and we’re headed in the right direction,” said Penguins coach Eric Wolford. “The next four games can be significant. We know, every one of the teams we’re getting ready to play, we played with them last year.

“All the teams we play, they’re very capable of beating us. At the same time, we’re capable of beating them. So it’s a matter of what we do.”

Three MVFC teams qualified for the playoffs last year — Western Illinois, North Dakota State and Northern Iowa — and all four had four regular season losses. Considering it was the first time in league history that even one MVFC team made the playoffs with four losses, YSU would be smart not to tempt fate.

“It’s good for our program that we control our own destiny,” said Wolford. “We say we want it, let’s see how bad we want it.

“We’re a scrappy bunch. We’re going to compete. We’re going to go out there and take a swing at it. And I feel good about where we’re going.”

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