Penguins Return Home For Contest Against Illinois State

The YSU defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 12 straight games.
The YSU defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 12 straight games.

    The 16th-ranked Youngstown State football team returns home following two conference road wins to play host to Illinois State. Kickoff for the contest at Stambaugh Stadium is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday. The game is available on WKBN 570 AM, iHeartRadio as well as ESPN3.com and MyYTV (tape delay).
    YSU (5-1 overall and 2-0 in the MVFC) won its third straight overall and second straight road game beating Indiana State 35-24 last Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind. The Penguins jumped out to a 21-3 first-half lead and eventually led 35-10 in the fourth quarter in a contest that featured a 75-minute inclement weather delay in the third period. Freshman sensation Martin Ruiz continued to impress scoring three touchdowns and rushing 23 times for a career-high 141 yards. Jameel Smith returned an interception 95 yards for a touchdown while Kurt Hess became the school's all-time leader in passing yards and total offensive yards.
    Illinois State (2-3 and 1-1) picked up a 35-21 victory over Western Illinois last Saturday in Normal. The contest was tied at 21 in the fourth quarter following 21 third-quarter points by the Leathernecks. In the fourth, Illinois State scored two touchdowns to pick up its first conference win of the campaign. Marshaun Coprich had three rushing scores while Blake Winkler threw two touchdown passes in the victory.
    The Penguins have won five straight Missouri Valley Football Conference games for just the second time in school history. YSU won its final three league games last season and first two of this year. The only other time YSU won five straight was in 1998-99. The Guins are also off to their first 2-0 conference start since 2006.
    The Penguins and Redbirds have had a hard-fought series throughout the years. In 22 all-time meetings, each team has won 11 times. Last year the Guins led 28-7, but Illinois State scored the final 28 points in a 35-28 come-from-behind win. The home team has won the previous five meetings in the series, including a 34-27 YSU win at Stambaugh in 2011.
    YSU plays host to Western Illinois on the annual Homecoming contest on Oct. 19. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m.

Indiana State Notes
• The Penguins scored on their first offensive play of the game when freshman TB Martin Ruiz scored on a 44-yard run.
• Later in the first quarter, Jameel Smith returned an interception 95 yards for a touchdown. It was the longest INT return since Pat Durina's 95-yard return against Saginaw Valley State in 1978. Durina's pick-six and Smith's return are the second-longest in school history.
• Ruiz scored three rushing touchdowns in a game for the second time this season. His 23 carries and 141 yards against the Sycamores were career-best efforts.
• Senior QB Kurt Hess became the school's all-time passing yardage leader on his first completion of the game - a 16-yard completion to Christian Bryan in the first quarter.
• Bryan scored his first touchdown of the season and had his first TD in eight games.
• YSU led 14-3 after the first quarter despite running just five offensive plays. Indiana State had 29 snaps in the first period.
• The game featured two weather delays. The start of the second-half was delayed approximately 10 minutes while a delay of 75 minutes occurred with 3:02 remaining in the third period.
• Hess made his 39th consecutive start at quarterback.
• After further review, the Penguins had six sacks, seven quarterback hurries and three pass breakups in the game. Indiana State attempted 57 passes in the contest, two shy of the school record.

Indiana State Recap
    YSU had to wither a long weather delay and a keep-away offense to earn a 35-24 win over Indiana State at Memorial Stadium last Saturday.
    The Penguins ran 26 fewer plays in the game and had to sit out a 75-minute delay late in the third quarter before finally fending off the Sycamores to win their second straight league game.
    TB Martin Ruiz scored on YSU's first offensive snap of the game, and Jameel Smith returned an interception 95 yards for a score giving the Guins a 14-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.
    Ruiz had a 13-yard rushing touchdown to extend the advantage to 21-3 before ISU pulled within 21-10 at halftime.
    Leading 28-10 following Ruiz's third score of the game, the contest was delayed with 3:02 left in the third.
    YSU went in front 35-10 on a two-yard touchdown pass from Kurt Hess to Christian Bryan. The Sycamores scored the final two touchdowns to make things interesting late before the Guins ran out the clock.

Last Meeting vs. Illinois State
    Youngstown State built a 28-7 first-half lead, but Illinois State fought back by scoring the final 28 points of the game to hand the Penguins a disappointing 35-28 loss last year at Hancock Stadium.
    YSU dominated the early portion of the game as Jamaine Cook scored three touchdowns and Kurt Hess hit Kintrell Disher on a perfect fade route in the opening 20:19 of the contest.
    Trailing 28-7, the Redbirds scored with 32 seconds left in the first half and took their initial possession of the second half in for a score to make the contest 28-21.
    The game was that way until the fourth quarter when Matt Brown connected with Tyrone Walker from 14 yards out to tie the game at 28 with 10:36 left. ISU broke the stalemate with 2:44 left when Brown scored on a quarterback sneak just three plays after wide receiver Phil Dudley threw a 50-yard pass to Lechein Neblett.
    YSU drove to the ISU 26-yard line, but three straight incompletions and a sack ended any Penguin comeback hopes.

Series History
    The Penguins and Redbirds have had many tightly-contested games in a series that dates back to 1979. The series is tied 11-11 with each home team owning seven victories. In fact, the home team has won each of the past five contests.
    Of the 22 meetings, 13 have been decided by a touchdown or less. In fact, just nine points (576-567) separates the two teams in the all-time scoring totals of the series, with YSU holding the slim lead.
    The Penguins have scored at least 20 points in each game since the 2001 campaign. YSU has scored 28-plus points in each of the last five meetings but has won just twice.

Road Warriors
    The Penguins have won three straight Missouri Valley Football Conference road games with wins at Western Illinois (2012) and this year at Southern Illinois and Indiana State.
    YSU last won two road conference games in the same season in 2011 - at Southern Illinois and at North Dakota State.
    The last time YSU knocked off Indiana State and Southern Illinois on the road in the same year was 2001.

Solid League Start
    After the first two weeks of the league season, seven teams have wins and only two unbeaten teams remain. YSU and North Dakota State are 2-0 and three of the four wins have come on the road. Three teams are winless, but UNI and Indiana State have played just one league game.
3-0 League Start
    The Guins last started MVFC play 3-0 in 2006. That season was the only time in school history that YSU won the outright conference crown.
    The other 3-0 Valley Football starts were  in 2005, 2000 and 1999. In 1999 and 2005, YSU was 4-0. The Penguins went a combined 20-6 in league play those years.

Going For Six
    The Penguins have a shot to accomplish something on Saturday that has not happened since they joined the MVFC in 1997, win six straight league games.
    YSU is on a five-game win streak dating back to last November. YSU closed out the 2012 campaign winning its last three league games and have won its first two this season.
    The only other time the Guins have won five straight league games was the final game of 1998 and the first four of 1999.

Hess Sets Yardage Records
    Senior quarterback Kurt Hess set two YSU career records in the win at Indiana State. Hess had 164 yards passing against the Sycamores and now has 7,887 yards in his stellar career. He had 180 yards of total offense, and his 8,457 yards is now a YSU record.
    After catching Tom Zetts for those two marks, Hess can set his sights on two more of the former standouts waning records. Hess is 22 completions and 74 attempts shy of matching Zetts's marks in those categories.
    Hess owns school marks with 64 career touchdown passes, 21 200-yard passing games, 202.2 passing yards per game, a passer rating at 142.72 and TDs responsible for with 72.

Ruiz Making Big Impact
    Freshman TB Martin Ruiz has scored 11 touchdowns - 10 rushing and one receiving - so far this season.
    Ruiz made his first career start in the win at Indiana State last Saturday. He didn't disappoint rushing for 141 yards on 23 carries and scoring three touchdowns. On his first play as a starter, Ruiz ran straight up the middle scoring a touchdown on a 44-yard run.
    In five of six games this season, Ruiz has scored a touchdown (did not score against Southern Illinois).
    In the opener he had 45 yards on 11 attempts against Dayton. Against Morehead State he had 117 yards on just six carries and had two scores. At Michigan State he caught and rushed for a touchdown. Against Duquesne he rushed for 65 yards on 17 carries and scored three times. At Southern Illinois, he had 87 yards on 20 carries and caught three passes for 50 yards.
    He has 491 yards rushing so far this year.

Crazy Game For Defense
    The Sycamores ran 87 plays, 57 of which were passing attempts against the Penguins.
    The 87 plays were the most against YSU since Kent State ran 88 in 2003.
    The 57 pass attempts were the most against YSU since Alcorn State's 82 in 1994 and fourth most ever.
    The 56 attempts by Mike Perish were the most by one quarterback against the Guins since Montana's Drew Miller had 56 in the 1999 playoffs. Perish's 387 yards were the fifth-most allowed to one quarterback.
    The defense did get some payback. The Guins registered six sacks, had seven quarterback hurries, broke up three passes and had a pick-six.

Delays For The Penguins
    Last season, weather held up the start of two YSU games. At Indiana State, mother nature wreaked havoc in the middle of the game on two occasions.
    The start of the second half was delayed 10 minutes, and a 75-minute delay occurred with 3:02 left in the third quarter.
    It was the first in-game delay since an 83-minute disruption at Liberty on Sept. 27, 2003. YSU won that game 34-3.
    Since 1978, YSU has had five games delayed during the contest because of weather related issues (minutes in parenthesis):
• Oct. 5, 2013 at Indiana State (75/10)
• Sept. 27, 2003 at Liberty (83)
• Sept. 29, 1990 vs. Akron (71)
• Nov. 5, 1983 at Akron (44)
• Sept. 30, 1978 vs. Saginaw Valley St. (40)

Smith Goes the Distance
    Redshirt freshman Jameel Smith's first interception of his career was a memorable one.
    With YSU leading 7-3 late in the first quarter, Smith intercepted Mike Perish's pass at the Penguins' five-yard line and turned up field. Running along the Penguins' sideline, Smith used some good blocking and made some nifty moves to go 95 yards for a touchdown with 1:08 left in the period.
    Smith's return was the longest by a Penguin since Pat Durina went 95 yards against Saginaw Valley State on Sept. 30, 1978 (that game also featured a weather delay). The longest INT return for a score is 97 yards by Don Crumb against Southeast Louisiana in 1969.

Bryan With A Score
    Junior WR Christian Bryan caught his first touchdown pass of the season against Indiana State. Bryan had a two-yard scoring catch from Kurt Hess in the fourth quarter. It was his first TD catch in eight games dating back to last year's contest at South Dakota State. His last TD at home was against UNI last September.

Three Play Entire Game
    Three of the four members of the starting secondary - Donald D'Alesio, Dale Peterman and Julius Childs played all 97 snaps at Indiana State. The Sycamores had 87 official plays with 10 being negated by either a YSU or ISU penalty.
    Childs had 11 total tackles, including seven solo stops, two pass breakups and a TFL. D'Alesio had nine tackles, a forced fumble and fumble recovery. Peterman had six total stops in the contest.

>400 Yards/27 Points
    The Penguins have had more than 400 yards of total offense in 21 of the 39 games under Head Coach Eric Wolford. YSU has eclipsed the mark in three games this season. Of his 39 contests, YSU has had more than 300 yards in 34 of them.
    Additionally, the Guins have scored 27-or-more points in 29 of Wolford's 39 games at the helm.

Home-Field Advantage
    The Penguins have been doing a good job of making the "Ice Castle" a fortress once again. This season the Guins are 3-0 at home and, combined with last year's 5-1 mark, have won eight of their last nine at Stambaugh Stadium. YSU has won two straight at home against Illinois State.

Eight-Game FCS Win Streak
    YSU owns an eight-game winning streak against FCS foes entering the Illinois State tilt this Saturday.
    In its last eight contests at the FCS level, YSU is averaging 36 points per game, 244.8 yards rushing per game, 213.8 yards passing per game and 442 yards of total offense per game while scoring 39 TDs. Its opponents are averaging 14.3 points, 85.4 rushing yards, 261.5 passing yards, 317.6 total yards and have scored 14 touchdowns.
    The most points allowed in that stretch has been 27, which was by Southern Illinois on Sept. 28.

Hess Back in Rhythm
    Senior QB Kurt Hess has had solid outings the past five contests.
    In his last five games, Hess is 81-of-131 for 1,117 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has a passing efficiency of 161.71,
    Playing just the first half in the win over Morehead State, he completed 16-of-19 passes for 282 yards and three touchdowns.
    At Michigan State he was 11-of-27 for 121 yards and a touchdown. In two career games at MSU he completed 28 passes, including two touchdowns with just one interception.
    In the win over Duquesne, he was 15-of-25 for 292 yards and two touchdowns. The 292 yards marked the third-highest total he has thrown for in his career.
    At SIU he completed 25-of-37 passes for 258 yards and four scores and was named the MVFC Offensive Player of the Week.
    At Indiana State he was 14-of-23 for 164 yards and a touchdown.

Kickers Have been Strong
    Senior P Nick Liste and junior PK Joey Cejudo are off to strong starts this year. Both have already been honored as MVFC Specialists of the Week (Cejudo vs. Morehead State and Liste vs. Michigan State).
    Liste is averaging 44.5 yards per punt on 30 attempts. As the kickoff specialist, he has 21 touchbacks in 41 kicks. Against Michigan State, Liste had kicks of 55, 62, 52, 53 46, 50 and 48 for an average of 52.3 in the contest.
    Cejudo has been solid converting all 31 PAT tries and making field goals from 34, 37 and 40 yards. He made a season-long 40-yarder in the first quarter vs. Duquesne.

Numbers Under Wolf
    After 39 games, Head Coach Eric Wolford is now 21-18. YSU has won 16 of its last 23 games under Wolford since the mid-point of the 2011 season. A couple of good notes have come from his first 39 games regarding wins and losses:
• YSU is 11-0 when allowing 20 points or fewer
• YSU is 19-1 when allowing 27 points or fewer
• YSU is 20-2 when allowing 33 points or fewer

New Chefs in the Kitchen
    The Penguins have had three different 100-yard rushers in the first six games of the post-Jamaine Cook era.
    Against Morehead State, freshman Jody Webb rushed for 122 yards while freshman Martin Ruiz had 117 yards. The duo combined to score five touchdowns. At Indiana State, Ruiz rushed for a career-best 141 yards on 22 attempts.
    Against Dayton, senior Adaris Bellamy had 203 yards rushing - more than his entire 2012 total. Senior tailback Torrian Pace has 181 yards this year.
    In their careers, Bellamy has 1,221 yards on 217 carries, Pace has 704 yards on 147 rushes. Ruiz has 491 on 88 attempts so far this season. Sophomore Demond Hymes has 100 yards on 20 attempts.

Red-Zone Success
    YSU has converted at a high success rate in the red zone under Head Coach Eric Wolford.
    In six games this year, YSU is 25-of-27 (92.5 percent) after going 4-for-4 vs. Dayton, 7-of-8 against Morehead State, 2-of-2 at Michigan State, 5-of-6 vs. Duquesne, 4-of-4 at Southern Illinois and 3-of-3 at Indiana State. YSU has scored touchdowns on 23 of those 27 red-zone visits.
    In his 39 games as coach, the Penguins are an amazing 143-for-163 (87.7 percent) inside the red zone.
    The Penguins were 35-of-43 inside the red-zone in 2012 (81.7 percent). YSU scored 31 touchdowns and made four field goals.
    In 47 visits in 2011, the Penguins scored 39 touchdowns and kicked three field goals. YSU scored a total of 280 points on 42 of those 47 visits (89.4 percent).
    During Wolford's first campaign in 2010, YSU was 41-of-45 in the red zone for a conversion percentage of 91.1 percent.

Providing Protection
    In 39 games under Head Coach Eric Wolford, YSU has allowed just 41 sacks. Senior quarterback Kurt Hess has started all of those contests. Last season, YSU allowed a school-record low eight sacks.
    The YSU offensive line has surrendered just 25 sacks in the last 29 games as well.
    Only eight times under Wolford and assistant coach Carmen Bricillo have the Guins allowed more than one sack, and four of those came in 2010. In the four contests against BCS foes, the Penguins have allowed a total of two sacks.

Four-Takeaway win Streak
    YSU has won 19 straight games when it forces at least four turnovers after forcing four in the win over Duquesne. The last loss was against UNI in 2006. Since 2006, the Guins are 21-1 when they have at least four takeaways in a game. Last year, the single-game high was two turnovers forced, which came on four occasions.

Picks On the Rise
    The Penguins have intercepted five passes the midway point of the season, which is one more than they had in 11 games last year.
    YSU has been opportunistic returning two of those interceptions for touchdowns this season.
    The defense had four INTs last year, two of which came in the final quarter of the final game.
    So far this season, the Guins had two interceptions against Dayton, one vs. Morehead State, one against Duquesne and one at Indiana State.
    Including the final game of the season last year vs. Indiana State, YSU has seven interceptions in the last seven games. The Guins had two picks in the first 10 games a year ago.

Top of the Liste
    Senior punter Nick Liste continues to be a key contributor as punter and kickoff specialist.
    Twice this year he has averaged more than 50 yards in a game - 51.0 vs. Dayton and 50.9 at Michigan State.
    He is averaging 41.3 yards per punt in his career on 161 kicks. His average ranks first in school history by 0.4 yards ahead of Nick Xides' 40.9 set back in 1982-85.
    This season, Liste has 11 punts of 50 yards or longer. His previous high for a year was eight in 2011.
    Handling kickoff duties, last year he had 18 touchbacks after having just three in 2011. Liste has 21 so far in this campaign.
    As a junior, he averaged 40.7 yards per punt last season. As a sophomore, he averaged 39.8 yards per punt. As a freshman, he averaged 41.1 yards per kick in 2010.

New Faces on the Line
    Sophomore Trevor Strickland has started the past two games at left tackle for the Penguins. Strickland took the spot of injured senior Kyle Bryant protecting the blind-side of QB Kurt Hess.
    The first start of Strickland's career came at Southern Illinois and made him the fourth offensive lineman this year to start a game for the first time.
    First-time starters Andrew Sinko, Fred Herdman and Brock Eisenhuth had started the first five games of the campaign. Senior Chris Elkins, a former guard, has started at center in every game so far this year.
    Sinko and Herdman are seniors while Eisenhuth is just a redshirt freshman. Strickland played defense and tight end last year.

Stubbs All-Around Player
    Sophomore WR Andre Stubbs has 16 receptions, 15 kickoff returns, six rushes and three punt returns showing his versatility.
    In his career, Stubbs has 47 kickoff returns, 37 receptions, 20 rushes and 13 punt returns. He has amassed a team-high 1,901 all-purpose yards so far in just 18 games.
    At Michigan State, Stubbs had a game-high 193 all-purpose yards, including 138 on kickoff returns. He had a 52-yard kickoff return at Indiana State last Saturday.
    He had a personal-best 206 all-purpose yards last year against Southern Illinois. His 172 all-purpose yards helped lead the Penguins to a 31-17 win at Pittsburgh a year ago.

In the Squeakers
    The Penguins' 28-27 win over Southern Illinois was their first one-point victory against a conference opponent since joining the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 1997. YSU had dropped two one-point decisions to UNI  (2007 and 2008) and a one-point contest to the Salukis (2000). The last one-point win was a 23-22 triumph over Southern Utah (Oct. 13, 2007). The Guins are 24-9 all-time in one-point contests.

Three is Still Important
    Under Coach Eric Wolford, YSU is a combined 24-of-29 on field-goal attempts (82.7 percent) since 2010.
    First-year PK Joey Cejudo has made the first three attempts of his career this year, including a 40-yard field goal against Duquesne.
    Last season, PK David Brown converted from 47 (Indiana State), 31 (Western Illinois), 27 (Valparaiso), 25 (Pittsburgh, Albany) and 20 (ISU) yards. In 2011, the Penguins did not make a field goal in the first eight games before converting a 28-yard kick at UNI and two (33 and 30) at North Dakota State.
    YSU was 12-of-14 in 2010.

Youthful Defense
    The Guins have just five seniors on defense this year - DE Kyle Sirl, CB Dale Peterman, DT D.J. Moss, LB Dom Rich and LB Ali Cheaib. And all five have not been on the field together this season.
    Peterman, Moss and Rich have missed a game because of injury at some point this year. Rich and Moss did not play at Indiana State.
    Sirl is the lone senior to start all six games this year while Cheaib is the only other senior to play in every game.
    Peterman has started the past three games,  Rich has started three times and Moss started twice this year. Cheaib has been in the starting lineup twice.
    Rich has 14 career starts (three in 2013, eight in 2012 and three in 2010), Sirl has 11 (five in 2013 and six in 2012), Peterman has 14 (11 in 2012 and three this year), Moss has five (two this year, two in 2012 and one in 2010),  and Cheaib has four (one each in 2011, 2012 and two in 2013). So in total, the five seniors on defense have started 48 games in their careers.

Lefties Few & Far Between
    Preseason All-American senior C Chris Elkins has made a successful debut at the position. Elkins has started the past 31 games, including a stretch of 26 consecutive at right guard, before assuming duties as starting center in 2013.
    Elkins is just one of two FCS centers who are left-handed. The other is Wagner's David Fredrickson, who has started 29 straight games. Note courtesy of Wagner's John Beisser.

Five Serve as Captains
    The Penguins will have five captains for the 2013 campaign. Senior quarterback Kurt Hess, senior wide receiver Jelani Berassa, senior center Chris Elkins, junior strong safety Donald D'Alesio and senior linebacker Dom Rich are serving as team captains.
    With his selection, Hess becomes the first three-time captain in school history after serving in 2011 and 2012. Rich is a repeat pick from the 2012 campaign. D'Alesio is the lone non-senior in the group.

Poll Position
    The Penguins made a major move in the National Polls this week. YSU is ranked 16th in the FCS Coaches Poll and 18th in the Sports Network Poll. YSU was 22nd in the coaches and not ranked in the Sports Network before a major shakeup this week.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 112-24 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 16-53.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 140-18-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 113-12 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 135-22 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 73-8-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 165-11 when leading entering the fourth.
• 74-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.

Up Next: Western Illinois
    YSU plays its annual Homecoming contest against Western Illinois next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.