By Joe Scalzo
When South Dakota coach Joe Glenn was asked about Youngstown State earlier this week, the first thing he mentioned was the Penguins’ win over Pitt.
That was two months ago.
It feels like two years ago.
On the heels of one of the worst months in the program’s history, the Penguins play a homecoming game against the type of team you try to schedule for your homecoming game.
The Coyotes (1-7, 0-5 Missouri Valley) rank last in the conference in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense, wins and ... well, you get the idea.
On paper, they’re the perfect opponent for YSU (4-4, 1-4), which has lost four straight.
“It’s two teams starving for a win,” said Penguins coach Eric Wolford. “We’ve been on the short end of some sticks the last four weeks.
“It’s two teams that need to go out fighting and scratching and clawing to win a game.”
The Coyotes are in their first season in the Missouri Valley, so the struggles are understandable. Not so for the Penguins, who were ranked No. 3 in the country after their 4-0 start but have done little right since.
“They’ve been on a really tough run as of late,” said Glenn, who sounded more like an inspirational speaker than an opposing coach in this week’s teleconference. “They need to get home and get their fans behind them and get going again. That’s a tough situation for us. We’ve got to go in there and play them on their homecoming.”
Wolford hinted earlier in the week that junior quarterback Kurt Hess could get yanked after throwing six interceptions and losing two fumbles during the losing streak. But Hess has received most of the reps during practice this week and has a chance to regain his form (and his confidence) against South Dakota and Western Illinois the next two weeks.
“It was a rough month,” Hess said. “But, looking back at it, we played some good defenses and we played some good teams, teams that are ranked nationally in a lot of categories.
“It’s going to be good to start new and I think coming home and having some good feelings here [will help]. We need to put a game together and see what happens.”