By Joe Scalzo
There are many quirks about playing on the road in the Missouri Valley — long bus rides, few road-tripping fans and, of course, the insane jealousy of other Youngstowners when you tell them you’re traveling to South Dakota in November — but maybe the biggest is the chance to play indoor football.
Only five FCS schools have domes but three of them are in the MVFC: North Dakota State, Northern Iowa and South Dakota.
Youngstown State will play at the latter two schools over the next two weeks, starting Saturday at the DakotaDome in Vermillion, S.D.
The Coyotes (4-4, 3-2 MVFC) are 3-0 at home this season.
“I haven’t been to South Dakota, so it’s going to be something we’ll have to adapt to,” senior quarterback Kurt Hess said. “I think we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Youngstown State (7-1, 4-0 MVFC), which is playing in the DakotaDome for the first time, is practicing in the WATTS this week to get used to the lighting and (thanks to pumped-in crowd noise) the sound.
“I’m sure it’s probably a pretty similar environment to our indoor, other than the stands,” YSU coach Eric Wolford said. “So we’ll get used to that, playing on a flat surface and relatively new turf.”
Stambaugh Stadium’s field has a natural crown and tricky winds, which Wolford feels gives his team a home field advantage. Dome teams feel the same.
The crowd noise inside a dome — particularly at North Dakota State — can make things difficult for opposing teams, but there are advantages to playing indoors, senior cornerback Dale Peterman said.
“It’s more of a controlled climate,” said Peterman, who originally signed with a dome team, Syracuse, out of Ursuline High, although he never played there. “When the ball’s in the air, you don’t have to worry about the wind.”
The DakotaDome holds just 10,000 fans — 6,000 fewer than the UNI-Dome and 9,000 fewer than the Fargodome — so it’s not as loud as the other two, but it’s big enough to cause problems for YSU’s offense.
Hess’ other concern? The lighting.
“The domes that I’ve played in, UNI and North Dakota State, the lighting’s been different,” he said. “You have to adjust to it. It takes a couple throws, a couple times seeing the ball in the air.
“You settle in and you find your place and realize in between the lines it’s just football.”
YSU is 1-2 in domes under Wolford, with the lone win coming at North Dakota State in 2011. While having the WATTS didn’t help the Penguins last season — they lost 48-7 at the Fargodome — Hess thinks being able to practice indoors is a big advantage.
“Being able to adjust this week is helping us to adjust on Saturday,” he said.