With the first third of Youngstown State’s schedule in the books, the 3-1 Penguins put their non-conference opponents in the rear view mirror and begin to focus on the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
“Non-Conference is all fine and dandy, get in and tune up some things, but conference is where you measure your teams ability,” YSU senior defensive lineman Kyle Sirl said. “Especially in this conference.”
Senior offensive guard Fred Herdman added, “Conference play is a whole different animal. There’s no teams in our league that don’t have the pontential to move on and go deep in the playoffs.”
YSU opens up MVFC play on the road against Southern Illinois. And the Penguins understand how important it will be moving forward to start off their conference slate with a victory.
“Each game is going to be a challenge. It’s going to be a battle,” Sirl said. “This conference is the best in FCS and each week is going to prove that, show that. And you just have to focus on the game at hand.”
“If you can beat teams in this conference, I think it’ll really show you how good of a team you are,” junior wide receiver Christian Bryan said. “I think we have a very good team this year, but we’ll see come Saturday.”
Saturday will hopefully serve as redemption for YSU. The Penguins blew a 21-10 first half lead to Southern Illinois last season, eventually falling 38-21. The Salukis scored three non-offensive touchdowns in the game and forced four YSU turnovers in the fourth quarter.
“We’re mad about it,” YSU head coach Eric Wolford said. “I mean, that was a bad loss. We weren’t happy about it and we knew it was about the way we played.”
Sirl added, “I remember last year being really, really heart-breaking. And that’s the best way I can put it. I feel like they stole one from us last year.”
“I feel it was a lot what we did,” Bryan said. “We sort of handed it to them a little bit. And going into this game, we can’t have those mistakes. We can’t afford to do that.”
YSU and Southern Illinois kick-off Saturday night at 7 p.m.