Penguins face UNI with no excuses
Cook: ‘We want to show
we can beat this team’
By Joe Scalzo
Youngstown State’s motto for this season is “No excuses” and it seems perfectly suited for tonight’s game against Northern Iowa.
The Penguins have their best team since Eric Wolford took over, and what looks like their best team since at least 2006. They face a Panther team that is starting a freshman quarterback and has played two Big Ten teams in the last three weeks.
Add in a near-sellout crowd, a night game and the infamous 11-game losing streak to UNI and YSU has no excuse not to come ready to play.
“We haven’t beat them in 11 or 12 years and I think we want to show we can beat this team,” said senior running back Jamaine Cook. “The last few years we’ve had some close games and we want to show we can put the icing on the cake and finish and finally beat Northern Iowa.”
YSU (3-0) is hoping to start 4-0 for the first time since 2000, which is also the last time it beat the Panthers.
The Penguins started the season off well with wins over Pitt (their first win over a BCS team) and Valparaiso, but looked vulnerable last weekend against Albany.
The Great Danes rang up 21 first-half points using a combination of trick plays and misdirection, exposing some weaknesses in YSU’s secondary.
“It was a learning experience,” YSU coach Eric Wolford said.
The Penguin receivers also had a rough game — “We probably left 21 points out on the field,” Wolford said — and Wolford will need them to play well since no team gave YSU’s offense more fits than UNI last season. The Panthers were the only FCS team to hold YSU under 27 points in 2011.
“They’ve been probably more active against us than other people in the past,” said Wolford, whose two four-point losses to UNI have both come in the last 2 1/2 minutes. “That’s what they feel like they have to do. It’s something we’ve kind of realized, trying to stay a step ahead of the game as far as people’s game plan, as far as movements and bringing pressure to create problems for us.
“The good thing is, we get quite a bit of that in practice every day, so we’re used to it. And we’ve got a fairly veteran group of players out there that are playing that have a good idea of what’s going on.”
YSU comes into the game relatively healthy. Defensive linemen Nick DeKraker and Luis Quinones are expected back and cornerback Dale Peterman should be ready to go after getting banged up late against Albany.
The same can’t be said for Northern Iowa, which has three hobbling linebackers and has been physically beat up by its early-season schedule. If the Penguins are going to snap the streak, tonight seems like their best opportunity in years.
“For us to get the Missouri Valley Conference championship that we want, we’re going to have to go through Northern Iowa,” Cook said. “We respect them but we play to win and we’re confident we can go out and execute against anyone we play.
“Our season motto is ‘No excuses’ and we’re going to go in with no excuses and play our hearts out.”