By Jordan Boitnott
On Friday, March 26, Youngstown State University announced the home football game against the University of North Dakota was postponed. The game, originally scheduled for March 27, is rescheduled for April 17. The announcement came after UND identified one positive COVID-19 test in its Tier 1 personnel. According to YSU Sports, UND’s Tier 1 classification includes players, coaches, equipment managers and staff.
The schedule change extends YSU’s regular season by one week. Due to the positive COVID-19 test, YSU and UND received a bye in a season originally eight weeks long with no off weeks for any teams.
Derek Hite, sophomore offensive lineman, talked about how the bye week affected the team in his Tuesday press conference.
“It was definitely different. We practiced the whole week. We were focused on [UND], obviously, which was kind of a bummer not to get to play them on Saturday,” he said. “Coach gave us a couple days off to kind of get our bodies right and then came in yesterday focused, flipped the switch and focused on Western Illinois.”
After the two-week hiatus, the Penguins will travel to Western Illinois University to play in their first night game of the season Saturday, April 3. WIU enters last in the Missouri Valley Football Conference with an 0-5 record. However, the team currently has the No. 1 passing offense in the conference.
YSU’s head football coach Doug Phillips talked about WIU in his press conference this week.
“They’re the No. 1 passing team in the league and that’s what jumps out. They haven’t been fortunate enough to finish a football game and win a football game, but statistically they’re No. 1 in passing so they’re gonna throw the football around,” he said. “We [have] got to be ready for that. They’ve been successful. They’ve been in games in the third and fourth quarter just like us.”
Another issue the team had to deal with is the transfer portal. YSU lost junior defensive end Antoine Cook last month. Coach Phillips said the team is keeping an eye on players from other schools in the portal.
“The portal, what’s unique about it, the one philosophy I’ve always had is, you know, if they’re in the portal in January that tells me what have they been doing? I kind of want to wait and see, I want to see the players that actually went through spring football at a school and competed and just found out maybe they’re not getting enough reps at that school,” he said. “There are some young men that are in the portal that — I’m sure some of our coaches fill out the proper paperwork and have spoken to them — that we’re actively recruiting, but there’s nothing they can sign.”
YSU will play at WIU at 8:00 p.m. Saturday, April 3 on ESPN+. The Penguins haven’t had a road Missouri Valley Conference win since 2017.