YOUNGSTOWN - Today is Halloween, but for Kurt Hess and the Youngstown State University football team, the entire month of October has been a never-ending scary movie.
During the haunted month, the Penguins have lost all four of their games by a margin of 162-84, have committed 11 turnovers and at one point or another, each stage of the game has suffered a breakdown. Needless to say, the Penguins are ready for November to begin.
"It was a rough month," Hess said. "Looking back at it, we played some good defenses. We played some good teams and teams that are ranked nationally in a lot of categories. It's going to be good to start new."
While its a new slate on the calendar for the Penguins as they host South Dakota on Saturday, until the Penguins are able to snap this losing skid, the month of October will continue to follow them.
"We're confident, and a lot of our guys still have very positive spirits," Hess said. "Sometimes I look at them and say, 'How are you doing it?' But, we're a confident group and if we take care of business this week and take care of what we need to do for 60 minutes that we have on Saturday... one step at a time we can make something happen."
On paper, the Penguins are still the favorite in Saturday's game. South Dakota (1-7, 0-5 Missouri Valley Conference) has been outscored by opponents 278-148, are giving up 388.5 yards per game and are last in the MVFC standings. But until the Penguins (4-4, 1-4) can get over the ailment that plagued them in October, the only team YSU needs to be worried about is itself.
"If we get rid of the turnovers, we can play with anybody," YSU coach Eric Wolford said. "First four games, we had the ball 36 times and scored 24 times, that's unheard of. At the end of the day, we control what we do. We control how we play. And if we eliminate the turnovers, we can have success."
The turnover bug is the glaring error in three of YSU's four losses. When the Penguins were 4-0, also known as the month of September, YSU only committed one turnover - a fumble against Albany. During the losing streak, the Penguins have had nine fumbles - five lost - and Hess has thrown six interceptions.
"I need to make more of a conscience effort and protect the ball and be secure with it," Hess said. "We need to continue to grow in facing adversity and how to respond. I take a lot of blame for that myself, and some things aren't going to go our way during the game and we can't let it get out of hand. We need to respond and be smart about what we're doing."
Hess also added that the Penguins are trying as best they can to stay positive through this four-game skid and to not go down without a fight. Hess is hoping a return to Stambaugh Stadium will help.
"I think coming back home, we have some good feelings here. We are going to put a game together and see what happens."
The Penguins try to snap their four-game skid on Saturday as the Coyotes come into town during Homecoming weekend. The game kicks off at 2 p.m. Hess also is a candidate for homecoming king, but he only cares about winning one thing on Saturday - the game.
"I'd rather win this game, no doubt," Hess said. "Both would be nice, but I want the 'W'."