YOUNGSTOWN - Youngstown State University coach Eric Wolford made a decision early in to the 2012 season to change the travel plans for the Penguins in preparation for today's game against Illinois State.
Instead of leaving on Friday, the Penguins took to the road on Thursday, leaving even more time for the team to prepare for another tough contest in the Missouri Valley Football Conference - facing the Illinois State Redbirds.
After last week's loss to North Dakota State, a change in travel and having more time to prepare might just be what the Penguins need to do to get back on the winning side of the ball.
But even before the preparation began, YSU knows what it needs to do to make sure last week's loss is a one-time occurence - make sure it dictates the game.
"When we can play our game, we play our best," tight end Will Shaw said. "We need to stay true to our offense and makes defenses play into our hand."
Having control of the game will mean the offense will have to get back to what it was doing pre-North Dakota State.
Quarterback Kurt Hess, after only passing for 117 yards last week, is still averaging 176 yards per game in the air and has accumulated nine touchdowns. His favorite target has been Shaw, with 15 catches for 214 yards and four touchdowns. Also, running back Jamaine Cook was limited to 43 yards last week. He's averaging 97 yards rushing per game.
For the offense to get back to its potent ways, the offensive front five knows it is going to have to do its job up front.
"Our motto is worry about the process and the results will handle themselves," left tackle Andrew Radakovich said. "I think overall we need to become a mistake-free offense like we were before this (the NDSU loss)."
But like last week, the Penguins (4-1, 1-1) will face another tough defense on the road. The Redbirds (5-1, 2-1) are allowing 280.7 yards per game, including limiting opposing running games to 107.2 yards. The biggest statistic though is that the Illinois State defense has sacked opposing quarterbacks 21 times this season.
"They are a very athletic team, they like to move a lot they like to put some pressure on you," Radakovich said. "So we have to play sound and we just have to be ready for whatever they bring to us."
And Illinois State will bring everything it has. The Redbirds are also coming off their first loss of the season, a 17-0 defeat to Southern Illinois.
"Illinois State is coming off a tough loss at home and Southern Illnois was a difficult game for them," Wolford said. "Like us, I expect them to rebound and get a great effort from their football team."
Kickoff is at 2 p.m. from Normal, Ill.