YOUNGSTOWN - Some teams might not embrace playing the reigning conference champion in its first game of conference play. But Youngstown State University quarterback Kurt Hess can't wait.
"Why wait? Let's get the conference going," Hess said. "Northern Iowa is a big team on our schedule and the way we play them tough every year, expect this game to be the same way. So why wait? Let's get this show on the road."
The show will kick off Saturday night at 7 p.m.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Youngstown State’s Andre Stubbs, left, runs past Albany’s Olatunji Idowu during this past Saturday’s game. YSU takes on UNI this Saturday at 7 p.m.
In terms of where Northern Iowa falls on the schedule for Youngstown State, it could be the perfect time to play the Panthers. The Penguins had a huge, confidence-building game against Pitt; an easy win, with backups getting reps against Valparaiso; then a game that tested the Penguins against Albany this past Saturday.
"Personally I like it (the schedule)," senior running back Jamaine Cook said. "We're still fresh, we've had three games so far and we're still fresh and we're going in to Northern Iowa with a fresh team, we don't have too many injuires, we're not beat up.
"Our season motto is no excuses. And we're going to go into this game with no excuses and we're going to play our hearts out."
While Northern Iowa is not one to make excuses either - one that could be made is the Panthers' schedule so far this season. UNI (1-2) opened the year at Wisconsin - a game in which the Panthers gave the Badgers all they could handle. Then they had a home victory against Central State, followed by a very physical game against Iowa last week.
"It's been difficult, but we just approach it as a week in and week out, we just have to line up and play," UNI coach Mark Farley said.
Another could-be stumbling block for the Panthers is that this is the third game on the road in four weeks. The only home game was against Central State. Farley is concerned about his players' level of intensity - knowing that YSU is going to be geared up for the contest.
"The hard part is coming out of the block like we've had to, and playing the schedule we have, and then go to Youngstown right after this Iowa game. This is our third road game in four weeks," Farley said. "I didn't want to get hung up on Iowa or Wisconsin because I knew the next two were strong for our conference.
"That's been the hard part. We have to bring the same kind of intensity for those two games, which the kids are going to react to, and now we go into Youngstown knowing that we're going to have to come in with that same kind of level, and even further. Because Youngstown I'm sure is probably as excited about the game as much as anybody is."
YSU is excited about the game for numerous reasons. One, it would mark the first time since the 2000 season that the Penguins will havestarted the season with a 4-0 mark. Secondly it would give the Penguins a 1-0 start to conference play. And last but not least, put an end to the 11-game winning streak UNI has on the Penguins.