Play is starting to heat up in the MVFC and Illinois State (2-3, 1-1) versus Youngstown State (5-1, 1-0) is sure to be a scorcher, as the ’Birds try to put the red-hot Penguins on ice.
“The Missouri Valley this season is starting to crank up now,” Brock Spack, head football coach, said. “We’re going into the middle of the schedule — the heart and soul of it. We’re all trying to set ourselves up for a push to November.”
The running game of both teams is going to be a point of interest for fans. Redbird tailback Marshaun Coprich is coming off of the best game of his career. He ran through, between and over WIU defenders for career highs in carries (24), yards (124) and touchdowns (3) on Saturday.
Youngstown State has a yardage-monster of its own at tailback. Martin Ruiz, freshman from Tampa, Fla., has been putting up huge numbers all season for the Penguins. In six games, he has rushed for 491 yards on 88 carries and 10 touchdowns for an average 5.6 yards per carry.
With quarterbacks, it is going to be a rookie versus veteran matchup. Redbird redshirt freshman quarterback Blake Winkler is coming off a strong showing last Saturday against WIU where he went 20-for-29 for 234 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. For the Penguins, senior quarterback Kurt Hess has been showing his skills and experience with 1190 passing yards and 11 touchdowns so far this season.
“[Winkler] is getting more comfortable,” Spack said. “He made some very good throws on Saturday. He threw the ball very well, for the most part. He had some freshman moments out there. [But] it’s just part of the growing pains you have when you’re dealing with a redshirt freshman quarterback.”
The Redbirds are coming off their strongest defensive effort of the year, holding Western Illinois offense to 21, while YSU’s defense was able to hold off Indiana State for a 35-24 victory Saturday.
“Defensively, they are very physical up front, and they’re going to be a handful for us,” Spack said. “They have always been very physical and tough and it won’t be any different this year.”
This will be the 23rd meeting between ISU and YSU. The series has been split down the middle with each team winning 11.
The game will be broadcast live at 6 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Chicago Plus.