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Jeff Kolpack, Published October 18 2013

Youngstown State keeps on winning

FARGO – While North Dakota State, Northern Iowa and South Dakota State have been knocking heads in battles of FCS top 10 teams, another Missouri Valley Football Conference team has quietly been going about its business.

Look out for Youngstown State.

A win at home against Western Illinois today and the Penguins will register their first 4-0 conference start since 2005 when they finished in a tie for first place. A favorable early season schedule has helped Youngstown with UNI, NDSU and SDSU being the last three games of the season.

Still, YSU is on the verge of going 7-1 for the season, a record that should threaten top 10 status, especially with the only defeat being at Big Ten Conference Michigan State.

“They’re a very good football team,” said Western head coach Bob Nielson.

It starts with senior quarterback Kurt Hess, said Nielson. “He’s a dual threat who can hurt you throwing the football or with his feet,” Nielson said.

Youngstown head coach Eric Wolford said he doesn’t ask Hess to win games by himself. The difference this year, he said, is he has a better supporting cast around him.

“Just manage the football game,” Wolford said. “Make good decisions – and he does that – and we have a chance to win. Do what you’re coached to do and the plays will be there.”

Panthers will try to break two-game snap

UNI, meanwhile, will be trying to snap a two-game losing streak after going into the NDSU game two weeks ago ranked No. 4 in the FCS coaches poll. The Panthers dropped to 13th this week.

They’ll host to South Dakota, which at 2-1 is already two wins ahead of last year’s league pace. The Coyotes have yet to beat UNI in the Division I era, although the Panthers rallied to win 24-21 last season.

“They want to get their mo back,” USD head coach Joe Glenn said of momentum, “and we have a little mo. It should be a good game.”

Valley holds top spot in Gridiron Power Index

The Missouri Valley was the top conference in the Gridiron Power Index this week by a pretty good margin. It’s average of 28.23 points was over four ahead of the Colonial Athletic Association.

That was followed by the Southland Conference and a rare top-four appearance by the Ohio Valley Conference, which has never won an FCS playoff game. The Ohio Valley is getting a boost by highly ranked Eastern Illinois.

The Big Sky Conference is fifth. Five teams in the Valley are among the top 17 teams in NDSU (1), UNI (4), Youngstown (9), SIU (15th) and SDSU (17th).

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia