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Missouri Valley playoffs starting to take shape

FARGO — An unexpected run of five straight losses has put Northern Iowa out of the FCS playoff picture. Yet, the Panthers still have a say today on how the playoff field could potentially shape up.

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They host Youngstown State, which is tied for the Missouri Valley Football Conference lead with North Dakota State at 5-0. UNI represents the first of three nationally ranked opponents that Youngstown will face to close the season.

The Penguins host NDSU next week and finish the season with South Dakota State at home.

Whereas a year ago when Youngstown struggled to win the close game, it has corrected that this season, evidenced by a 38-34 win at South Dakota last week. The winning play came on a touchdown run in the final seconds.

For the first time since 1999, Youngstown has rallied for two fourth-quarter road comebacks in one season.

“I think there are two things,” said YSU head coach Eric Wolford. “When I came in, we lacked depth and couldn’t sustain or finish games. And the second thing, when you don’t have the success that you expected, there was a lot of selfishness and individuals. We made a commitment in this offseason to be a team first. We don’t address any individual accolades, any ranking or anything like that.”

UNI will most likely be without its top two playmakers in running back David Johnson and quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen because of injuries.

Salukis still have hopes for FCS playoff spot

It appears a possible third playoff spot from the conference could come down to SDSU or Southern Illinois because both teams have the potential to reach eight wins while four-loss Illinois State is playing just 11 games.

The Salukis have Missouri State at home today.

“We’re playing for playoff hopes so it should be a heated battle,” said SIU head coach Dale Lennon.

Freshman Ryan West will start his second game at quarterback in place of injured starter Kory Faulkner. The Salukis scored the first two times they had the ball last week in a 34-28 win at Western Illinois.

Etc. etc. etc.

V SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier on facing Indiana State, which is without star running back Shakir Bell: “They lost a great player in Shakir Bell and if we lost (Zach) Zenner, we would struggle in some phases.”

V USD steps out of league play in hosting Montana, the former employer of Coyotes head coach Joe Glenn. “This is where we can fit them in when we did the contracts,” he said. “I don’t make a big deal out of it. We just have to get ready and put the best product we can on the field and hope to have a shot to win.”

Jeff Kolpack
Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.