No. 11 Penguins Play Host To UNI In Saturday Night Tilt

DE Derek Rivers
DE Derek Rivers

    The No. 11 Youngstown State football team looks to remain unbeaten in conference play on Saturday when the Penguins play host to 21st-ranked UNI for the first time since 2012. Kickoff for the contest is set for 7 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium. The game is available on WKBN 570 AM, iHeartRadio and ESPN3/WatchESPN App.
    YSU (4-1 overall and 2-0 in the MVFC) picked up a key conference win last Saturday coming from behind to defeat Illinois State 20-6 at Hancock Stadium. Entering the fourth quarter, YSU trailed 6-3 before closing the game with 17 consecutive points. Down 6-3, QB Ricky Davis connected with WR Alvin Bailey on a 20-yard touchdown pass with 12:44 remaining. YSU added its second touchdown of the game when TB Tevin McCaster rammed his way in from a yard out with 2:23 remaining. PK Zak Kennedy's second field goal of the game with 1:35 left made for the final margin. The Guins' defense was stout allowing just 250 yards of total offense while holding ISU to a pair of field goals after drives reached inside the YSU 10.
    UNI (2-3, 1-1) suffered a 28-25 loss at South Dakota last Saturday. The Panthers trailed 28-17 entering the fourth quarter before a one-yard touchdown run by QB Aaron Bailey and two-point conversion moved them within three points early in the fourth. UNI had a chance to tie the contest with 3:39 left but missed a 34-yard field goal. USD stopped the Panthers one more time late to hold on for the win. UNI ran 29 more plays and had 20 more rushing attempts, almost 17 minutes more time of possession and 13 more first downs than the Coyotes.
    Also on Saturday night, members of the 1991 National Championship team will be honored as YSU celebrates the 25th anniversary of their achievement. More than 40 former Penguins are expected to be in attendance for the weekend and be at the game against the Panthers.
    UNI has had the upper hand in the series that has seen a two-year hiatus because of the league's unbalanced schedule. The last meeting at Stambaugh Stadium was a 42-35 YSU victory in 2012 while the Panthers won the most recent bout on 22-20 on a final play field goal in November 2013 at the UNI-Dome. UNI has won 21 of the 28 all-time meetings in a series that has featured a variety of close contests. Of the 28 games, 10 have been decided by four points or less.

Quick Notes
• YSU last started a conference slate 3-0 in 2013. That season the Penguins began the league portion of their season 5-0.
• YSU is the only FCS team that has not allowed a rushing touchdown this season. UNI has only allowed two, both of which came last week at South Dakota.
• It was just the second time in 26 all-time meetings that YSU did not allow Illinois State to score a touchdown (13-0 in 1997 was the other).
• YSU has never won back-to-back home games against UNI.  The Penguins won that last meeting at Stambaugh Stadium in 2012.
• YSU had six more sacks against Illinois State and has been credited with 19 in five games. The Guins' defense has also produced 25 QB hurries.
• DE Derek Rivers ranks second in the FCS with 1.40 sacks per game. UNI's Karter Schult leads the country with 1.50 sacks a contest.
• The Guins have had more than 365 yards of total offense in each of the first five games.
• PK Zak Kennedy has made a field goal in 15 of his 16 career contests. He had a pair of field goals in the win at Illinois State.
• Kennedy is now 7-of-8 in field-goal attempts this season and 18-of-20 (90 percent) in his career against MVFC foes. In his career he is 26-of-31 (83.9 percent).
• DE Derek Rivers has had at least one sack in 15 of his last 21 games. He had three sacks against Illinois State and now has 33 for his career. It was the seventh time in his career he had multiple sacks in a game.
• Ruiz has 4,390 all-purpose yards in his career, which ranks third in school history. Ruiz moved ahead of Robby Robson this past Saturday.

Last Time Out: YSU 20, ISU 6
    YSU used a strong fourth quarter and a complete defensive effort to pick up a 20-6 victory at Illinois State last Saturday at Hancock Stadium.
    The Penguins took a 3-0 lead at halftime as PK Zak Kennedy kicked a 42-yard field goal to break the scoreless stalemate with 10 seconds left in the first half.
    In the third quarter, the Redbirds' Sean Slattery had a pair of field goals - 20 and 27 yards - to put Illinois State ahead 6-3.
    YSU started to build momentum toward the end of the third quarter, and 2:16 into the fourth period, QB Ricky Davis hit WR Alvin Bailey on a 20-yard touchdown pass to cap off a 17-play, 91-yard drive. The Guins went in front 17-6 with 2:23 left in the game when TB Tevin McCaster scored from a yard out to end an 87-yard drive.
    The defense kept the pressure on the final two minutes to preserve the victory.

Last Meeting: UNI 22, YSU 20
    UNI PK Tyler Sievertsen kicked a 34-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Panthers past Youngstown State 22-20 on Nov. 9, 2013, at the UNI-Dome.
    After falling behind 3-0, the Penguins slowly built a 14-3 lead. QB Kurt Hess gave YSU its first lead of the contest scoring on a three-yard run with 6:42 left in the first quarter. Hess connected with Andre Stubbs on an eight-yard score in the second quarter.
    UNI pulled within 14-6 on a 37-yard Sievertsen field goal in the third quarter. Then the Panthers scored twice in a 3:02 span to grab the lead on touchdown passes from Brion Carnes to Chad Owens.
    Down 19-14, the Guins rallied taking a 20-19 lead with 4:41 left on a four-yard Hess run. But UNI marched 56 yards and killed the remainder of the clock to set up the winning kick attempt with four seconds left.

Penguins' Sack Attack
    The Penguins have registered 17 sacks in the past three contests. YSU had six sacks at Illinois State, four against South Dakota and seven, the most in a game since 2005, vs. Robert Morris.
    YSU ranks third in the FCS in sacks per game averaging 3.80 a game. Saint Francis (Pa.) leads the country averaging 4.33 while Prairie View is second with 3.83. The Penguins are tied with Jacksonville State at 3.80 sacks per game.
    Those four teams are the only ones to register at least 19 sacks this season. In two league games, YSU has 10 sacks. The Penguins also have 25 QB hurries.

No Rushing TDs Allowed
    The Penguins have not allowed a rushing touchdown through five games. YSU is the only FCS program which has not allowed a rushing score as of yet. The Penguins and Ohio State are the only two Division I teams who are yet to allow a rushing score in 2016.
    Last year, YSU allowed 20 rushing touchdowns, including 14 in the conference portion of the schedule.

Late-Game Surge
    YSU outscored Illinois State 17-0 in the final quater last Saturday in its come-from-behind 20-6 win. It was the most points scored in a fourth quarter by YSU since a 17-point fourth-quarter last year against the Redbirds.
    The offense found its groove late in the third quarter to aid the rally. In the final 20 minutes of the game, YSU had 190 total yards after producing 175 the first 40. In the fourth quarter YSU had 139 yards, 119 of which came on the ground will the lone 20 was on a touchdown pass from Ricky Davis to Alvin Bailey. YSU's nine-play 87-yard scoring drive was all running by Davis, Jody Webb and Tevin McCaster.

YSU Ranks High in FCS
    Both the YSU offense and defense are among the top units in the FCS in various categories.
    The offense is seventh in time of possession (34:34), 10th in rushing offense (265.4 yards), 17th in third-down conversions (46.6 percent) and 18th in total offense (452.2 yards).
    The defense is third in sacks per game (3.80), fifth in scoring defense (16.0), eighth in first-downs defense (76 total), eighth in total defense (290.6), 13th in rushing defense (97.0 yards) and 18th in third-down percentage defense (30.6 percent).

Moss Off To Great Start
    DE Avery Moss is off to a strong start to his senior season with 22 total tackles, including 16 solo stops, on the campaign. He has five sacks as well, which ranks him second on the team.
    He had a career-best seven tackles in the victory over South Dakota. Moss was credited with four solos and had three assists in the contest. He had six tackles in a strong outing at West Virginia.
    Last Saturday at Illinois State he had five total tackles and two sacks.
    He has sacks in four of the five games this year.  Last year, Moss had 25 total tackles and 14 solo stops for the season. He had three sacks for the entire 2015 campaign.

Ruiz Moves Into Third
    Senior TB Martin Ruiz ranks third in school history in all-purpose yards. Ruiz has accumulated 4,390 yards and moved ahead of Robby Robson in the game at Illinois State for third. Jamaine Cook and  Tamron Smith rank as the top two as both tailbacks eclipsed the 5,000-yard mark at YSU.
    Ruiz has 3,547 rushing yards, 608 receiving yards and 235 kickoff return yards in 40 career games played. He has scored 41 touchdowns in his career - 35 rushing and six receiving.

Two Honored Against ISU
    DE Derek Rivers and P Mark Schuler were named Missouri Valley Football Conference Players of the Week for their performances in the Penguins' win at Illinois State.
    Rivers had three sacks in the Penguins' solid 20-6 win over Illinois State. Rivers had four total tackles in the game, all solo stops. He also had a quarterback hurry. Two of Rivers' sacks came on the final two possessions as the defense helped seal the victory. YSU allowed just 250 total offensive yards and six points to the Redbirds.
    Schuler averaged 45.7 yards per punt on six kicks and had a long of 55 in the win. Schuler placed three punts inside the 20-yard line in the first half as the teams battled for field position. He had punts of 44, 43, 55, 52, 35 and 45 in the contest.  He punted five times in the first half and just once in the second.

Davis Strong as Starter
    Junior QB Ricky Davis has set career highs in yardage in each of the past two contests.
    At Illinois State, Davis rushed for a career-high 97 yards on 18 carries. Against South Dakota he threw for a career-high 281 yards.
    Against the Redbirds, Davis had the first fourth-quarter comeback of his career. YSU trailed 6-3 before scoring the final 17 points of the game. In the fourth quarter, he threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Alvin Bailey on a 3rd-and-5 situation. He also ran the ball five times for 24 yards in the final stanza.
    In the victory over South Dakota, he completed 15-of-23 passes and had a career-high 21 rushes in the contest.
    In four games this season, Davis has completed 44-of-83 passes (53 percent) for 746 yards and five touchdowns. He is averaging 186.5 yards passing per game. He passed for 189 yards at West Virginia after throwing for 187 yards in his starting debut vs. Duquesne. He had 89 at Illinois State.
    He has rushed for 299 yards on 62 attempts and is averaging 74.8 yards per game.

Rivers The Past 28 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 131 total tackles, 91 of which are solos. He has an impressive 45 TFLs. This year he has 16 tackles, all solos, with eight TFLs and seven 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 28 games, he has 118 total tackles, 40.5 TFLs and 30 sacks. He is averaging 4.2 stops, 1.4 TFLs and more than one sack a game.

Dellovade a Key Stopper
    Sophomore LB Armand Dellovade has continued to be a key figure in the Penguins' defense.
    He leads the squad through five games with 27 tackles. Dellovade tied for team-high honors with six tackles, including five solos, at Illinois State. He had seven tackles in the win over South Dakota, with four solos and three assists. Dellovade also had seven stops at West Virginia.
    Dellovade came on strong as a true freshman finishing with 54 total tackles, including 32 solo stops. The honorable-mention all-league recipient started nine games and was fourth on the team in tackles.
    His 54 tackles were the most by a true freshman since Teven Williams had 67 stops in 2011. He also had four sacks in 2015, the most by a YSU freshman since OLB Mike Stanec had four in 1995. He has one sack in 2016.

McCaster Also Involved
    Sophomore TB Tevin McCaster has been a key part in the Penguins' rotation. McCaster was YSU's second-leading rusher, and first among tailbacks, at Illinois State with 81 yards on 10 carries.
    He had six yards on three attempts in the first half before rushing for 75 on seven carries in the second half. His performance was bolstered by a 56-yard run in the fourth quarter.
    McCaster ranks second on the team with 323 rushing yards on 46 carries. He has scored three touchdowns and is averaging 64.6 yards a game in a reserve role.
    Against Duquesne, he carried the ball seven times for 107 yards and a touchdown. Impressively all seven carries came in the fourth quarter. Against Robert Morris he had a career-high 15 carries for 87 yards and a TD. At West Virginia he had 12 carries for 41 yards to go along with two receptions - the first of his career.

Schuler Shows Big Leg
    Redshirt freshman P Mark Schuler has had  a strong start to his career. Schuler leads all freshman FCS punters averaging 41.0 yards per kick. He has six punts of 50 yards or longer and has placed 11 inside the 20-yard line.
    He has placed nine of his last 23 punts inside the opposition's 20-yard line.
    Against Robert Morris he punted seven times and placed two at the 10-yard line and another at the 11. Schuler punted eight times for an average of 44.5 yards a kick at West Virginia. Schuler had kicks of 51, 59, 50, 47, 44, 41 and 32 (twice) in the game. He had a pair of punts downed at the 14-yard line and one at the one-yard line.
    At Illinois State h    e averaged 45.7 yards per pun on six kicks, with a long of 55. He had a 54-yard punt vs. South Dakota in his lone attempt.

Offensive Output
    For the first time since 1983, the Penguins eclipsed the 400-yard mark in total offense in each of the first four games of a season. YSU opened the year with a 610-yard performance against Duquesne, totaled 405 yards at West Virginia, had 431 against Robert Morris and finished with 450 in the victory against South Dakota.
    Last year YSU went over 400 yards on five occasions in 11 games.
    Under Offensive Coordinator Shane Montgomery the Penguins have amassed more than 400 yards in 39 contests since the start of the 2010 season.
    YSU has gone over 600 yards of total offense nine times in school history, and five of those have come since 2011.

O-Line Off to Solid Start
    A veteran offensive line has helped pave the way to five straight 365-plus total-offensive yard performances.
    The Penguins are averaging 265.4 yards rushing and 452.2 yards of total offense per game.  Three times YSU has rushed for more than 275 yards in a game while three times it has passed for more than 215.
    The starting group the first three games was Justin Spencer, Gavin Wiggins, Vitas Hrynkiwicz, Cameron Fraser and Dylan Colucci. Senior Brock Eisenhuth started in place of Fraser the past two ballgames.

Experienced Tailback Duo
    The Penguins boast one of the most experienced backfield tandems in the FCS in seniors Martin Ruiz and Jody Webb.
    Ruiz has played in 40 games and has rushed for 3,547 yards on 716 carries and scored 35 touchdowns. Webb has played in 36 contests, rushing for 2,096 yards on 308 attempts while scoring 24 touchdowns. Both runners rank in the top 11 in the FCS in active career yardage.

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).
    Through five games, Rivers has seven sacks and 10 quarterback hurries while Moss has five sacks and five QB hurries. Moss has 22 total tackles, 16 of which are solos, while Rivers has 16 tackles on the year, all of which are solos.

Rivers Owns Sack Mark
    Senior DE Derek Rivers is the school's all-time sack leader with 33.
    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, and his career sack totals include postseason contests.
    Impressively, it took Rivers just 28 games to break the 20-year-old record.
    Last season, Rivers had nine sacks after registering 14 sacks in 2014. During his first campaign in 2013 he had three.
    He has seven sacks in five games this year to go along with 10 QB hurries.

Kennedy Set FG Mark
    Sophomore PK Zak Kennedy set the school record with 19 field goals in 2015. Kennedy was a first-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference honoree in his first year. He became the first freshman placekicker since UNI's Scott Obermeier in 1992 to be tabbed first-team all-league.
    In his career, he has made field goals in 15 games and attempted kicks in 15 of 16 contests.
     Kennedy was just the fifth kicker in school history to make at least 17 field goals in the same season joining Mark Griffith, Jeff Wilkins (twice), Robert Fozkos and Paul McFadden.
    Also, the 19 field goals were a team record for a season, eclipsing the mark of 18 set in 2007.
    This season, Kennedy is 7-of-8 on field-goal attempts and 19-of-19 on PAT tries. His lone FG miss this year came from 50 yards. He has excelled a kickoffs with 14 touchbacks in 27 attempts. Last year he had four touchbacks in 29 kickoffs. As a squad last year, YSU kickoff specialists had just nine touchbacks in 11 games.

Alexander The Great
    Senior FS LeRoy Alexander is having another great year after an outstanding 2015. Last year he was a first-team All-MVFC selection in his first season with the program after transferring from Nebraska.
    In 2016, Alexander has 19 total tackles, including 16 solo stops, and been the leader of a veteran secondary.
    He was second on the team a year ago with 67 total tackles, 38 of which were solo stops.
    He showed his versatility in the YSU defensive scheme registering a pair of sacks to go along with a team-high four interceptions. He was also credited with 3.5 TFLs.

Ruiz Model of Consistency
    Senior TB Martin Ruiz has rushed for at least 74 yards in a game on 29 occasions in 40 career games played.
    On 15 occasions he has rushed for more than 100 yards, including a career-high eight times as a sophomore in 2014. He had 165 yards in the win over RMU. That total was his third-highest rushing performance as a Penguin and most in a game since Nov. 1, 2014.
    Additionally he has scored a touchdown in 24 games, with 10 multi-TD performances.

First TD Receptions
    This season TE Kevin Rader and WRs Darien Townsend, Alvin Bailey and Stefan Derrick have all caught the first touchdowns of their YSU careers.
    Townsend had two touchdowns and Derrick had his first in the opener against Duquesne. Bailey scored on a 74-yard grab at West Virginia. Against Robert Morris, Rader hauled in the first touchdown of his YSU career, a 27-yarder on a 4th-and-3 play.

Ruiz High On Lists
    Senior TB Martin Ruiz ranks fifth in school history with 716 carries and 3,547 yards rushing.
    He is one of seven players in school history to rush for more than 3,000 yards in a career.
    With 35 rushing touchdowns, he is now in sixth place all-time at YSU. Ruiz sits just four scores back of Jamaine Cook from also entering the top five in that category. He ranks third in program history in all-purpose yards with 4,390.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 125-32 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 22-60.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 153-19-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 125-16 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 148-25 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 78-9-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 179-15 when leading entering the fourth.
• 81-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.
More recently:
• YSU has scored points in 96 straight games.

Up Next: at South Dakota State
    The Penguins are back on the road when they visit South Dakota State on Oct. 22. YSU beat the Jackrabbits 30-27 in Brookings in 2014.

Rivers The Past 28 Games