By Joe Scalzo
CEDAR FALLS, IOWA
In 2010, a Youngstown State fan in New Orleans sent Eric Wolford a voodoo doll in the mail, hoping he could use it to beat Northern Iowa.
Which begs the question: Where was that doll last weekend?
The Panthers, losers of five straight games, lost their starting quarterback (Sawyer Kollmorgen) to a concussion and their starting running back, David Johnson, to an ankle injury in a 13-3 loss to Illinois State.
Neither is expected to play today, the latest setbacks in a season filled with injuries and close losses. After a 4-0 start, the Panthers lost by one point to top-ranked North Dakota State followed by an FCS record-tying three straight overtime losses.
The five-game losing streak is UNI’s worst since 1978.
“Our players have gone out every week and played hard; they really played hard last week,” said UNI coach Mark Farley, who is 11-1 against YSU with the lone loss coming last year at Stambaugh Stadium. “We’re gonna have to quickly find an answer [on offense] because the defense can’t be on the field all day long.”
Youngstown State (8-1, 5-0 Missouri Valley) has won 11 straight FCS games — the lone loss came against Big Ten-member Michigan State in Week 3 — and is off to its best start in conference play since joining the league in 1997.
Much of the this week’s buildup, at least in the Twitterverse, has focused on trying to get ESPN’s College GameDay to come to Stambaugh Stadium for next week’s game against NDSU. (The extremely slim hopes of that happening probably ended when unbeaten Baylor pounded Oklahoma on Thursday night.)
But while the fans can look ahead, the Penguins can’t. YSU hasn’t won at the UNI-Dome since 1999 — it was Jim Tressel’s last trip to Cedar Falls — and is still a win away from clinching a playoff berth.
“We’re treating this game and this opponent with as much respect as our last one,” senior LT Kyle Bryant said. “We’re taking nothing for granted.”