YOUNGSTOWN - It's been a very long time since Youngstown State University football fans have been excited about a home opener. But after the Penguins defeated the University of Pittsburgh in the season debut, Penguin fever began spreading through Youngstown.
"It's great to have the community behind us," YSU tight end Will Shaw said. "We look looking forward to having all the fans here on Saturday at the Ice Castle for our home opener."
And it's going to be a packed house. As of Friday, ticket sales are at 12,600, according to Youngstown State University Sports Information Director Trevor Parks. The ticket office opened for a special time on Labor Day, and on Monday alone sold more than 1,000 tickets.
"It's been a great and busy week all the way around," Parks said.
And for the near-packed house that is expected to be in attendance, they will likely see a high-scoring game - at least on the side of the Penguins.
Last year when Valparaiso came to town, the Penguins defeated the Crusaders, 77-13. And since that game, the potent YSU offense has become even a better well-oiled machine.
Quarterback Kurt Hess began the 2012 season exactly where he left off in 2011. He was 13 of 23 for 154 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
If it's possible to quietly rush for 84 yards in a game, Jamaine Cook did it against Pitt. But for as quiet as his yards were, he made one of the biggest plays of the game with his halfback pass in the third quarter.
Then there was the performance of wide receiver Andre Stubbs, which might take the offense from great to unstoppable if he performed the way he did against Pitt. He had 172 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. Stubbs received a medical redshirt last season after breaking his collar bone against Illinois State.
For as high-powered as the Youngstown State offense is, Valparaiso is just getting its legs underneath them. The Crusaders have won just one game in two seasons, and gave up a lead last week against Division II Saint Joseph's (Ind.), to drop their season opener, 36-34.
"After watching their film they had a tough game last week, gave up a lead," coach Eric Wolford said. "I think coach (Dale) Carlson has their program going in the right direction. You can see that they've improved and they are getting better. I think they'll be anxious to come over here and play us, with the opportunity to show they've improved from last year."
As for the Penguins, they are making sure they come out just as fired up for Valpo as they did against Pitt - because the last thing they want is a letdown after a big win.
"(The Pitt win) was great for the community, it's great for all the YSU friends and family, but we learned that we have to have a short term memory here," Cook said. "We have to be 1-0 every week. We are going in to every game expecting to win, so like I said, we just have to have a short term memory. It was a great win, but we have to forget about it because we have Valpo this week."
Kickoff is at 4 p.m.