To say that Penguin fever has taken over the Mahoning Valley might be an understatement. It's more than people talking about the football team, they are now ready to see what this squad is all about.
According to the Youngstown State Athletic Department, as of Friday afternoon, approximately 2,500 tickets were left for tonight's game and general admission tickets were sold out. That means already, approximately 18,000 tickets have been sold for tonight's highly anticipated game against the University of Northern Iowa.
With the game being close to a sell out - and could end up being one by 7 tonight - the crowd will be loud and fired up. But more importantly, the packed Ice Castle will be watching to see if these Penguins are legitimate contenders in the FCS.
How can the Penguins prove that they are the best in the Missouri Valley Football Conference? The answer is simple: Finish out a big, meaningful game.
Coach Eric Wolford and the rest of the YSU team was proud of the way the Penguins responded to the adversity they faced last week against Albany. The Penguins battled back after being down early, were able to put up points in the fourth quarter as well as making the stops when needed. That was against Albany. Will the Penguins be able to do that against a team like UNI?
The Penguins can beat this team. They almost beat them last year and this Penguins team is deeper and more talented then last year's squad, in my opinion. Also, the Panthers have had a dogged schedule so far this season - and is pretty banged up because of it. Two of their starting linebackers - Jordan Gacke and Zach Cutkomp - were both seen limping off the field against the Hawkeyes. Gacke is still listed as the starter, while Cutkomp has been bumped to second on the depth chart.
This could open up Jamaine Cook's ability to run the ball effectively. And, it also could let Andre Stubbs have another performance like the one he had against Pitt. Stubbs has been quiet since the season opener, but is a lethal weapon in the Penguins' arsenal. If they can find Stubbs in some open, short-yardage space, then let the speedy 5-foot-6 receiver go to town, it could be the difference in the ball game.
But on the other side, the Penguins' defensive backs have to have the game of their lives. The UNI receivers, led by the quarterback play of Sawyer Kollmorgen, have been putting up big numbers so far this season - and against two Big Ten teams. YSU's secondary has been the weakness of the defense, and got beat many times last week against Albany. If not for the sure luck of Albany receivers dropping wide-open passes, last week's game could have gone a different direction. If the secondary can keep the UNI receivers in check, then a win becomes much more feasible.
But it's Youngstown State and Northern Iowa. Games between these two teams haven't exactly always gone as planned. Case in point the last two contests between the teams have been decided in the final minutes.
It's going to be a great game at the Ice Castle tonight and fans should be seeing a game to remember.
And if YSU were to win the game, forget the Pitt win. This will be the biggest win of the season so far.