Penguins Back at Stambaugh to Take On Wofford in FCS Quarterfinals

TB Jody Webb (Photo By David Dermer)
TB Jody Webb (Photo By David Dermer)

    The Youngstown State football team plays host to Wofford in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs on Saturday afternoon. Kickoff for the contest at Stambaugh Stadium is set for 2:05 p.m. The game is available on WKBN 570 AM, iHeartRadio and ESPN3/WatchESPN App.
    YSU (10-3) advanced to the quarterfinals with an impressive 40-24 victory at third-seed Jacksonville State last Saturday. YSU racked up 520 offensive yards, including a season-high 315 yards passing. The Penguins never trailed in the contest and outscored the Gamecocks 20-7 in the second half after leading by just three points at halftime. QB Hunter Wells passed for 290 yards on just 10 completions while TB Jody Webb had 140 yards on 19 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns. PK Zak Kennedy kicked a career-high four field goals while Martin Ruiz and Damoun Patterson added touchdowns.
    The teams traded touchdowns in the first 5:31 of the contest, then Webb scored on a 37-yard run and Kennedy made his first field goal of the day. In the second quarter, JSU scored 10 of the next 13 points to make the score 20-17 at halftime. Just 57 seconds into the second half, Webb scored on a 50-yard run before JSU fought back within 27-24 with 4:07 left in the third quarter. It took 23 seconds for the YSU lead to go back up to 10 as Ruiz scored on an eight-yard run. In the fourth period, Kennedy made a pair of field goals for the final margin.
    Wofford (10-3) avenged a regular-season loss to No. 6 seed The Citadel with a 17-3 win over the Bulldogs in Charleston, S.C. Wofford trailed 3-0 before scoring the final 17 points, all in the second half. The Terriers tied the game in the third quarter on a 47-yard field goal by David Marvin. In the fourth they went on top 10-3 on a 36-yard run by backup QB Joe Newman with 10:28 left. The victory was sealed when Devin Watson returned an interception 64 yards for a touchdown with just 30 seconds left. Wofford has won six straight games, and its two FCS losses were by a total of five points. The Terriers have won five games on the road, including four straight.
    The Guins 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 27-7 in the FCS/Division I-AA Playoffs.
    At Stambaugh Stadium, YSU is 15-1 all-time having won 15 straight since losing its first game in 1990, including a 38-24 first round win over Samford.

 

Quick Notes
• YSU is unbeaten at home this year posting a 6-0 mark in the regular season and beating Samford 38-24 in the first round of the FCS playoffs. The last time the Guins played eight home games was in 2006.
• This is the second meeting between the Penguins and Terriers with the lone other contest being played at Stambaugh Stadium in 1996. YSU won that game 28-0.
• The Penguins tied the school record for sacks in a season last Saturday at JSU.  YSU has registered 44 sacks this season in 13 games, tying the mark first set in 1982.
• In his last four games, TB Jody Webb has rushed for 647 yards on 82 carries and scored six touchdowns.
• For the seventh time in his career - and fourth straight game - Webb amassed more than 200 all-purpose yards in a game. Webb had 252 against Jacksonville State.
• YSU has scored 143 points in the past three games (an average of 47.7). In the previous seven contests, YSU scored 148 points (21.1).
• TB Martin Ruiz is just 26 yards shy of Jamaine Cook's school mark of 5,220 all-purpose yards.
• YSU has not allowed a rushing touchdown in the second or fourth quarters this season.
• PK Zak Kennedy made a career high four field goals in the win. Kennedy also tied a school record for attempts with five. The last time a PK attempted five FGs in a game was in 1993.
• Eleven of the last 12 touchdowns scored by the offense are rushing touchdowns. Of those 11, five have come from Webb.
• YSU won a postseason road game for the first time since beating Montana on Nov. 27, 1999. It was the Guins' first road win in December since 1997.

Last Time Out: YSU 40, JSU 24
    YSU advanced to the quarterfinals with an impressive 40-24 victory at third-seed Jacksonville State at Burgess-Snow Field.
    YSU racked up 520 offensive yards, including a season-high 315 yards passing, against the Gamecocks. The Penguins never trailed in the contest and outscored the Gamecocks 20-7 in the second half after leading by just three points at halftime.
    The teams traded touchdowns in the first 5:31 of the contest, then Jody Webb scored on a 37-yard run and Kennedy made his first field goal of the day. In the second quarter, JSU scored 10 of the next 13 points to make the score 20-17 at halftime.
    Just 57 seconds into the second half, Webb scored on a 50-yard run before JSU fought back within 27-24 with 4:07 left in the third. It took 23 seconds for the YSU lead to go back up to 10 as Martin Ruiz scored on an eight-yard run. In the fourth period,  Zak Kennedy made a pair of field goals for the final margin.

Last Meeting: YSU 28, Wofford 0
    YSU opened the 1996 season with a 28-0 win over Wofford at Stambaugh Stadium.
    The Terriers committed three costly turnovers, two of which the Penguins turned into touchdowns. Another was at the YSU one-yard line.
    TB Adrian Brown scored midway through the first quarter to put the Penguins ahead 7-0. In the second quarter, TB Brian Cottom found paydirt from a yard out as YSU went on top 13-0.
    In the third quarter, Brown scored on a four-yard run, and a two-point conversion pass from QB Demond Tidwell to WR Jake Smallfield helped YSU increase its lead to 21-0.
    Brown's third touchdown of the game closed out the scoring with 4:03 left in the game.
    YSU had 341 yards of total offense, including 211 on the ground.

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 27-7 all-time. The Guins have a .794 winning percentage, which is third 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 13 games this year at center. Four of the five members of the offensive line earned league accolades of some kind this year.

Pelini Wins Nine Again
    For the eighth time in his nine years as a collegiate head coach, Bo 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.

Ruiz Nearing AP 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 4,302 yards rushing in his 48-game career, an average of 89.6 per contest. He has 5,194 career all-purpose yards and against Wofford could move into first place in school history. Jamaine Cook (2009-12) owns the school record with 5,220 all-purpose yards.
    Ruiz has 1,149 yards and 12 touchdowns this year on 208 carries. He has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark three times in his career finishing with a career-best 1,320 yards in 2014 and 1,094 as a freshman in 2013.

Webb Over 200 All-Purpose
    For the fourth straight game and seventh time in his YSU career, Jody Webb amassed more than 200 all-purpose yards in a game when he had 252 yards at Jacksonville State.
    Against JSU he had 140 yards rushing, 87 kickoff-return yards and 25 receiving yards.
    In his playoff debut vs. Samford, he had a career-best 276 all-purpose yards.
    His first five 200-yard games came against MVFC foes. Of note, five of his seven have come in November.
    He had 214 on Nov. 12 against SIU and 240 at Missouri State on Nov. 19. In the final two regular season games last year he had 243 vs. Indiana State and 269 vs. NDSU.  His other effort was 200 yards vs. Illinois State in 2015.
    In the last four games he has a total of 982 all-purpose yards, an average of 245.5 per game.

YSU Defense Ranks Highly
    The Penguins' defensive unit ranks highly in the FCS in numerous categories entering the Wofford contest.
    YSU ranks second in sacks per game (3.38), seventh in scoring defense (17.7 points per game), 12th in total defense (314.7 yards per game), 15th in rushing defense (117.8 yards per game) and 21st in third-down percentage defense (33.5 percent),
    YSU's defense has allowed just 19 touchdowns in the last 40 quarters. The Guins did not allow an offensive touchdown against Illinois State and UNI.

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 and nine-win 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 contests - South Dakota and Samford - YSU gave up a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter with each game already in hand.

Going to Wells
    A familiar face has started for the Penguins the past six games in junior QB Hunter Wells.
    Wells, who made his season debut on Oct. 29 against Indiana State, had his best passing day of the season, and third-best of his career,  at Jacksonville State.
    He had four passes of 35-or-more yards in the game with completions of 85, 70, 50 and 38 yards against the Gamecocks.
    Wells' career-best effort was 324 at Southern Illinois last year, and he had 297 in his starting debut vs. Butler in 2014.
    A veteran with 24 career starts, he has thrown for 4,773 yards and 31 touchdowns while completing 356-of-616 passes. Last year he started all 11 games for YSU completing 159-of-291 passes for 1,975 yards and 13 touchdowns.

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 Rushing TDs Allowed
    The YSU defense has surrendered just six rushing touchdown this year.
    The Penguins did not yield a rushing score for the first six contests before allowing a rushing touchdown in the first quarter at South Dakota State. Only four teams have a rushing TD against YSU this year - NDSU (two), JSU (two), Samford and South Dakota State. YSU has allowed just one rushing touchdown at home this year.
    YSU has allowed six rushing TDs in 52 quarters played. Last year, the Penguins allowed 20 rushing touchdowns.

Non-Conference Home Success
      YSU has won 29 of its last 30 non-conference regular-season home games since September 2004. The lone loss was a final-play 31-28 setback to Liberty in 2008.
    Since falling to the Flames on Sept. 27, 2008, the Penguins have won 18 straight at home against non-conference foes. All 18 wins have come against FCS programs.
    In the 18 games, the Guins have outscored the opposition 782-268 (an average of 43.4-14.9).

The Wright Stuff
    Junior LB Lee Wright made his season debut against Samford and had his first start of the campaign at Jacksonville State.
    A 2015 second-team All-MVFC honoree, Wright missed the regular season but has returned to the lineup for the postseason. 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.

Dellovade a Key Stopper
    Sophomore LB Armand Dellovade, a second-team all-league selection, leads the Penguins with 86 tackles this year, including 57 solo stops. He is third with 9.5 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.

Smith Stepping Up
    Senior SS Jameel Smith, a second-team All-MVFC selection, ranks second on the team with 77 total tackles, including 56 solo stops. This year, Smith has two interceptions, four TFLs, two sacks, four pass breakups and three QB hurries to show off a well-rounded resume.
    At JSU he had a team-high nine tackles, six of which were solos. Against Samford he had seven total tackles, five of which were solos.

Alexander The Great
    Senior FS LeRoy Alexander is a two-time first-team All-MVFC selection.
    This year Alexander has 63 total tackles, including 46 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.
    Last year he was a first-team All-MVFC selection in his first season with the program after transferring from Nebraska. 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.

Moss Having Best Campaign
    DE Avery Moss earned first-team all-conference honors in his second and final year with the program.
    Moss has 42 total tackles, 28 of which are solo stops, and is second on the team with 10 sacks. He did not play against Samford and was limited at Jacksonville State. Moss is second on the team with 12.5 TFLs while ranking first in forced fumbles.
    In MVFC play he had eight sacks with three coming against Indiana State and two at Illinois State. He has sacks in seven of the 11 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.

Webb Finding His Stride
    TB Jody Webb has had the best four games of his season in the last four contests.
    Webb had not scored a touchdown in the first 10 games of the season and has six the past three weeks.
    Against Samford he had a career-high 27 carries for a career-best 174 yards. He also had a pair of touchdowns. At Jacksonville State he had 140 yards on 19 carries and two scores.
    Webb rushed for 166 yards and had two scores, his first of the year, at Missouri State. The week prior against Southern Illinois he had a career-best 167 yards rushing on 21 carries.
    Entering week 10 of the campaign, Webb had 320 yards on 75 carries. In the last four games he has 647 yards on 82 attempts.
    Of his 30 career touchdown runs, 19 have been of more than 20 yards. He had 50-yard and 37-yard rushing scores against JSU.

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 48 games and has rushed for 4,302 yards on 853 carries and scored 41 touchdowns. Webb has played in 44 contests, rushing for 2,904 yards on 430 attempts while scoring 30 touchdowns. Both runners rank in the top 13 in the FCS in active career yardage.
     Ruiz, who is fifth among active rushers, has rushed for at least 74 yards in a game on 34 occasions in 48 career games played.

Rivers The Past 36 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 159 total tackles, 110 of which are solos. He has an impressive 52.5 TFLs, which rank him fourth in school history. This year he has 44 tackles, 35 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 36 games, he has 146 total tackles, 48 TFLs and 35 sacks. Rivers has had at least one sack in 20 of his last 29 games.

Rivers Owns Sack Mark
    Senior DE Derek Rivers is the school's all-time sack leader with 38. He is now YSU's career record holder by 16 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. Both players' totals include postseason sacks.
    Impressively, it took Rivers just 28 games to break the 20-year-old record.

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 has had  a strong start to his career. Schuler, a second-team All-MVFC honoree this year, leads all freshman FCS punters and ranks eighth overall averaging 43.5 yards per kick. He has 14 punts of 50 yards or longer and has placed 22 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.

Kennedy Keeps Excelling
    Sophomore PK Zak Kennedy is 16-of-23 on field-goal attempts and 31-of-31 on PAT tries.
    At Jacksonville State he made four field goals and tied a school record with five attempts.
    Prior to a late season injury he excelled at kickoffs with 21 touchbacks in 35 attempts. Last year he had four touchbacks in 29 kickoffs. As a squad last year, YSU kickoff specialists had just nine touchbacks.
    He set the school record with 19 field goals in 2015. Kennedy was a first-team All-MVFC honoree in his first year.
    In his career, he has made field goals in 20 games and attempted kicks in 21 of 22 contests.

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 24-61.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 157-19-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 130-16 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 152-25 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.
More recently:
• YSU has scored points in 104 straight games.

Up Next
   The winner of the YSU-Wofford game will play the winner of the Richmond at Eastern Washington contest.