In a game that was truly a tale of two halves against South Dakota, the Bison scored 24 unanswered second-half points to take home a 34-17 win in Vermillion, S.D., last Saturday for their 12th straight conference-opening win. The Bison will return home after the win to take on the Youngstown State Penguins (2-1, 0-0 MVFC) for homecoming. While they may have been picked to finish as a bottom three team in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Penguins possess talented playmakers on both sides of the ball.
Youngstown State is led offensively by running back Jaleel McLaughlin. McLaughlin, who had a 200-yard rushing game this season, has already amassed 2,200 yards in just 20 career games for the Penguins. The Bison defense is preparing for McLaughlin by emphasizing playing through the whistle.
“This guy will start going one way, put his foot in the ground and change direction and go back the other way,” Bison defensive lineman Spencer Waege said of McLaughlin. “We all have got to play until the whistle and never trust that the play is going to be over until we actually have him on the ground.”
The Bison defense, known for its depth and versatility, will use a lot of different bodies and looks to slow down the Youngstown State offense. One area of the Bison defense that has shown great versatility through the first four games is the defensive line. After the injury to Eli Mostaert, players like Spencer Waege have taken on slightly altered roles. While Waege has usually played on the edge, there have been occurrences where he is moved to the interior part of the defensive line.
“Mainly when I’ve been thrown inside it’s usually been pass rush downs,” Waege stated about his defensive alignments. “It’s kind of when they feel comfortable with me going inside and what’s different is just offensive linemen. Guards, they’re not used to playing in space, where tackles are more comfortable letting there be some space between themselves and the defensive players.”
As for the Bison offense, they are going to continue to do what they have done successfully for years; run the football. In last year’s matchup against the Penguins, the Bison totaled over 600 yards of offense in a 49-17 road victory. Led by a stampede of running backs, the Bison ran for a remarkable 454 yards on that cool 39° November afternoon in Ohio. The Bison have maintained that rushing success this season and have done so by being one of the most physical teams in the country.
“I think one of the biggest keys is just physicality and technique,” Hunter Luepke said on the keys to the Bison rushing attack. “I think we try to be the most physical offense in the country, and I think that shows with the run schemes that we do. Pushing guys back 3, 4, 5 yards so that’s probably one of the biggest things.”
The Bison offense, which is averaging north of 30 points per game this season, will have to match up with a Youngstown defense that has accumulated 28 TFLs, nine sacks, and seven interceptions through three games. One of the leaders of the Penguins’ defense is sophomore defensive end Dylan Wudke. Wudke is the team’s leader in tackles for loss with 5.5. Cornerback Jordan Trowers and safety Quincy Lenton, who led the team in tackles and interceptions respectively, also caught the attention of Coach Entz along with Wudke.
“Defensively Jordan Trowers, Quincy Lenton; Two DBs that lead their team in tackles and interceptions as well. Two dynamic playmakers and then a kid that stood out to me, Dylan Wudke seems to be all over the place.”
Not only against Youngstown State but the Bison have also been unstoppable in their recent homecoming games as well. The Bison have won their last 10 homecoming matchups dating back to 2011 (apart from 2020) and only one of those victories was their margin of victory in single digits, which came in 2015. Also of note, if the Bison exceed 30 points on Saturday against Youngstown State, it will mark the 10th straight occurrence in which the Bison have scored over 30 points on homecoming.
Bison fans, players, and even coaches know how special homecoming week is to everyone on campus. In fact, all student tickets were sold out within the first 48 hours of them being available.
“We’re back in the Fargodome and I know our kids are excited about that,” Entz stated. “The students have taken up all the tickets and that’s a positive. This will be three games in a row that our students here on campus have done an unbelievable job supporting this football program, so I thank you for that.”
Kickoff from the Fargodome will be at 1:00 p.m.