Football

Penguins Make First-Ever Journey to DakotaDome To Face USD

Chris Elkins

    The 10th-ranked Youngstown State football team makes its first-ever trip to the DakotaDome to face South Dakota on Saturday. Kickoff at the DakotaDome is set for 2 p.m. Eastern time/1 p.m. Central. The game is available on WKBN 570 AM, iHeartRadio, ESPN3.com and WBCB.
    YSU (7-1 overall and 4-0 in the MVFC) was off last week and this Saturday will look to keep pace in the Missouri Valley Football Conference race. Only the Penguins and North Dakota State are unbeaten in league play entering the month of November. The Penguins capped off a perfect October by grinding out a 24-14 victory over Western Illinois on Oct. 19. The contest was tied at 14 in the fourth quarter before a Joey Cejudo field goal and a beautiful touchdown grab by Nate Adams helped lift the Guins past the pesky Leathernecks. Freshman tailback sensation Martin Ruiz rushed for a career-high 199 yards and had runs of 60 and 57 against WIU. YSU has won five straight games overall, seven straight in MVFC play (a school record) and 10 straight against FCS foes.
    South Dakota (4-4 and 3-2) had a three-game winning streak snapped at Illinois State last Saturday. The Coyotes allowed four Redbird touchdowns of 27 yards or more in a 28-14 loss in Normal. ISU led 28-7 entering the fourth quarter before USD pulled within two scores. The Coyotes had four fourth-quarter possessions, the final two ending on interceptions in Redbird territory. USD is 3-0 at home this year with all three victories coming by a field goal. In fact, the Coyotes have not allowed more than 14 points to an opponent at the DakotaDome this season (10 and 14 - twice). The contest against the Penguins is the first of a three-game homestand for USD, which then play Montana and South Dakota State.
    This is just the second meeting between YSU and South Dakota. Last year, the Guins held on a for a 13-10 victory as Jamaine Cook rushed for 203 yards on 42 carries. The Penguins led 13-0 late in the third quarter before the Coyotes made a late rally. The win against USD started the Guins' current run of 10 straight FCS wins and seven-straight league victories.
    The Penguins remain indoors next Saturday when they visit the UNI-Dome to take on UNI.

Western Illinois Notes
• The Penguins scored 10 fourth-quarter points, which marked the third time they have scored double figures in the final period this year.
• The last time the Guins were tied entering the fourth quarter was against UNI last season. The Penguins won that contest 42-35.
• In five home games this year, the Penguins have outscored the opposition 237-71.
• WIU ran 77 plays to the Penguins' 55. The 55 plays for YSU were its second-fewest this season (47 at Michigan State).
• YSU has won twice this season when competing single-digit passes (nine vs. Dayton and seven vs. Western Illinois). The Guins have won nine straight when connecting on nine-or-fewer passes in a game.
• The seven completions against the Leathernecks were the fewest in a game since seven in a win over North Dakota State in 2008.
• YSU improved to 5-0 all-time when junior TE Nate Adams catches a touchdown pass.
• The Penguins have won five straight games when QB Kurt Hess throws a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
• Hess had his 23rd multiple-TD passing game of his career and fifth of the season.
• Freshman TB Martin Ruiz had two 50-plus runs as part of his career-best 199-yard total. He scored on a 60-yard run in the first quarter, then had a 57-yard gain with YSU facing a 3rd-and-7 from its own 26-yard line in the fourth quarter.
• Senior DE Kyle Sirl had a career-best 10 tackles
• Hess made his 41st straight start and set the career completion mark in the contest.

Western Illinois Recap
    The Penguins scored 10 fourth-quarter points to earn a 24-14 win over Western Illinois on a cool Homecoming at Stambaugh Stadium.
    Tailback Martin Ruiz rushed for a career-high 199 yards, and Kurt Hess threw two touchdown passes in the victory.
    The Penguins jumped out in front 7-0 when Ruiz scored on a 60-yard run midway through the first quarter. WIU tied the game on the first play of the second quarter when QB Trenton Norvell scored from a yard out.
    YSU led 14-7 at halftime when Hess found Christian Bryan for a seven-yard scoring toss.
    In the third, WIU tied the game when Norvell hit Lance Lenoir on a nine-yard pass with 7:26 left in the period.
    The Penguins took a 17-14 lead on a 33-yard field goal from Joey Cejudo with 11:34 left in the game. Nine minutes later, Nate Adams' spectacular diving catch on Hess's two-yard toss sealed the victory.

Last Meeting vs. USD
    Youngstown State jumped out to a 13--point lead and held on for a 13-10 win over South Dakota at Stambaugh Stadium on Homecoming last November.
    Jamaine Cook carried the load offensively rushing for 203 yards on 42 attempts.
    The Penguins took their initial drive of the game and marched 84 yards in 15 plays to go on top 6-0. On third-and-goal from the three, Kurt Hess found Nate Adams for the touchdown.
    YSU extended its lead on its first drive of the second half. This time Cook punched it in from a yard out to cap a nine-play, 75-yard drive.
    USD answered with a 37-yard field goal by Kevin Robb, and Jasper Sanders scored on a 22-yard run with 10:48 left in the fourth to make it a 13-10 ballgame.
    Facing a 4th-and-11 from their own 41, Coyotes quarterback Josh Vander Maten was sacked by Aronde Stanton and Josh Fenderson with 1:16 left to seal the YSU victory.

USD Gets Defensive
    South Dakota's defense ranks fifth in the FCS in total defense allowing just 297.5 yards per game. The Coyotes have one of the top secondaries in the country allowing just 125.1 yards passing a game (second in the FCS) and intercepting 10 passes while allowing nine touchdowns.
    At home, the most points allowed has been 14 this year and in three games the Coyotes have surrendered just 35 points. Four times in eight games, USD has allowed under 300 yards of offense.

Road Warriors
    The Penguins have won three straight Missouri Valley Football Conference road games with wins at Western Illinois in 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 the Penguins won three MVFC road games in a campaign was in 2006 when they were 4-0 on the road.
    The last time YSU knocked off Indiana State and Southern Illinois on the road in the same year was 2001.

Fewer Completions=W
    The Penguins have won nine straight games when completing fewer than 10 passes in a contest. The last loss came in 2005 at Pittsburgh.
    Of those nine wins, seven have come in conference play, including last time out against Western Illinois on Oct. 19. YSU has won twice this year after completing nine passes against Dayton and seven vs. WIU.
Two at the Top
    After the first five weeks of the league season, seven teams have two losses and three have four. Only North Dakota State and Youngstown State remain unbeaten. NDSU visits YSU on Nov. 16. Entering November, UNI and Indiana State are still looking for their first MVFC wins.

5-0 League Start
    The Penguins have never been 5-0 to start conference play since joining the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 1997. A win at South Dakota on Saturday will make them 5-0 in league play for the first time in school history.
    The 4-0 start in 2013 marks just the third time the Guins have opened league play with four victories.
    In 1999 and 2005 the Penguins were 4-0 to start league play. In 2005, YSU dropped back-to-back games at UNI and at Southern Illinois  before winning the finale against Western Kentucky.
    In 1999, YSU was 4-0 before falling to Illinois State 31-28 and ending the season with a 17-14 win over Missouri State.

School-Best Win Streak
    The Penguins are on a school-best seven-game MVFC winning streak. YSU closed out the 2012 campaign winning its last three league games and has won its first four this season.
    The Guins' previous longest conference win streak was five. That spanned the final game of the 1998 season and the first four of 1999.

Turning the Heat Up
    The Penguins have 13 sacks in the past three games. The Penguins had six at Indiana State, three against Illinois State and four last time out against Western Illinois.
    Against WIU, the Guins had sacks on fourth, third and two on second-down.
    In the past three games, eight different players have at least one sack. Leading the way is Kyle Sirl, who has four sacks and six TFLs the last three games. Emmanuel Kromah has had three sacks while Derek Rivers and Vince Coleman each have a pair.
    Also, YSU has 21 TFLs and eight quarterback hurries in the past three contests.

Bryan With A Score
    Junior WR Christian Bryan had his second touchdown reception of the season in the win over Western Illinois. It was the 11th receiving touchdown of his career.
    Bryan is tied for 11th in school history for career touchdown receptions with his 11 TDs. He is one of 13 players in YSU history with 11-or-more TD grabs in a season.
    Prior to his TD catch against WIU, his last TD at home was against UNI last September.
Six with two-Plus TDs
    The Penguins have six players who have caught at least two touchdowns, making it tough to have defenses focus on just one-or-two players.
    Leading the way are Marcel Caver, Nate Adams and Andre Stubbs with three. Christian Bryan, Andrew Williams and Carson Sharbaugh each have a pair.
    The last time the Guins had six players with two-or-more receiving touchdowns in the same year was 1990 (in 12 games).
    Last year, YSU had four players catch two-or-more in a year with Will Shaw leading the way with five.

Sirl the Sackmaster
    Senior DE Kyle Sirl is coming off a career-high 10-tackle performance in the win over Western Illinois.
    This season, Sirl has a career-high 29 total tackles and started all eight games. In 21 career games entering his senior season, Sirl had 23 total tackles and started six times.
    He has come on strong the past three games being credited with 19 total tackles, six TFLs and four sacks.

Ruiz Making Big Impact
    Freshman TB Martin Ruiz leads all FCS freshmen in touchdowns scored with 13. Ruiz ranks 13th in the FCS in points scored per game with 9.8 (78 points in eight games).
    He is tied for seventh in the FCS with 12 rushing scores while the next closest freshman running back is Mercer's Caleb Brown with six, also in eight games played.
    Ruiz has started the past three contests and has combined to rush for 425 yards on 52 attempts and has five touchdowns. He is averaging an impressive 8.2 yards per run the last three games and has 775 yards on 117 attempts - an average of 6.6 a rush - this year.
    He has a touchdown in seven of eight games this year (did not score at Southern Illinois).
    In his first career start at Indiana State, he had 141 yards on 23 carries and scored three touchdowns. Against Illinois State he had 85 yards on eight carries. He had a career-high 199 yards on 21 attempts vs. WIU.

Adams TD Is A Good Thing
    Junior TE Nate Adams made an incredible diving catch with 2:34 left in the fourth quarter to help the Penguins beat Western Illinois. For Adams it was the fifth touchdown catch of his career and the fifth game of his career in which he had a receiving touchdown.
    The Penguins are a perfect 5-0 when Adams catches a scoring toss. This year he has scoring grabs against Western Illinois, Southern Illinois and Duquesne. In 2012 he had scoring grabs against UNI and South Dakota.
Ruiz Nearing Frosh Record
    Freshman TB Martin Ruiz is closing in on the school record for rushing yards by a freshman. Ruiz has 775 yards on 117 carries and has scored 12 touchdowns. He is averaging an impressive 6.6 yards per carry.
    The freshman mark for yards in a season is 804 set by Kamryn Keys back in 2008. The school mark for carries by a freshman is 164 set by Adrian Brown in 1996.

Another Record in Sight
    Senior QB Kurt Hess set a school mark for career completions during the Western Illinois game. Hess completed seven passes against the Leathernecks and now has 656 in his career.
    Hess has chased down almost every career passing mark in school history. He still trails Tom Zetts's career attempts mark of 1,094. Hess sits at 1,059.
    With his 311-yard passing performance in the win over Illinois State on Oct. 12, Hess joined former YSU QBs Trenton Lykes, Denny Klembara, Brandon Summers and Ron Jaworski as players who have multiple 300-yard passing games in their careers. Hess's previous best was 306 set against Missouri State in 2011.
    Hess owns school marks with 70 career touchdown passes, 22 200-yard passing games, 201.1 passing yards per game, a passer rating of 144.25 and TDs responsible for with 79.

Kickers Have Been Strong
    Senior P Nick Liste and junior PK Joey Cejudo have both been honored as MVFC Specialists of the Week - Cejudo against Morehead State and Liste at Michigan State and Western Illinois.
    Liste is averaging 44.3 yards per punt on 36 attempts. As the kickoff specialist, he has 29 touchbacks in 56 kicks. This season, 51.8 percent of his kickoffs have been for touchbacks compared to 17 percent his first two years.
    Cejudo has been solid converting all 42 PAT tries and making field goals from 33, 34, 37, 38 and 40 yards. He made a season-long 40-yarder in the first quarter vs. Duquesne.
    YSU kickers have made 50 straight PATs.

50-Plus Point Games
    The Penguins have tied a school record with three 50-plus point games in a season. This year, YSU has scored 67 vs. Morehead State and 59 twice (Illinois State and Duquesne).
    The only other campaign the Guins scored 50-or-more points three times during a season was in 1994. YSU had 63 in the playoffs against Alcorn State and had two 52-point contests (Buffalo and Slippery Rock).
    Since Coach Eric Wolford took over, YSU has scored more than 50 points seven times.

More Turnovers
    In just four conference games, the Penguins have forced eight turnovers. YSU has intercepted four passes and recovered four fumbles.
    Last year in eight conference games, the defense created seven turnovers. Four of those came in the final two games. In the last six conference games, the Guins have forced 12 turnovers and have a turnover margin of plus-7 in that span.

Providing Protection
    In 41 games under Head Coach Eric Wolford, YSU has allowed just 43 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 27 sacks in the last 31 games as well.
    Only nine times under Wolford and assistant coach Carmen Bricillo have the Guins allowed more than one sack, and four of those came in 2010.

>400 Yards/27 Points
    The Penguins have had more than 400 yards of total offense in 22 of the 41 games under Head Coach Eric Wolford. YSU has eclipsed the mark in four games this season. Of his 41 contests, YSU has had more than 300 yards in 35 of them.
    Additionally, the Guins have scored 27-or-more points in 30 of Wolford's 41 games at the helm.

Numbers Under Wolf
    After 41 games, Head Coach Eric Wolford is now 23-18. YSU has won 18 of its last 25 games under Wolford since the mid-point of the 2011 season. A couple of good notes have come from his first 41 games regarding wins and losses:
• YSU is 12-0 when allowing 20 points or fewer
• YSU is 21-1 when allowing 27 points or fewer
• YSU is 22-2 when allowing 33 points or fewer

10-Game FCS Win Streak
    YSU owns a 10-game winning streak against FCS foes entering the South Dakota tilt this Saturday.
    In its last 10 contests at the FCS level, YSU is averaging 37.1 points per game, 233.6 yards rushing per game, 206.8 yards passing per game and 440.4 yards of total offense per game while scoring 50 TDs. Its opponents are averaging 14.9 points, 101.2 rushing yards, 226.9 passing yards and 328.1 total yards and have scored 19 touchdowns.
    The most points allowed in that stretch is 27, which was by Southern Illinois on Sept. 28, 2013.

Hess in a Rhythm
    Senior QB Kurt Hess has had solid outings the past seven contests.
    In his last seven games, Hess is 105-of-170 for 1,475 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has a passing efficiency of a whopping 166.47.
    Highlighting his performances over the past several weeks was a 17-of-21 for 311 yards and four-touchdown performance vs. Illinois State.
    Playing just the first half in the win over Morehead State, he completed 16-of-19 passes for 282 yards and three touchdowns.
    In the win over Duquesne, he was 15-of-25 for 292 yards and two touchdowns. At SIU he completed 25-of-37 passes for 258 yards and four scores and was named the MVFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Scoring in Bunches
    YSU has had a knack for scoring in bunches this season to put the opposition away.
    Against Morehead State, the Guins opened the game by scoring 36 straight points before going on a 24-point burst later in the game. Against Duquesne, the Guins opened up a 24-0 lead and scored 35 of the final 38 points.
    At Southern Illinois, YSU trailed 27-13 but scored 14 points in under eight minutes to rally in the fourth quarter. At Indiana State, YSU scored 21 straight points and added back-to-back touchdowns in the second half.
    Against Illinois State, YSU trailed 7-0 before scoring 28 unanswered points. After the Redbirds closed to within 28-14, YSU scored 24 straight points.
    The Penguins scored the last 10 points in the win over Western Illinois.

Four-TD Passing Games
    Since Nov. 1, 2008, YSU quarterbacks Kurt Hess (six) and Brandon Summers (two) have combined to throw at least four touchdowns in a game eight times. That is a span of 56 games. Hess threw a school-record five touchdown passes vs. Missouri State in 2011. Also in 2011, Hess had four and Marc Kanetsky had one for a total of five against Western Illinois.
    In school history before November 2008, a group of six quarterbacks combined for eight four-passing touchdown games. YSU had played 702 games up to that point in school history.

Picks On the Rise
    The Penguins have intercepted eight passes, which is four more than they had in 11 games last year.
    YSU has been opportunistic returning two of those interceptions for touchdowns this season.
    So far this season, the Guins had two interceptions against Dayton and Illinois State and one each against Western Illinois, Morehead State, Duquesne and Indiana State.
    Including the final game of the season last year against Indiana State, YSU has 10 interceptions in the last nine games. The Guins had two picks in the first 10 games a year ago.

Red-Zone Success
    YSU has converted at a high success rate in the red zone under Head Coach Eric Wolford.
    This year, YSU is 33-of-35 (94.2 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, 3-of-3 at Indiana State, 5-of-5 vs. Illinois State and 3-of-3 vs. Western Illinois. YSU has scored touchdowns on 30 of those red-zone visits and is third in the FCS in red-zone percentage.
    In his 41 games as coach, the Penguins are an amazing 151-for-171 (88.3 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 (91.1 percent).

Berassa Back in End Zone
    Senior WR Jelani Berrasa's 10-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter against Illinois State was his first since Nov. 19, 2011 (vs. Missouri State).
    Berassa missed the 2012 season with a knee injury after catching 37 passes for 552 yards and eight TDs in 2011.
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. YSU caused three turnovers vs. Illinois State.

Three is Still Important
    Under Coach Eric Wolford, YSU is a combined 26-of-31 on field-goal attempts (83.8 percent) since 2010.
    First-year PK Joey Cejudo has made the first five attempts of his career this year, including a long of 40 yards 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.

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 41.4 yards per punt in his career on 167 kicks. His average ranks first in school history by 0.5 yards ahead of Nick Xides' 40.9 set back in 1982-85.
    This season, Liste has 13 punts of 50 yards or longer. His previous high for a year was eight in 2011. His average of 44.3 this season is nearly two-and-a-half yards ahead of Xides' school mark of 41.8 set in 1985.
    Handling kickoff duties, last year he had 18 touchbacks after having just three in 2011. Liste has 29 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.

Stubbs All-Around Player
    Sophomore WR Andre Stubbs has 20 receptions, 20 kickoff returns, nine rushes and three punt returns showing his versatility.
    In his career, Stubbs has 52 kickoff returns, 42 receptions, 33 rushes and 13 punt returns. He has amassed a team-high 2,108 all-purpose yards so far in just 20 games.
    At Michigan State, Stubbs had a game-high 193 all-purpose yards, including 138 on kickoff returns. He had a career-long 54-yard kickoff return against the Spartans.
    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 in 2012.

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.

Lefties Few & Far Between
    Preseason All-American senior C Chris Elkins has made a successful debut at the position. Elkins has started the past 34 games, including a stretch of 26 consecutive at right guard, before assuming duties as starting center in 2013.
    Elkins, who has started all eight games at center this season, and Wagner's David Fredrickson are the only two known left-handed starting centers at the FCS level.

Octoberfest
    The Penguins completed a perfect October by going 3-0 last month. It was the first time the program posted a perfect month of October since 1996. That year YSU beat Buffalo, Ashland and Northwestern State.
    YSU won all three of its November games a year ago. The Penguins had an odd 2012 posting four wins in September and three in November. YSU lost all four of its October contests.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 114-24 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 16-53.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 142-18-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 115-12 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 136-22 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 73-8-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 166-11 when leading entering the fourth.
• 74-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.

Up Next: at UNI
    YSU will be indoors for the second consecutive game next Saturday when it visits UNI. The Penguins and Panthers will square off at the UNI-Dome on Nov. 9 at 5 p.m. Eastern time.