Penguins Travel To Morgantown For First Time Since 1938

Martin Ruiz
Martin Ruiz

    The No. 20 Youngstown State football team hits the road for the first time this season when the Penguins take on West Virginia on Saturday. Kickoff for the contest at Milan Puskar Stadium is set for 2 p.m. The game is available on WKBN 570 AM, iHeartRadio and ROOT Sports.
    YSU (1-0) opened the 2016 campaign in impressive fashion beating Duquesne 45-10. The Penguins jumped out to a 24-3 lead behind first-time starting QB Ricky Davis. After the Dukes scored a touchdown just before halftime, the Guins outscored Duquesne 21-0 in the second half.
    Davis had a solid starting debut rushing for 74 yards on 10 carries while completing 12-of-16 passes for 187 yards and three scores. Two of those touchdowns went to Darien Townsend. Davis and Townsend connected on a 49-yard pass early in the contest before the two hooked up again on a 36-yard toss late in the second quarter. Martin Ruiz, Shane Kuhn and Tevin McCaster all had rushing scores, while Stefan Derrick caught a touchdown  in his first game as a Penguin.
    West Virginia (1-0) opened the season last Saturday with a 26-11 victory over Missouri at Milan Puskar Stadium. The Mountaineers scored 26 of the contests' first 29 points before the Tigers found the end zone in the final minutes. Leading the way was senior QB Skyler Howard, who completed 25-of-35 passes for 253 yards. WVU amassed 494 yards of total offense to offset three turnovers. A balanced attack saw the Mountaineers pass for 253 yards and rush for 241 yards.
    It's been a while since the teams have played one another. The Penguins last ventured to Morgantown in their first year of football in 1938. YSU dropped a 27-6 decision to WVU with the lone touchdown coming on a one-yard pass from Jim Heber to Joe Benish in an Oct. 29, 1938, tilt. This is the Guins' first contest against a member of the Big XII Conference. In the past 11 years, the Penguins have played members of the Big Ten (Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois and Penn State) and the ACC/Big East (Pittsburgh). YSU won at Pittsburgh in 2012.
    YSU returns home to close out the non-conference portion of the season against Robert Morris on Sept. 17.

Quick Notes

• YSU makes its first trip to the state of West Virginia since playing at Marshall in 2001.
• The Penguins have 21 wins all-time against FBS opponents dating back to 1981. YSU has one win in 11 contest against Power Five schools since adding a big game in 2005. That was a 2012 win in the season opener at Pittsburgh.
• In his starting debut, junior QB Ricky Davis was excellent. Davis completed 12-of-16 passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 74 yards on 10 attempts.
Darien Townsend, Stefan Derrick and Tevin McCaster all scored the first touchdowns of their careers in the opener.
• TB Martin Ruiz scored six touchdowns in three career games vs. the Dukes.
• YSU had 63 players see action in the opener against Duquesne. Of those, 24 appeared in their first contest as a Penguin.
• McCaster ran for a career high 107 yards and scored his first career touchdown. All seven of his carries came in the fourth quarter.
• YSU has 17 seniors on the roster with the bulk of them on defense. Only five members of the offense are seniors. The Guins have that many seniors in their secondary.
• Senior DE Derek Rivers has been tabbed a first-team preseason All-American, senior FS LeRoy Alexander a second-team All-American and sophomore PK Zak Kennedy a third-team All-American by STATS, Inc.
• Rivers has had at least one sack in 12 of his last 17 games. He had the 27th of his career - adding to his school mark - against Duquesne.
• Kennedy has made a field goal in 10 straight games. He has made his last eight attempts dating back to the contest at Western Illinois.
• Offensive linemen Justin Spencer and Dylan Colucci started the last three season openers.
• Making their first career starts in the opener were CB Kenny Bishop, Townsend, WR Isiah Scott, Davis, DT Lamont Ragland and P Mark Schuler.
• TB Jody Webb's 96 yards pushed him over the 2,000 mark for his career (2,013).

Last Meeting: WVU 27, YSU 6
    Two touchdowns runs and two blocked punts keyed a 27-6 win by West Virginia over the Penguins in the schools' only meeting on Oct. 29, 1938.
    After a scoreless first quarter, WVU built a 14-0 lead on a six-yard run by Sam Audia and a 35-yard blocked punt return for a score by Joe Czajka. The Mountaineers tacked on 13 points in the third quarter on a nine-yard run by Glennis Ellis and a blocked punt recovered by Joe Cestari in the end zone.
    In the fourth the Penguins scored their lone points of the game on a one-yard pass from Jim Heber to Joe Benish.

Tough Road Ahead
    The next four opponents YSU will face on the road were a combined 29-8 overall and 24-5 in their home facilities in 2015.
    YSU's next four road games are against West Virginia - 8-5 (6-1 at home), Illinois State - 10-3 (6-1), South Dakota State - 8-4 (4-2) and North Dakota State - 13-2 (8-1). Three of the four opened the 2016 season with wins while SDSU scored 41 points at FBS nationally-ranked TCU.

YSU-WVU History
    The Guins and West Virginia don't have much history, especially since they last played almost 78 years ago in Morgantown.
    The year was 1938, and the contest was the sixth in then Youngstown College's inaugural season of football. It was also just the third road game in school history.

Country Roads Take Me Home
    The Guins will be making their first appearance in West Virginia since a 2001 tussle at Marshall. In that game, the Penguins hung tough with the Byron Leftwich-led Thundering Herd eventually falling 38-24 in the season finale. YSU was driving for a potential touchdown before an interception ended the upset bid.
    The state has been the site of two of the four FCS National Championship Game victories for the program. In 1993, the Penguins beat Marshall 17-5 in Huntington, and the next year they returned for a 28-14 triumph against Boise State in the title tilt. YSU played in the 1992 title game at Marshall as well.

Offensive Output
    The Penguins rolled up 610 yards of total offense in the 45-10 win over Duquesne.
    That total was the seventh most in a game in school history. YSU has gone over 600 yards of total offense nine times in school history and five of those have come since 2011. YSU Offensive Coordinator Shane Montgomery has been with the program since 2010.
    The 394 yards rushing is the eighth most in school history. Three of the top eight performances have come since 2011 for YSU.

Davis Dazzles In Debut
    Junior QB Ricky Davis showed his versatility in the opener against Duquesne. In three quarters and two fourth-quarter handoffs of play, he rushed for 74 yards on 10 carries while competing 12-of-16 passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns.
    Davis had eight completions for 142 yards and one touchdown in his career before taking the reigns of the offense in the opener.
    His 74 rushing yards are the most in a game by a true QB since Tom Zetts had 110 yards on 12 carries at Illinois State in 2006.

McCaster's Best Performance
    Sophomore TB Tevin McCaster had a solid fall camp and showed his talents in the second half against Duquesne.
    He carried the ball seven times for 107 yards and a touchdown. Impressively all seven carries came in the fourth quarter. It took him just 11 offensive snaps from his first carry, which was a three-yard loss, to amass 107 yards. On his final six rushes he had 110 yards, averaging 18.3 yards per carry.

Townsend Scores Twice
    Junior WR Darien Townsend showed he can become a deep threat for the YSU offense. Townsend caught three passes for 91 yards and two scores in the opener win over Duquesne.
    Four plays into the game, Townsend hauled in a 49-yard strike from QB Ricky Davis. On a third-and-4 at the DU 45, Townsend caught a pass for a six-yard gain and a first down. Two plays later he had his second touchdown of the night catching a 36-yard toss from Davis. On the play, he caught the ball at the 17 and pulled one defender 15 yards while giving another a free 10-yard ride.
    Eight of Townsend's 10 catches last year came in the final five games. He now has 11 catches in the past six contests.

Defense Salty Against the Run
    The Penguins stepped up their run-game defense allowing just 34 yards on 21 carries against Duquesne.
    That is the fewest surrendered by YSU in a game since holding UNI to just 30 yards on 27 attempts on Nov. 5, 2011.
    Only once in the past 13 games - SIU in 2015 - have the Guins allowed more than 200 yards passing. Duquesne had 188 yards in the opener.

Rivers Garnering Accolades
    Senior DE Derek Rivers has been named to numerous preseason All-America teams at the outset of the 2016 campaign.
    Rivers, a two-time first-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference honoree, has been named to the preseason All-America first teams by STATS Inc., and HERO Sports. He was also tabbed a preseason first-team All-MVFC selection. He is one of 22 players on the STATS Top Defensive Player Watch List. Rivers was in the running for the award as well in 2015.
    Rivers owns the school record with 27 career sacks in his final campaign.
 
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 36 games and has rushed for 3,242 yards on 662 carries and scored 30 touchdowns. Webb has played in 34 contests, rushing for 2,013 yards on 284 attempts while scoring 24 touchdowns. Both runners rank in the top 11 in the FCS in active career yardage.
    Ruiz ranks sixth in school history in career rushing yards and attempts while ranking eighth in rushing TDs. Webb has averaged an impressive 7.1 yards a run, which is the best in YSU history. His yardage total ranks 19th in YSU history while his 24 touchdowns are 14th.

New Faces At Wideout
    YSU had some new targets step up for first-time starting QB Ricky Davis.
    While Darien Townsend is the veteran of the receiving corps, the three other receivers who caught passes were newcomers to the program against Duquesne.
    Florida transfer Alvin Bailey had three catches for 32 yards, junior college transfer Stefan Derrick had three grabs for 26 yards and a touchdown and Damoun Patterson, another junior-college transfer, had a four-yard grab.
    The other four catches came by tight end Kevin Rader and TB Jody Webb and Martin Ruiz.
    The active career leader on the squad in receptions is Ruiz with 58 while the second is Webb (38).
    In 2015, YSU redshirted Darius Shackleford, Jermiah Braswell, Donovan McWilson, Zack Torbert, Lasander Washington, Tre'Von Williams and Ryan Emans while Scott Good did not see action. All of those wideouts saw playing time against Duquesne except for Washington.

Deep Secondary
    After a stellar campaign last year, the YSU secondary returns the bulk of its difference makers this year.
    Returning are 11-game starter LeRoy Alexander, 10-game starter Jameel Smith, eight-game starter Eric Thompson, six-game starter David Rivers and five-game starter Nate Dortch.
    The lone multi-game starting member of the group to not return is CB Kenneth Durden, who is a member of the practice squad with the Oakland Raiders.
    Avery Larkin also started one game for the Guins in 2015. Additional returners include Chrispin Lee, Solomon Warfield, D.J. Thomas and Jalyn Powell. Billy Nicoe Hurst is a junior-college addition while Darius Hall is the lone freshman of the group.
    YSU started all five of its seniors, Rivers, Smith, Alexander, Bishop and Thompson, in the win over Duquesne.

Rivers Owns YSU Sack Mark
    Senior DE Derek Rivers is the school's all-time sack leader with 27.
    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 opened the season with a sack, fumble recovery, two TFLs and two QB hurries against Duquesne.

Webb is Big-Play Scorer
    Senior TB Jody Webb had four multi-touchdown performances in 2015.
    In the season finale at Indiana State, which was played in a snowstorm, he returned a pair of kickoffs 93 yards for touchdowns and had a 26-yard scoring run in the slippery conditions.
    Webb had two rushing scores against North Dakota State, Saint Francis and Pittsburgh.
    He scored on runs of 77 and 45 against North Dakota State, scored on runs of 22 and 20 yards in the win against Saint Francis and had touchdown runs of 75 and 27 yards at Pittsburgh in the season opener.
    In his career, Webb has been a big-play touchdown scorer. Of his 24 career rushing touchdowns, 14 have been of more than 20 yards.

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 11 games and attempted kicks in all 12 contests. He has made his last nine attempts at home after missing his first two tries. He is also on a streak of eight straight makes overall.
     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.

Pass Defense was Stout
    YSU's pass defense was one of the best in the FCS throughout the entire 2015 season.
    Throughout the entire season, the Guins ranked first or second nationally in fewest passing yards allowed before finishing first with 116.7 per contest. That total was the least allowed by the program in a season since 1975.
    In the FCS, the Penguins finished first in fewest passing yards allowed and tied for first in fewest first downs allowed. YSU was fifth in pass-efficiency defense, seventh in total defense and ninth in third-down conversion stops.
    Also of note for the secondary in 2015: the 41.1 completion percentage by the opposition was the lowest by an opponent since 1980 (40.6); the eight passing touchdowns were the fewest allowed since 1996 (five); the 83 pass completions allowed were the fewest since 1976 (79); the 145 first downs allowed were the fewest since 1975 (129); the Guins allowed just 7.5 receptions per contest and YSU's defense allowed just 288.7 yards per contest, the fewest since 2002 (278.5).
    Only one time did YSU allow more than 176 yards passing in a game and on four occasions it held an opponent to 64 or less.

Dellovade Was Key Stopper
    Sophomore LB Armand Dellovade is looking to continue on an outstanding freshman season. Dellovade started the opener against Duquesne and had a pair of solo tackles.
    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 a team-high 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.

18 Guins Hail from Florida
    The Penguins once again have a solid number of Florida natives on their roster. YSU boasts 18 players who hail from the Sunshine State on the 2016 team.
    The list of players from Florida include: Alvin Bailey, Kenny Bishop, Robert Byrd, Nate Dortch, I'Tavious Harvin, Chrispin Lee, Johnson Louigene, Donald Mesier, Damoun Patterson, Nathan Pittman, Jonathan Pollock, David Rivers, Martin Ruiz, Jamal Smith, Jameel Smith, Samuel St. Surin, Eric Thompson and Lasander Washington.

Alexander The Great
    Senior FS LeRoy Alexander had an outstanding first year with the Penguins in 2015 and was named first-team All-MVFC in his first year with the program after transferring from Nebraska.
    Alexander 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.
    Against Illinois State he had a career-high 11 tackles, including seven solo stops.

Offensive Line Shuffle
    The Penguins will hope for more stability up front this year after not getting a good chance to get in a rhythm in 2015.
    Only one player started every game, which was junior Justin Spencer. He started 10 times at right tackle and once at left tackle.
    Brock Eisenhuth was sidelined for the opener because of a broken toe. He missed the final six games of last year with an upper-body injury.
    In 2015, YSU started three different centers - Matt Bell, Charles Zaborsky and Cole Newsome. Bell and Zaborsky are no longer with the program while Newsome is a reserve.
    For the year, eight different players started at least one game.
    This year's opening night lineup featured two players who have started the last three season openers - Spencer and Dylan Colucci. Sophomore RG Gavin Wiggins started the final four contests and LG Cameron Fraser started seven of the final eight games in 2015. Newcomer C Vitas Hrynkiwicz made his debut vs. DU.

Ruiz Model of Consistency
    Senior TB Martin Ruiz has rushed for at least 74 yards in a game on 28 occasions in 36 career games played. He opened the season with 17 carries for 89 yards against Duquesne.
    On 14 occasions he has rushed for more than 100 yards, including a career-high eight times as a sophomore in 2014. Last year he rushed for more than 100 yards twice.
    Additionally he has scored a touchdown in 22 games, with eight multi-TD performances. In two games vs. Duquesne he has five touchdowns.

Kuhn Coming Off Big Year
    Junior TE Shane Kuhn was a second-team All-MVFC selection last year as a fullback. Kuhn played both tight end and fullback during the campaign for the Guins.
    He had 24 rushes for 80 yards and four touchdowns. His four touchdowns tied for the second most on the squad. He was back in his familiar role against Duquesne with two carries for three yards. One rush picked up a first down on fouth-and-short, and another was for a TD.

Rivers The Past Two Years
    Senior DE Derek Rivers has had a solid last two-plus years at YSU.
    In his career, Rivers has 118 total tackles, 78 of which are solos. He has an impressive 39 TFLs.
    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. So in the last 24 games, he has 105 total tackles, 34.5 TFLs and 24 sacks. He is averaging 4.4 stops, 1.4 TFLs and one sack a game.

Ruiz High On Lists
    Senior TB Martin Ruiz ranks sixth in school history with 3,242 yards rushing and sixth with 662 career attempts. He is one of seven players in school history to rush for more than 3,000 yards in a career.
    With 30 rushing touchdowns, he is eighth in YSU history. He is one behind Marcus Mason for seventh and two back of Marschell Brumfield. Ruiz ranks eighth in all-purpose yards with 4,047 while senior TB Jody Webb is 17th with 3,130.

Offense Keeps Balance
    Last season the Penguins averaged 199.8 yards rushing and 192.5 yards passing keeping a balanced philosophy.
    YSU had 2,198 yards rushing last season and 2,117 yards passing for nearly a 50/50 split.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 123-31 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 21-60.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 150-19-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 123-16 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 146-25 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 77-9-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 177-15 when leading entering the fourth.
• 79-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.
More recently:
• YSU has scored points in 92 straight games.

Up Next: Robert Morris
    The Penguins return home to finish the non-conference slate against Robert Morris on Sept. 17 at Stambaugh Stadium. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m.