Playoff chances still good: Youngstown State’s playoff chances probably won’t hinge on next weekend’s game against South Dakota State. Even with a loss, the Penguins (8-3, 5-2 Missouri Valley) can do no worse than tie for the league’s second-best record. SDSU (7-4, 4-3), Southern Illinois (6-5, 4-3) and Missouri State (5-7, 5-3) all have three conference losses. While the winner of Saturday’s game would be in, YSU would get the nod over SIU (which lost to YSU) and MSU (which has seven losses) if the MVFC gets a third playoff team, which is almost certain since the MVFC is the FCS’ top-ranked conference and the playoff field expanded from 20 to 24 teams. Still, the Penguins would prefer not to leave their fate up to a playoff committee. “I think you have to take the approach that we don’t want to leave it up to someone else,” YSU coach Eric Wolford said. “Our objective has been not to leave it up to a committee.” Added QB Kurt Hess, “With an 8-4 record, that’s a similar record to last year [7-4]. You guys know we don’t want to leave any doubt. For us to have no doubt, we need to win the game to get in.” YSU has not made the playoffs since 2006 when it lost to Appalachian State in the national semifinals.
Injury update: Senior C Chris Elkins left the game in the fourth quarter after being poked in the eye. ... Junior S Donald D’Alesio (who’s been battling back spasms) and junior DB Julius Childs (elbow) both left the game in the fourth quarter after colliding on a tackle. “I think those guys should be OK,” Wolford said. North Dakota State played without its All-America corner Marcus Williams (MCL sprain).
Making plays: North Dakota State had a season-high three turnovers with senior CB Dale Peterman intercepting a pass, junior LB Travis Williams forcing a fumble on a punt return (recovered by senior TE Carson Sharbaugh) and junior LB Teven Williams also recovering a fumble. Freshman S Jameel Smith led YSU with 10 tackles while senior LB Dom Rich, senior DE Kyle Sirl and junior DE Vince Coleman all posting tackles for loss. “I think we played hard on defense,” Rich said. “We had some new schemes in there this week and I think we handled them well. We played with good energy.”