The Youngstown State football team begins a key stretch of three home games in the month of October against South Dakota State on Saturday. Kickoff at Stambaugh Stadium is set for 4 p.m. and will be carried live on 570 WKBN and televised on tape delay by MyYTV.
Both teams are coming off losses to Indiana State entering Saturday's tilt. YSU dropped a 37-35 decision at Terre Haute on Sept. 24 while the Jackrabbits lost at home 38-28 to the Sycamores last Saturday. The Penguins and SDSU each allowed 21-point spurts to Indiana State, which proved to be the difference in both contests.
YSU (2-2 overall and 1-1 in the MVFC) trailed 21-0 just 10 minutes into the contest at Indiana State, and, although battling back all afternoon, came up just short falling 37-35. Kurt Hess threw two touchdown passes and Jamaine Cook ran for two scores in the comeback bid. After allowing 34 points in the first 26 minutes, the Penguins allowed just three the remainder of the game. However, a 22-yard fourth-quarter field goal by Cory Little proved to the be the difference.
SDSU (1-4 and 0-2) trailed Indiana State 17-15 late in the third quarter on Saturday, but three straight Sycamore touchdowns were too much to overcome in a 38-28 loss. The Jackrabbits had 414 yards of total offense, including 305 yards passing by Austin Sumner. The Jacks led 9-3 midway through the second quarter making three chip-shot field goals. SDSU was driving down 24-15, but a 78-yard interception return for a touchdown by ISU helped turned the momentum of the game.
The Jackrabbits have won all three conference meetings between the two programs in a series that dates back to 1942. Last season in Brookings, the Jackrabbits earned a 30-20 win over the Penguins. In 2009 at YSU, SDSU scored two second-half touchdowns for a 17-3 win. At Brookings in 2008, the Guins lost 40-7. The Penguins' most recent win in the series was 23-17 triumph in 2007. The schools played seven times from 1968 through 1979, with the final contest coming in the Division II playoffs at Austintown Fitch High School.
YSU returns to the road next Saturday for a contest at nationally-ranked Southern Illinois. The Guins then close out October with home games against Saint Francis (Pa.) and Western Illinois.
Indiana State Game Notes
• In the first 10:30 of the game, YSU was outyarded 187 to minus-1. Indiana State had drives of 62, 58, 2 and 65 compared to YSU's minus-11, 6 and 4.
• The 34 points scored in the first half were the most allowed in a half since Georgia Southern had 38 in the first half of the National Championship Game on Dec. 18, 1999.
• The three second half points by ISU were the fewest since Butler was held scoreless last season.
• The Penguins had more first downs (30-14), more total plays (92-47), more time of possession (37:38 to 22:22), more rushing attempts (51-30), more passing attempts (41-17), more third-down conversions (8-2), more fourth-down conversions (3-0) and more total yards (470-467) in the game.
• Of Indiana State's 467 yards of total offense, 280 came on five plays (rushes of 62, 61, 51 and 39 and a fourth-quarter pass completion of 67 yards).
• Sophomore WR Jelani Berassa caught two four-yard touchdown passes in the game.
• Junior TB Jamaine Cook eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the third time this season and ninth time in his career. Cook had a season-high 177 yards on 33 carries.
• WR Christian Bryan caught a school freshman record seven passes in the game. He had seven catches for 75 yards.
• The 14 fourth-quarter points scored were a season-high for the Penguins.
• YSU was 5-for-5 in the red zone while Indiana State was 2-of-2.
• The Penguins converted three fourth-down plays. Two came on the same drive in the second quarter trailing 27-7, and the other came on the final snap of the third quarter with YSU trailing 34-21.
• The Penguins scored 21 of the game's final 24 points.
ISU Recap: ISU 37, YSU 35
The Penguins battled the final 50 minutes trying to dig out of a 21-0 hole, but in the end they came up just short losing 37-35 to Indiana State at Memorial Stadium in Terre Haute, Ind.
The Sycamores shot out of the gate scoring 21 points in just over 10 minutes to put the Guins in a tight spot.
YSU scored on the final play of the first quarter, but Shakir Bell answered with a 61-yard run on ISU's first play of the second.
Kurt Hess connected with Jelani Berassa on a four-yard pass midway through the period, but Bell's fourth touchdown of the first half gave ISU a 34-14 lead. Jamaine Cook found the end zone in the final minute of the first half as the Guins trailed 34-21 at the break.
After a scoreless third quarter, YSU pulled within 34-28 early in the fourth on a one-yard run by Cook. But a 22-yard field goal by Cory Little pushed the lead to nine. YSU was able to get within two on a toss from Hess to Berassa with just over a minute left.
Jacks Scouting Report
South Dakota State enters the contest with the Penguins following a 38-28 loss to Indiana State. The Jackrabbits opened the year with a nail-biting 29-28 win over Southern Utah, but has since lost their last five contests, including MVFC games to Illinois State and Indiana State.
Twice this year the Jackrabbits have scored 28-or-more points while allowing more than 28 in four contests.
Quarterback Austin Sumner has started the past two games for SDSU. The Jackrabbits have 13 turnovers on the season while averaging 284.6 yards per game. They are allowing 417.6 yards a contest so far this year.
Last Year's Recap: SDSU 30, YSU 20
Big passing plays by South Dakota State and Kyle Minett's legs made the difference as the Penguins suffered a 30-20 loss to the Jackrabbits at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium.
SDSU had four passes of 33 yards or more, all of which came on scoring drives, and Minett rushed for 185 yards on 26 attempts to lead the Jackrabbits.
Trailing 7-0, YSU went up 9-7 following a Stephen Blose 34-yard field goal and a 33-yard touchdown pass from Kurt Hess to Dominique Barnes with 1:41 left in the first quarter.
But South Dakota State scored 23 of the next 26 points to go on top 30-12 midway through the fourth quarter. The Guins lone points during that stretch came on a 19-yard field goal by Blose that cut the deficit to 17-12.
YSU pulled within 30-20 on a 15-yard pass from Hess to Ely Ducatel and a two-point conversion run by Hess with 5:34 left in the game.
The Jackrabbits have won all three Missouri Valley Football Conference clashes between the two programs and lead the overall series 7-5.
Last season in Brookings, the Jackrabbits earned a 30-20 win over the Penguins. In 2009 at YSU, SDSU scored two second-half touchdowns for a 17-3 win. At Brookings in 2008, the Guins lost 40-7.
The series with SDSU dates back to a 1942 meeting, and the schools played seven times from 1968 through 1979, with the final contest coming in the Division II playoffs at Austintown Fitch High School. The teams resumed the series in 2007 with a YSU win, but SDSU has won the past three games.
Extra Week Pays Off
The Penguins have won six of their last seven games following a bye week dating back to the 1998 campaign. A 2009 loss at Southern Illinois snapped YSU's six-game winning streak coming off idle Saturdays. Historically, the Guins have had success following some time to catch their breath and get healthy. Since 1975, YSU has won 24 of 28 games following an idle weekend. The Oct. 1 respite was just the second off Saturday in October since 1997 (2009 at SIU was the other time).
Don't Leave Early
The Penguins' last 11 Missouri Valley Football Conference games have all been decided by 10 points or fewer. Dating back to a 39-35 win over North Dakota State on Nov. 21, 2009, YSU has played nine MVFC games decided by a touchdown or less out of those 11. The Guins' last five league games dating back to last season have been decided by a total of 21 points. Also, six of those 11 have been decided by five points or less.
Sharing the Ice Castle
The Penguins welcomed some special visitors to Stambaugh Stadium last week. The San Francisco 49ers practiced at the Stadium on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and used the weight and athletic training rooms throughout the week. The 49ers are owned by John and Denise DeBartolo-York, who have a residence in nearby Canfield. Instead of make consecutive treks from the West Coast for East Coast games, the 49ers headquartered in Youngstown last week after beating the Cincinnati Bengals. San Francisco ended the trip on positive note, rallying to beat Philadelphia 24-23 on Sunday.
Cook Remains Steady
Junior tailback Jamaine Cook has rushed for more than 100 yards in the past three games following the ninth 100-yard rushing performance of his career at Indiana State.
He rushed for a season-high 177 yards in the loss to the Sycamores. Cook had 30 carries in the contest.
For the year, he has rushed for 501 yards on 95 carries. Now that conference action has started his workload has increased. In two non-conference games, Cook rushed 32 times. He had 30 carries last time out at Indiana State after a season-high 33 in the win over Illinois State.
Hess Continues to Impress
Sophomore QB Kurt Hess has averaged 240.3 yards passing per game the past three outings. Highlighting Hess' strong performances was a career-high 293-yard and four-touchdown effort in the win over Illinois State.
At Indiana State, Hess completed 25-of-41 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns. It marked the eighth time in his 15 career games that he eclipsed the 200-yard mark.
He is now the seventh quarterback in school history to throw for at least 200 yards in eight games. The school mark is 13 set by Tom Zetts during a four-year career that featured 47 starts.
For the season Hess has completed 75-of-118 passes (63.6 percent) for 847 yards and nine touchdowns while throwing just two interceptions. In his career, he has completed 254-of-422 passes (60.1 percent) for 2,964 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Bryan Already Up to 23
Freshman wide receiver Christian Bryan has 23 catches in his first four games as a Penguin. Bryan had a career-high seven catches at Indiana State, which set a school record for most grabs in a game by a freshman.
His 23 catches are already more than YSU's top receiver had in 2001 (21) and 2002 (20).
In his other three contests, Bryan had five catches against both Illinois State and Valparaiso and six in his debut at Michigan State.
Against the Redbirds, Bryan caught his first career touchdown pass – a 25-yarder from Kurt Hess in the first quarter.
The freshman mark for catches in a game was six, held previously by TB Jake Andreadis, which he established in 1995.
Junior TB Jamaine Cook needs 112 yards to become the 17th player in school history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a career. Kurt Hess needs just 36 yards to become the 12th quarterback in YSU history to throw for more than 3,000 yards as a Guin. Hess's 21 career touchdown passes ranks him 11th in school history as well. Senior LB John Sasson went over 200 tackles for his career at Indiana State.
Preaching Red-Zone Success
Head Coach Eric Wolford continues to stress Red Zone play in his second campaign. In 17 trips this year, the Penguins have scored 16 touchdowns and missed a field goal (at Michigan State).
In his 15 games as coach, the Penguins are 57-for-62 (91.9 percent) when moving the ball inside the red zone.
Last year, YSU was 41-of-45 in the red zone, which ranked third in the FCS, for a conversion percentage of 91.1 percent.
So far through five weeks of FCS action, the Penguins rank sixth in the nation at 94 percent. UNI leads the nation and is the only remaining team in the country to be perfect so far.
Berassa A Playmaker
Sophomore WR Jelani Berassa caught two four-yard touchdown passes against Indiana State. Berassa caught the first touchdown pass of his career in the season opener at Michigan State.
Against the Sycamores, he had six catches for 44 yards and the two scores. Berassa had six catches in the first three games, including three for a career-best 46 yards against Illinois State.
New Line Holding up Well
Through the first four games, the YSU offensive line is allowing an average of one sack per game, which ranks 15th in the FCS. The same unit has started each contest together - LT Andrew Radakovich, LG Lamar Mady, C Mark Pratt, RG Chris Elkins and RT D.J. Main.
Offense High In FCS Ranks
The Penguins rank in the top 20 in the FCS in 12 offensive categories (out of 15). YSU is first in fewest fumbles lost; second in first downs per game and third-down conversion pct.; fourth in turnovers lost; sixth in red zone percentage; seventh in rushing offense; eighth in total offense and scoring offense; 10th in time of possession; 14th in interceptions thrown and fourth-down conversion percentage and 15th in sacks allowed.
Impressive First Halves
The Penguins have scored 118 of their 152 points in the first half this year. YSU has scored 56 points in the first quarter and 62 in the second quarter.
YSU did not punt in the first half against either Illinois State and Valparaiso. Against the Redbirds, YSU scored touchdowns on each of its four first-half scoring drives. In the Valpo game, YSU scored on its first nine possessions and took a knee to end the opening half.
Defense Stepping Up
YSU's defense has been strong in the second half this season. In the past three games, the Guins have allowed 24 second-half points, including a season-low three at Indiana State.
Last year, the Penguins allowed an average of 17 points in the second half. In four games this year, they are allowing just 9.2 a contest.
Since the opener at Michigan State, YSU has allowed just eight first downs and seven pass completions in the past three fourth quarters.
Big Plays Hurt at ISU
YSU had done a good job of limiting big plays in the first three games of the season before the Indiana State game.
In the first three games of the year, the Guins had allowed just six plays longer than 20 yards on 187 opponent snaps.
Indiana State ran just 47 plays, but five were big gainers, including four on the ground. ISU had runs of 62, 61, 51 and 39 (all touchdowns) and connected on 67 yard pass in the fourth quarter.
Otherwise in 42 plays, YSU allowed 187 total yards, 122 yards passing and 65 yards rushing. Shakir Bell had 43 yards on his 17 other attempts that did not go for touchdowns.
The Penguins have converted 29-of-54 third-down situations so far this year (53.7 percent). YSU was 8-of-18 at Indiana State, 7-of-14 versus Illinois State, 6-of-9 against Valpo and 8-of-15 at Michigan State. The Penguins rank second behind Towson (56 percent) in successful third-downs converted at the FCS level.
Last year, YSU was fourth in the FCS in third-down conversions at 47.8 percent.
Distributing the Ball
YSU quarterback Kurt Hess has completed passes to 12 different players so far this season. Six wide receivers, three running backs and three tight ends have combined for 50 receptions so far this year.
Of that group, only TE David Rogers and WR Andre Barboza are seniors. YSU's leading receiver is freshman Christian Bryan with 23 catches for 262 yards. Sophomores Jelani Berassa and Kevin Watts have combined for 21 receptions.
Now We're Cooking
Junior TB Jamaine Cook, who is on the preseason Watch List for the Walter Payton Award, is making a good candidacy for the award averaging 125.2 yards and nearly 24 carries per contest. He is averaging 5.3 yards per rush. He is 10th in the FCS in yards per game average.
For his career, Cook has rushed for 1,888 yards on 357 carries and scored 15 touchdowns while averaging 5.3 yards per carry. He also has 31 receptions for 272 yards.
Cook, a second-team All-MVFC selection in 2010, has nine 100-yard plus rushing games in his career.
Last season against South Dakota State, he rushed for 78 yards on 18 carries.
Youngsters at LB
YSU started three freshmen linebackers at Indiana State. Redshirts Davion Rogers and Travis Williams along with true freshman Teven Williams were all in the starting lineup. Travis Williams was credited with a team-high eight total tackles while Rogers and Teven Williams were each credited with five.
Barboza is Mr. Touchdown
Senior WR Andre Barboza has 10 career receptions, and four are for touchdowns. This year, Barboza has seven catches in four games after having just three in the 2010 campaign. He has three touchdown grabs this year, including 20 and 44-yard touchdown strikes against Illinois State. The previous week against Valparaiso, he had a 24-yard scoring reception.
Turnovers Hard to Come By
After four games, the Penguins have three giveaways and four takeaways. In fact, YSU's lone lost fumble of the season was when DT Aronde Stanton tried to return an Indiana State fumble for a touchdown, only to fumble the ball as well on the one-yard line. Two fourth-quarter Kurt Hess interceptions are the other two giveaways. YSU does not have a turnover in the first or third quarters this season.
However, the opposition has held onto the ball as well. Michigan State fumbled a punt, LB Dom Rich intercepted a pass in the final minute of the first half against Valparaiso and Quentin Jones recovered a fourth-quarter fumble. Shakir Bell was stripped by Stanton at Indiana State.
Top of the Liste
Sophomore punter Nick Liste has been a key contributor as both punter and kickoff specialist this season.
Liste is averaging 38.1 yards per punt while six of his 15 attempts have been inside the opposition's 20-yard line. The coverage has been solid with six of his punts resulting in fair catches while the six that have been returned have resulted in a gain of 28 yards (4.7 avg.).
He averaged 41.1 yards per kick last season, but the trade off was that 15 were returned for an average of 11.7 yards.
Liste has kicked off 22 times this season and because of his kicks and coverages, the Guins are allowing three fewer yards per return than in 2010.
Our Teams are Special
The Penguins have blocked three kicks - two PATs and one punt - and returned a punt for a touchdown so far this season.
The last time the Guins blocked four in one campaign was 2004.
After not punting against Valparaiso, a well-rested Nick Liste had an impressive performance against Illinois State. He placed three of his four punts inside the 20-yard line.
Against Valpo, YSU returned a punt for a touchdown, while blocking a punt and an extra-point. Junior PK David Brown set a school record with 11 extra-point kicks made in a single game while Josh Lee returned his punt for a touchdown a school-record 96 yards.
D-Line Each With a Sack
After four games, each member of the starting defensive line -- Daniel Stewart, Andrew Johnson, Aronde Stanton and Obinna Ekweremuba - has recorded a sack. YSU's four-sack total is already one-third of the way toward last year's 12.
Stewart is the active team leader in career sacks with three ahead of Obinna Ekweremuba (2.0), Andrew Johnson (2.0), Deonta Tate (1.5), Aronde Stanton (1.0) and John Sasson (0.5).
Another QB With Four TDs
QB Kurt Hess became the eighth quarterback in school history to throw four touchdown passes in a game when he accomplished the feat against Illinois State. Hess had scoring throws of 44, 25 20 and 10 in the game.
It was the first time a YSU quarterback threw four in a single game since Brandon Summers against Austin Peay in 2009.
Lee Sets Return Record
Senior CB Josh Lee set a school and conference record with his 96-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter against Valparaiso. It was the second straight season that a Penguin returned a punt for a touchdown in the home opener (Dominique Barnes returned one 80 yards vs. Butler).
No Seniors on the Line
The Penguins have no seniors on the offensive line this year. The last time no seniors started on the line was in 1998.
Since at least 1978, this is the first time no seniors at all were part of the offensive line.
Wolford in Second Year
Head Coach Eric Wolford is in his second season looking to build on last year's three-win campaign. Historically, the second years of head coaches have gone either way.
Here is a look at the previous five coaches and how they fared their first two years: Coach Dwight Beede won four games in each of his first two seasons; Rey Dempsey improved from four to eight; Bill Narduzzi went from five to four, Jim Tressel went from two to eight and Jon Heacock went from eight to seven.
Eight is Enough
The last three times the Penguins dropped eight games in one campaign, they rebounded strong the next year.
YSU is 2-2 in 2011 following a hard-luck 3-8 season last year. Most recently, the Guins lost eight times in 1995 and rebounded to win eight in 1996.
In 1986 (Coach Jim Tressel's first season), YSU suffered nine defeats but regrouped to win eight games and reach the postseason in 1987. In 1980, YSU was 2-8-1 and rebounded with a 7-4 mark the following year.
The only time YSU did not win at least seven games in the immediate year following an eight or nine-loss season was following the lone winless campaign in school history (0-9 in 1970). The Guins won twice in 1971.
WATTS New at YSU
Most visually will be the WATTS, the Watson and Tressel Training Site, an indoor practice facility east of the Stadium. The project was ongoing during last year's football campaign. The building is open for football and sports team practices.
YSU also had a new turf surface installed over the summer. The Sports Construction Group of Brecksville, Ohio, installed Shaw Sportexe's PowerBlade HP+ in Stambaugh Stadium for use by the football and soccer programs.
Single Digits in Fumbles
The Guins have lost one fumble (and that was on a returned fumble by DT Aronde Stanton at Indiana State) after four games this season.
Last year, YSU lost just nine fumbles marking the seventh straight season they have lost single digits in fumbles.
In 2009, YSU lost just three fumbles. In 2008, YSU lost nine in 12 games. YSU had nine fumbles lost in 2007, five in 2006, eight in 2005 and eight in 2004. Prior to the current seven-year streak, the Guins had committed single digits in fumbles lost in consecutive years just twice in school history (1986-87 and 1958-59).
The offense has run 309 plays with special teams chipping in 27 without a lost fumble.
And Your Captains Are:
The Penguins announced their 2011 captains on Aug. 27. Those selected were sophomore quarterback Kurt Hess, junior tailback Jamaine Cook, senior linebacker John Sasson and senior defensive tackle Andrew Johnson. Hess, who started every game at quarterback last year, is believed to be the first sophomore to be named a team captain in school history.
Building a Turnaround
Coach Eric Wolford is working to turn the Penguins' fortunes around quickly.
YSU has 15 junior-college transfers, eight Division I transfers and three lower-division transfers on the current roster.
The FBS transfers are QB Adam Charles (Akron), CB Devonta' Davis (Miami, Fla.), WR Juilian Harrell (Miami, Ohio), DT Andrew Johnson (Bowling Green), OT Andrew Radakovich (Penn State), Anthony Stryffeler (Ball State) and LB Travis Williams (Miami, Fla.).
Fresh Faces Past Two Years
This season the Penguins have played nine true freshmen - three have started - through the first four games. A total of 18 others have made their YSU debuts this year as well.
Last year, a total of 13 freshmen saw the field, including five who started.
Of the eight that are true sophomores in 2011, five are on offense and three are on defense. Donald D'Alesio, Jamarious Boatwright and Zach Larson will redshirt because of injuries while two are no longer with the program.
Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 98-22 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 13-47.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 130-18-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 102-11 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 123-18 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 65-6-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 150-8 when leading entering the fourth.
• 68-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.
Up Next: at Southern Illinois
YSU plays its lone road game in the month of October at Southern Illinois next Saturday. The Penguins will be making their first trip to SIU's two-year-old Saluki Stadium. Kickoff for the contest is set for 3 p.m. Eastern/2 p.m. Central time.
Southern Illinois, which is ranked 20th this week, plays host to North Dakota State on Saturday.