Penguins Venture to Eastern Washington For Final Four Tilt

Penguins Venture to Eastern Washington For Final Four Tilt

    The Youngstown State football team will appear in the FCS playoff semifinals for the eighth time in school history on Saturday when it travels to face second-seeded Eastern Washington. Kickoff for the contest at Roos Field is set for 6:30 p.m. Eastern/3:30 p.m. Pacific time. The game is available on ESPNU, WKBN 570 AM, iHeartRadio and ESPN3/WatchESPN App.
    YSU (11-3) moved on to the semis following a dramatic 30-23 double-overtime win over Wofford last Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium. The Penguins trailed 9-0 after the first quarter and 23-20 in the fourth before rallying for the extra-session win.
    Trailing 9-0, QB Hunter Wells had second quarter scoring passes to Darien Townsend (nine yards) and Damoun Patterson (45 yards) in a span of 3:30. YSU led 13-9 at halftime, but on the first play of the third quarter, Wofford QB Joe Newman scored on a 74-yard run. Late in third, Isiah Scott caught a five-yard pass from Wells to give the Guins a 20-16 lead. Wofford regained the lead in the fourth on a six-yard run by Lorenzo Long, but the Guins tied the game with 5:04 remaining on a 32-yard field goal by Zak Kennedy.
    Neither team scored on their first OT possession, but in the second overtime, Tevin McCaster scored from two yards out giving YSU a 30-23 advantage. The YSU defense held on four plays and the Penguins advanced.
    Eastern Washington (12-1) had an impressive showing in its quarterfinal matchup beating Richmond 31-0 at Roos Field. The Eagles forced five Spiders turnovers while QB Gabe Gubrud threw for 287 yards and three touchdowns. The Eagles are 7-0 at home this season, including a pair of postseason wins, and enter the contest with the Penguins on an 11-game winning streak. EWU has scored at least 31 points in every game this season, and its lone loss came on Sept. 10 at North Dakota State in overtime.
    This is the second time the teams have played with a berth in the FCS championship game at stake. In 1997, the Penguins ventured to Cheney and earned a 25-14 semifinal victory over EWU.  In that contest, YSU jumped out to a 17-0 lead and held on while TB Adrian Brown scored twice and ran for 187 yards on 20 carries.
    The Penguins are appearing in the FCS playoffs for the 12th time in the program's history. YSU won national championships in 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1997 and owns an all-time mark of 28-7 in the FCS/Division I-AA Playoffs.

 

Quick Notes
• YSU is playing 15 games in a season for the seventh time in school history.
• Saturday's contest is the 800th game in school history (469-313-17 overall record).
• The Penguins have alternated home and away games every Saturday since Oct. 1.
• This is the second meeting between YSU and Eastern Washington, and both have come in the FCS semifinals.
• The last time YSU played in the Pacific time  zone was in 2000 at Cal Poly.
• YSU has won 20 consecutive games against FCS non-conference opponents dating back to a 2009 loss to Liberty.
• YSU capped off an 8-0 home season with a 30-23 double overtime win over Wofford. It was just the fourth two-OT game in school history. It was the first posteason overtime game in school history and just the second double OT contest at Stambaugh Stadium.
• For the first time in school history, an opponent did not complete a pass in a game. Wofford attempted just three passes, two of which were on its final two snaps of the game.
• The Penguins have tied the school record for sacks in a season with 44. The original mark had stood since 1982.
• TB Jody Webb set a school record with 331 all-purpose yards vs. Wofford. Webb had 213 yards rushing and 118 kickoff return yards in the game. He broke the single-game school record of 323 yards set by Dave DelSignore that had stood since Sept. 20, 1969.
• Webb's 213-yard rushing performance tied for the 13th-most in a game in school history.
• In his last five games, Webb has rushed for 860 yards (172 per game average) on 116 carries and scored six touchdowns.
• Webb has had more than 200 all-purpose yards in five consecutive games. He had accomplished the feat three times in his first 40 games before his recent hot streak.
• TB Tevin McCaster scored a touchdown in a game for the eighth time this year. YSU is 7-1 when he scores a touchdown.
• YSU has not allowed a rushing touchdown in the second quarter this season.
• In FCS playoff road games, YSU is 9-5 all-time, including a 40-24 win at third-seeded Jacksonville State on Dec. 3.
• Including Eastern Washington, YSU's seven road opponents this year are a combined 63-23. Four were seeded in the top eight in the FCS Playoffs, and the other is 10-2 West Virginia. YSU will have played road games at No. 1 North Dakota State, No. 2 EWU and No. 3 Jacksonville State this season.
• This year YSU had played the SoCon Offensive Player of the Year, the MVFC Offensive Player of the Year, the OVC Offensive Player of the Year and now the co-Big Sky Offensive Players of the Year.

Last Time Out: YSU 30, Wofford 23 (2 OT)
    YSU advanced to the semifinals following a dramatic 30-23 double-overtime win over Wofford last Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium. The Penguins trailed 9-0 after the first quarter and 23-20 in the fourth before rallying for the extra-session win.
    Trailing 9-0, QB Hunter Wells had second quarter scoring passes to Darien Townsend (nine yards) and Damoun Patterson (45 yards) in a span of 3:30. YSU led 13-9 at halftime, but on the first play of the third quarter, Wofford QB Joe Newman scored on a 74-yard run. Late in third, Isiah Scott caught a five-yard pass from Wells to give the Guins a 20-16 lead. Wofford regained the lead in the fourth on a six-yard run by Lorenzo Long, but the Guins tied the game with 5:04 remaining on a 32-yard field goal by Zak Kennedy.
    Neither team scored on their first OT possession, but in the second overtime, Tevin McCaster scored from two yards out giving YSU a 30-23 advantage. The YSU defense held on four plays and the Penguins advanced.

Last Meeting: YSU 25, EWU 14
    YSU jumped out to a 17-0 lead and used a strong ground game to beat Eastern Washington 25-14 in the FCS Playoff semifinals on Dec. 13, 1997, at what was then Albi Stadium.
    After a scoreless first quarter, Adrian Brown gave the Penguins a 7-0 lead four minutes into the second quarter capping a 94-yard drive.
    In the third quarter, Mike Stanec returned a fumble 73 yards, and Mark Griffith added a 41-yard field goal for the 17-point lead.
    EWU cut the deficit to three points in a span of just over two minutes on a 10-yard pass from Harry Leons to Joe Mitchell and an 83-yard punt return from Maurice Perigo in the third period.
    With 8:19 left, Jack Anderson intercepted a Leons pass in the end zone on third down to stop an EWU drive. YSU followed with a non-scoring drive that took 6:36 off the game clock before Brown put the game away with a 21-yard scoring run with 44 seconds remaining.

Playoff History
    The Penguins are appearing in the FCS playoffs for the 12th time in school history. One of the most successful FCS postseason programs, YSU is 28-7 all-time.
    The Guins have a .800 winning percentage, which is second all-time among FCS schools. YSU also ranks third in championships won (four) and championship-game appearances (six).

All-MVFC Honorees
    The Penguins had five players named first-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference while a total of 13 players earned honors.
    Earning first-team honors were DE Derek Rivers, DE Avery Moss, TB Martin Ruiz, OG Brock Eisenhuth and FS LeRoy Alexander. Earning second-team All-MVFC honors were SS Jameel Smith, LB Armand Dellovade, OT Justin Spencer, P Mark Schuler and return specialist Darien Townsend. The Penguins who were named honorable-mention All-MVFC are OT Dylan Colucci, TB Jody Webb and CB Kenny Bishop.
    The five first-team picks were the most for the Penguins since 2006 when they had 10.
    It is the third consecutive year that Rivers was named first-team All-MVFC. He is just the fourth player in YSU history to be named a three-time first-team all-league honoree. The other three Penguins to be named first-team all-league three times are Mychal Savage (2006, 2008 and 2009), James Terry (2005-07) and Dwyte Smiley (1997-99).

Pair Named Newcomers
    Redshirt Freshman P Mark Schuler and sophomore C Vitas Hrynkiewicz were named to the MVFC All-Newcomer team.
    Schuler was a second-team All-MVFC pick in his first season as well. Hrynkiewicz has started all 14 games this year at center. Four of the five members of the offensive line earned league accolades of some kind this year.

Pelini Sets Best Win Mark
    Head Coach Bo Pelini has won a career-high 11 games this season in his second campaign with the program.
    It marks the eighth time in his nine years as a collegiate head coach that Pelini has coached a team to at least nine wins.
    In seven full seasons at Nebraska from 2008-14 he won at least nine games each year, including 10-win seasons in 2009, 2010 and 2012.
    Last year YSU was 5-6, but the year featured a two-point defeat, a pair of three-point losses that came in the final minute, an OT loss by a touchdown and an eight-point loss at Pittsburgh.
    Pelini celebrated his 49th birthday on Tuesday of this week (Dec. 13).

Points Not Allowed
    The Penguins have allowed more than 25 points just once this season. That was 38 points in the second game of the season to Big 12 foe West Virginia.
    The Guins have allowed 24 points in four contests as Jacksonville State, Samford, North Dakota State and South Dakota State all finished with that total.
    Six times this season the Penguins have allowed 14 or fewer points in a game.
    In two other contests - South Dakota and Samford - YSU gave up a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter with each game already in hand. Wofford had 23 points last Saturday.

YSU Defense Ranks Highly
    The Penguins' defensive unit ranks highly in the FCS in numerous categories entering the Eastern Washington contest.
    YSU ranks seventh in scoring defense (18.1 points per game), ninth in sacks per game (3.14), 11th in total defense (313.4 yards per game), 20th in passing yards allowed (182.9) and 25th in third-down percentage defense (33.8 percent).
    YSU's defense has allowed just 22 touchdowns in the last 44 quarters. The Guins did not allow an offensive touchdown against Illinois State and UNI.

Webb's Day To Remember
    Senior TB Jody Webb had a career-high 34 carries for a career-best 213 yards rushing in the win over Wofford. Webb averaged 6.3 yards per carry and had a long run of 31 in the game.
    He returned four kickoffs for a total of 118 yards with a long of 44. Combined, his kickoff return yardage and rushing yards gave him a school-record 331 all-purpose yards besting the mark set by Dave DelSignore on Sept. 20, 1969 against Western Illinois (323).
    Webb had broken the record in the first overtime, but a TFL moved him back behind DelSignore. Webb then reset the record in the second overtime.

Wells Finds A Groove
    Junior QB Hunter Wells showed moxie in helping lead the Penguins past Wofford. Wells has quarterbacked YSU to five straight wins and is 3-0 in the playoffs.
    After the first quarter, Wells completed 11 of his final 16 passes for 143 yards and three scores.
    In the second overtime, he was 3-of-3 for 19 yards, including consecutive eight-yard completions after YSU faced a 2nd-and-12 from its 27-yard line. After an eight-yard completion to Alvin Bailey gave YSU a first down at the Wofford 11-yard line, the Penguins scored a touchdown three plays later.

No Pass Completions
    Wofford attempted just three pass attempts the entire game, and two came on the final two snaps of overtime.
    The only other passing attempt in the game was late in the second quarter when Wofford sent a receiver deep on a 1st-and-10 from its 35-yard line.
    Forced into a 3rd-and-long in OT, Wofford tried a gadget play that YSU defended. On the final play, Brandon Goodson's pass was under thrown.
Ruiz nearing record
    Senior TB Martin Ruiz, a first-team All-MVFC pick, ranks second in career all-purpose yards and career rushing yards in YSU history.
    Ruiz has 4,306 yards rushing in his 49-game career, an average of 87.8 per contest. He has 5,198 career all-purpose yards. Jamaine Cook (2009-12) owns the school record with 5,220 all-purpose yards.
    
Webb Over 200 All-Purpose
    For the fifth straight contest, TB Jody Webb had more than 200 all-purpose yards. In those games, YSU is 5-0.
    Webb had the best performance of his career, and school history, last time out with 331 all-purpose yards against Wofford. He carried the ball a career-high 34 times for a career-best 213 yards. Webb had nine carries in the first half, 20 in the second half and five more in overtime.
    In the three posteason games he has 859 all-purpose yards, an average of 286.3 yards a contest (276 vs. Samford and 252 vs JSU).
    In the final two regular-season games, he had 240 at Missouri State and 214 against Southern Illinois.

The Wright Stuff
    Junior LB Lee Wright, a 2015 second-team All-MVFC honoree, missed the regular season but has returned to the lineup for the postseason.
    He has started the past two games for the Penguins. Against Wofford he had seven tackles, including six solo stops. In his first start of the year at Jacksonville State, he had six tackles, including five solos, and a pass breakup at JSU.
    Last year, Wright started all 11 games and led the Penguins with 78 total tackles, including 48 solo stops. He also had six sacks and 9.5 TFLs, ranking second on the team in both categories.

Going with Wells
    A familiar face has started for the Penguins the past seven games in junior QB Hunter Wells.
    Wells, who made his season debut on Oct. 29 against Indiana State, has led the Penguins to a 6-1 record since being inserted into the lineup.
    He had a season-best three touchdown passes in the double-overtime win over Wofford. In his previous start at Jacksonville State he threw for 290 yards completing 10-of-18 attempts. At JSU he had four passes of 35-or-more yards with completions of 85, 70, 50 and 38 yards in the conetst.
    A veteran with 25 career starts, he has thrown for 4,946 yards and 34 touchdowns while completing 371-of-638 passes. Last year he started all 11 games for YSU completing 159-of-291 passes for 1,975 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Dellovade a Key Stopper
    Sophomore LB Armand Dellovade, a second-team all-league selection, leads the Penguins with 95 tackles this year, including 64 solo stops. He is third with 10.5 TFLs, which includes a pair of sacks.
    In conference play he had 60 total tackles, highlighted by a career-high 11 stops against South Dakota State on Oct. 22. He has 39 solo tackles in MVFC play. Dellovade has had five-or-more tackles in each of the last 12 games.

Season Sack Record Tied
    YSU has 44 sacks on the season tying the school mark that had been set back in 1982.
    While DE Derek Rivers continues to lead the team in sacks with 12, plenty of Penguins have been involved in a strong pass rushing attack.
    Impressively, 15 different players have at least one sack while eight have at least two.
    DE Avery Moss is second on the squad with 10 sacks while DT Savon Smith is third with five and DT Donald Mesier has three. LB Armand Dellovade, LB Jamar Pinnock, SS Jameel Smith and CB Kenny Bishop each have two. The combination of Moss, Rivers, Smith and Mesier have combined for 30 of the 44 sacks.

Few Ruhsing TDs Allowed
    The YSU defense has surrendered just nine rushing touchdowns this year. It's the fewest rushing touchdowns since 1996 (nine in 11 games). In the regular season, YSU allowed just three rushing scores.
    The Guins did not yield a rushing score for the first six games before allowing a rushing touchdown at South Dakota State.
    Only five teams have a rushing score against YSU. Wofford had three rushing touchdowns in last week's quarterfinal contest. North Dakota State and Jacksonville State each scored twice.
    YSU has allowed nine rushing TDs in 56 quarters played. Last year, the Penguins allowed 20 rushing touchdowns in 11 games.

Alexander The Great
    Senior FS LeRoy Alexander is a two-time first-team All-MVFC selection.
    This year Alexander has 67 total tackles, including 50 solo stops, and has been the leader of a veteran secondary. Alexander has a team-high four interceptions. He had his best game of the season against Indiana State on Oct. 29 with 11 tackles, three TFLs and a pass breakup.

Moss Having Best Campaign
    DE Avery Moss earned first-team all-conference honors in 2016.
    Moss has 51 total tackles, 35 of which are solo stops, and is second on the team with 10 sacks. Against Wofford, Moss was active and finished with a career-high nine tackles, seven of which were solos. Moss is second on the team with 14.5 TFLs while ranking first in forced fumbles.
    Last year, Moss had 25 total tackles and 14 solo stops for the season. He had three sacks for the entire 2015 campaign.

Rivers Owns Sack Mark
    Senior DE Derek Rivers is the school's all-time sack leader with 38 and is fourth in the FCS in most career sacks.
    On Oct. 17, 2015, following a two-sack performance against South Dakota State, Rivers eclipsed the school mark of 22 which had been held by Jermaine Hopkins since 1995. Hopkins played for the Penguins from 1992-95.
    Impressively, it took Rivers just 28 games to break the 20-year-old record.
    He has eclipised the previous record by 16.

Rivers The Past 37 Games
    Senior DE Derek Rivers has had an impressive YSU career, but since the start of the 2014 season, Rivers has been one of the top defensive players in the FCS.
    Overall in his career, Rivers has 163 total tackles, 114 of which are solos. He has an impressive 52.5 TFLs, which rank him fourth in school history. This year he has 48 tackles, 39 of which solos, with 15.5 TFLs and 12 sacks.
    As a junior, he had 52 tackles, including an impressive 37 solo stops. He had 15.5 TFLs and nine sacks on the campaign as well. As a sophomore, Rivers was credited with 50 total tackles, including 17 TFLs and 14 sacks.
    In his last 37 games, he has 149 total tackles, 48 TFLs and 35 sacks. Rivers has had at least one sack in 20 of his last 30 games.

Call 9-11
    The Penguins' defensive-end combo of Avery Moss (No. 9) and Derek Rivers (No. 11) is one of the top ones in the nation.
    WVU Head Coach Dana Holgorsen was quoted as saying following the contest "These two cats that we played against from Youngstown State were as good of pass rushers as I've seen" (h/t @mitchsherman).
    Rivers has a team-high 12 sacks and 18 quarterback hurries while Moss has 10 sacks and eight QB hurries. It marks the third time in school history that YSU has two players with 10-or-more sacks in the same season.

Schuler Shows Big Leg
    Redshirt freshman P Mark Schuler, a second-team All-MVFC honoree this year, leads all freshman FCS punters and ranks ninth overall averaging 43.1 yards per kick. He has 14 punts of 50 yards or longer and has placed 23 inside the 20-yard line.
    The school record for average in a season belongs to Nick Liste, who averaged 44.2 yards in 2013. The freshman mark is also held by Liste, an average of 41.4 yards in 2010.
    Schuler had a career-long boot of 74 yards in the first quarter against Samford. He also has a 62-yard punt (Indiana State) and a 61-yarder (Southern Illinois) to his credit this year.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 129-33 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 25-61.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 157-19-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 131-16 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 153-25 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 83-9-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 183-15 when leading entering the fourth.
• 83-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.

Up Next
   The winner of the YSU-Eastern Washington contest advances to play the winner of North Dakota State-James Madison on Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas, in the FCS National Championship Game.