By Joe Scalzo
Youngstown State was off last weekend, which means it had an extra week to prepare for today’s game at South Dakota.
But when Coyotes coach Joe Glenn was asked if he expects to see some new wrinkles from the Penguins, he started chuckling.
“I don’t think so,” Glenn said. “With what they’re doing, they don’t need to add any wrinkles. What they’re doing is working pretty good.
“I don’t think they lost sleep thinking of new ways to beat South Dakota.”
Maybe not, but a game that looked like an easy win in August has become a lot more interesting in the last two months.
After going 1-10 in their first year in the Missouri Valley, the Coyotes (4-4, 3-2 MVFC) are tied for third in the league standings. Two weeks ago, they stunned then-No. 11 Northern Iowa on the road in double overtime and they boast the league’s second-best defense, behind North Dakota State.
They’ve been even better at the DakotaDome, where they’re 3-0 and are giving up just 11 points and 212 yards per game.
“They’re obviously outstanding on defense,” YSU coach Eric Wolford said. “And they’re 3-1 since they made a quarterback change, which has given them some life on offense.”
After a 1-4 start, Glenn benched last year’s starter, junior Josh Vander Maten, in favor of massive sophomore Kevin Earl (6-foot-6, 220 pounds), who has completed 91 of 164 passes for 1,040 yards, five touchdowns and six interceptions. They’re only averaging 17 points per game — the 38-31 win over UNI was the only game where the Coyotes scored more than 17 points this year — but Earl has given them a spark, Glenn said.
“It just came to a point where we weren’t winning many games,” Glenn said. “He’s [Earl] a pretty good athlete, he can run pretty darn good, he’s a tough kid and he can sling it.”
YSU won its only other meeting with South Dakota last November, 13-10, snapping a four-game losing streak. That win began a 10-game FCS win streak that continues into today’s game. With another win, the Penguins can start 5-0 in the MVFC for the first time since joining the league in 1997.
“Everything is there in front of us,” Wolford said. “We talked about from Day 1, after last year when we were disappointed that we didn’t make the playoffs, keeping in control of our own destiny.
“We’re in control of our destiny as of today. Anytime you lose a conference game, you lose that control. We like having that control and that’s our mindset right now.”