Penguins Set to Take On Missouri State on Senior Day

OT Justin Spencer will start his 50th straight game on Saturday. (Photo By Skip Giesen)
OT Justin Spencer will start his 50th straight game on Saturday. (Photo By Skip Giesen)

    The Youngstown State football team concludes the 2017 regular-season campaign against Missouri State on Saturday afternoon. Kickoff for the Senior Day contest at Stambaugh Stadium is set for noon. The game is available on Watch ESPN, WKBN 570 AM and iHeartRadio.
    YSU (5-5 overall, 3-4 in the MVFC) has won two straight games following a hard-fought 28-20 win at Southern Illinois. The Penguins overcame four turnovers, and the defense came up with a big fourth-quarter TD to seal the victory.
    After falling behind 7-0, Hunter Wells and Damoun Patterson combined for a pair of touchdown passes. The first was from 48 yards on a deep ball while the second was from 14 yards in the final minute before halftime. Following an SIU field goal, Tevin McCaster scored on fourth-and-goal from the one as YSU went ahead 21-10. The Salukis fought back to pull within 21-20 scoring the next 10 points. With just under two minutes remaining, Justus Reed forced a sack-fumble from Matt DeSomer and scooped up the ball at the SIU 21. Reed scored from there to take a 28-20 lead with 1:44 left. The YSU defense stopped a final Salukis drive for the win.
    Missouri State (3-7, 2-5) had a two-game winning streak snapped last Saturday falling to UNI, 25-10 at Plaster Stadium. The Bears trailed 19-0 late in the second quarter of the game. UNI kicked four field goals in the game and had a pick-six that gave it the 19-0 advantage. MSU scored on a six-yard run by Jason Randall to pull within 19-7, but could only muster a field goal in the second half.
    YSU has won the last two meetings handily winning 65-20 at Plaster Stadium to end the 2016 regular season. The Penguins beat the Bears 47-7 at Stambaugh Stadium in November 2015. YSU leads the all-time series 14-5.
    Saturday's game will be the final home game for a group of 20 seniors. QB Hunter Wells, QB Ricky Davis, OT Justin Spencer, OT Cameron Fraser, OG Cole Newsome, TE Kevin Rader, TE Shane Kuhn, WR Alvin Bailey, WR Stefan Derrick, WR Damoun Patterson, DE Fazson Chapman, DT Donald Mesier, FS Jalyn Powell, SS Soloman Warfield, CB Billy Nicoe Hurst and LB Lee Wright have combined for 113 starts this year.

   

Quick Notes
• TB Tevin McCaster had his third 100-yard rushing game of the season with 158 yards at SIU. His other 100-yard rushing games were against Central Connecticut State (101) and South Dakota State (183).
• QB Hunter Wells now has 42 career touchdown passes after throwing two at Southern Illinois. He moved into sole possession of fourth in school history ahead of Trenton Lykes (40) and Keith Snoddy (40).
• Wells enters the MSU contest just three yards shy of 6,000 passing yards for his career. McCaster (885) is 115 shy of 1,000 yards rushing for the season.
• PK Zak Kennedy has made all 38 of his PAT kicks this season. The last time a YSU kicker did not miss a PAT in a season was Stephen Blose in 2009 (27-of-27).
• YSU has won the last three games in which it committed four turnovers.
• DE Justus Reed is the first Penguin defensive lineman to score a touchdown since Aronde Stanton at South Dakota State in 2012.
• In the past two games, YSU has 1,074 yards of total offense. In the four prior, the Penguins had 1,134 yards. YSU has eclipsed 400 yards of total offense six times, and more than 630 on two occasions this year.
• In the five wins, YSU has rushed for a total of 1,587 yards. In their five losses, the Penguins had 576 yards.
• For the second straight game, YSU had three plays take snaps in a game - Ricky Davis, Hunter Wells and Chris Durkin.
• YSU has outscored opponents 148-63 in the second half and 80-23 in the fourth quarter.
• McCaster has scored a touchdown in eight games this season.
• OT Justin Spencer has started 49 straight games on the offensive line. Spencer, Gavin Wiggins and Vitas Hrynkiewicz have started the past 26 games together on the line.
• The Penguins have had advantages of more than five minutes in time of possession in five of the last seven contests.

Last Time Out: YSU 28, SIU 20
    Youngstown State overcame four turnovers, and the defense came up with a big fourth-quarter TD to seal a 28-20 victory over Southern Illinois last Saturday at Saluki Stadium.
    After falling behind 7-0, Hunter Wells and Damoun Patterson combined for a pair of touchdown passes. The first was from 48 yards on a deep ball while the second was from 14 yards in the final minute before halftime. Following an SIU field goal, Tevin McCaster scored on fourth-and-goal from the one as YSU went ahead 21-10. The Salukis fought back to pull within 21-20 scoring the next 10 points. With just under two minutes remaining, Justus Reed forced a sack-fumble from Matt DeSomer and scooped up the ball at the SIU 21. Reed scored from there to take a 28-20 lead with 1:44 left. The YSU defense stopped a final Salukis drive for the win.

Last Meeting: YSU 65, MSU 20
    YSU ended the 2016 regular season with a record-setting performance during an impressive 65-20 win over Missouri State at Plaster Stadium.
    The Penguins set school records for total offensive yards (747) and rushing yards (572) and most points scored in a road/conference game in the win.
    YSU jumped out to a 27-3 lead and never looked back in the contest. At hafltime the Guins led 34-10 before adding 17 points in the  third quarter.
    Led by reserve TB Joe Alessi, who had 190 yards on just seven carries and scored twice, the Penguins had three tailbacks rush for more than 100 yards in the game. Martin Ruiz rushed for 183 yards on 19 carries and scored three times while Jody Webb had 166 yards on 15 attempts and scored twice.
    YSU had five rushing touchdowns of 50 yards or more in the game.

Seniors Make Impact
    The group of 20 YSU seniors who will be playing their home game on Saturday have combined to start 113 times this season out of a possible 220 starts.
    TE Kevin Rader, WR Damoun Patterson, OT Justin Spencer, OT Cameron Fraser, CB Billy Nicoe Hurst, FS Jalyn Powell, DT Donald Mesier and LB Lee Wright have started every game this season.
    Against Missouri State, Spencer is slated to  start his 50th consecutive game on Saturday. QB Hunter Wells has started 30 games his career while QB Ricky Davis has started eight times. Additionally, WR Alvin Bailey has made 18 starts while TE Shane Kuhn has made 16 starts.
    Overall, Rader has made 25 career starts and Wright has made 24.

Secondary Has Played Well
    YSU's secondary has been a strength of the team this season.
    The Penguins are allowing just 153.6 yards passing per game, which ranks fifth in the FCS. YSU is second in the MVFC, just 2.5 yards behind North Dakota State.
    YSU has held eight of 10 opponents to 160 yards less passing this year.
    Against Indiana State, the Penguins intercepted a season-high three passes.
    Opposing QBs have completed just 49.2 percent of their passing attempts for a total of 1,536 yards.
    Billy Nicoe Hurst, Bryce Gibson and Jalyn Powell have started all 10 games while Kyle Hegedus has started the last nine contests.
    Powell leads the team with 72 total tackles and 47 solo stops. Hegedus is second on the squad with 70 stops, 43 of which are solos.
    Through 10 games, the Guins have allowed just eight passing touchdowns. Last year they allowed 26 in 16 games. As a unit, YSU has 41 pass breakups and five interceptions.

Turnovers Lead to Points
    YSU has forced 10 turnovers this season, and it has turned nine of them into points (eight touchdowns and a field goal).
    At Southern Illinois, YSU capitalized on a second-quarter fumble with a touchdown just before halftime. In the fourth, the defense returned a fumble for a score for the final margin.
    At Indiana State, the Penguins intercepted three passes and converted all three turnovers into touchdowns.
    Against South Dakota State, YSU recovered a first-quarter fumble that led to a touchdown and intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter which enabled them to run out the clock.
    YSU turned a third-quarter interception into a score vs. Central Connecticut State. Against Robert Morris, YSU turned a fumble recovery into a field goal. At Pittsburgh, the Guins took advantage of a fourth-quarter fumble with a TD.

Patterson Plays Big Role
    Senior WR Damoun Patterson has stepped up in the past five games with 18 catches for 394 yards and four touchdowns.
    In the win at Southern Illinois, Patterson caught a career-high two touchdown passes. He had four catches for 80 yards in the game. At Indiana State, he had five catches for 143 yards. He caught five passes for 100 yards and a touchdown against UNI.
    In the first five games of the season he had nine catches for 126 yards and no touchdowns.

Spencer Shows Durability
    Senior OT Justin Spencer, a preseason third-team All-America pick, has been a mainstay on the offensive line for the Guins since 2014.
    A preseason All-MVFC first-team selection, Spencer has started all 49 games in his YSU career. After playing right tackle his first two years with the program, Spencer moved to left tackle in 2016 where he started all 16 games.
    He was a second-team All-MVFC pick in 2016 and an honorable-mention selection in 2015.

Dellovade Playing Tough
    YSU junior LB Armand Dellovade is bidding to be the first player to lead the Penguins in tackles in consecutive seasons since Teven Williams (2011-13).
    Dellovade has recorded 38 tackles in the past four games, including a career-best 15-tackle effort at UNI and an 11-stop performance vs. Illinois State. He had 10 solo stops against the Redbirds.
    Entering the game against MSU, he is tied for second on the squad with 70 tackles with safety Kyle Hegedus. Safety Jalyn Powell leads the team with 72 stops. Fellow linebacker Lee Wright is just one behind at 69.
     In 37 career games played, Dellovade has 229 career tackles, 138 of which are solo stops.

McCaster Making Moves
    Junior TB Tevin McCaster has scored a touchdown in eight games this year and has a total of 11 scores.
    At Southern Illinois, McCaster ran for 158 yards on 26 carries and had a TD. At Indiana State, McCaster had 22 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown.
    McCaster, who had four scores at South Dakota on Oct. 7, scored on a one-yard run with 1:23 left in regulation to help the Penguins force overtime vs. NDSU.
    At South Dakota, McCaster scored a career-high four touchdowns. He rushed for 90 yards on 22 carries against the Coyotes. Against South Dakota State, McCaster had a career-high 35 rushes for a career-best 183 yards.
    This season, McCaster has 885 yards on 194 carries and 11 touchdowns.

March of the Penguins
    This season the Penguins have 33 drives of at least eight-or-more plays this year.
    YSU had four drives of nine plays or more at Southern Illinois, but was only able to score once. At Indiana State, had just one long drive despite scoring nine touchdowns.
    At UNI, YSU had three eight-play drives, including a 14-play sequence that ended with a missed field goal.
    YSU had four scoring drives vs. NDSU, and all four were more than eight plays. The Penguins tied the game up with 1:23 remaining with a nine-play, 90-yard drive that took 5:01.
    At South Dakota, YSU had four drives for eight plays, and three of those ended in touchdowns. Against South Dakota State, YSU had six drives of nine plays or longer.
    Against SDSU, the Guins' offense had six drives that lasted nine or more plays. YSU had drives of nine (twice), 14, 15 (twice) and 16 against the Jackrabbits. YSU had a school record 45:14 time of possession in the contest.

The Wright Stuff
    Senior LB Lee Wright, a 2015 second-team All-MVFC honoree, has 176 career tackles in 26 games played. Wright has been a starter for the Penguins on 24 occasions during his career.
    This year he has 69 total tackles, 34 solos and 35 assists. He has five-or-more tackles in seven contests, highlighted by 10 at Pittsburgh and 10 at UNI.
    Last season, he started three of the final four playoff games for the Penguins and was credited with 29  tackles (21 solos) in the postseason.
    In 2015, 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.

Wells Returns to Action
    Senior QB Hunter Wells saw his most playing time since the season opener at Pittsburgh last Saturday at Southern Illinois.
    Wells completed 11-of-23 passes for 160 yards and two scores against the Salukis. Wells opened the year completing 18-of-32 passes for 311 yards and two touchdowns in an overtime loss to Pittsburgh. He then suffered injuries on the first series of the game against Robert Morris and South Dakota State.
    After not playing since Sept. 30, Wells played in the fourth quarter at Indiana State on Nov. 4.

Chapman Providing Pressure
    Senior DE Fazson Chapman has performed well in his first year as a starter for the Penguins.
    Through 10 games, Chapman has 39 tackles, which includes 7.5 TFLs and five sacks. In the past six games, he has stepped up his performance making 25 total tackles.
    At Southern Illinois, Chapman, who was playing in his home state, had a career-best tying six tackles. His five solo stops against the Salukis were a career best.
    In his career prior to this season, he had one assisted tackle and two quarterback hurries. Last season, he was a backup to third-round NFL Draft pick Derek Rivers.

Kennedy In Top Four
    Junior PK Zak Kennedy ranks fourth in school history in points by a placekicker. This season, Kennedy has 59 points. As a sophomore he scored 96 points, and as a freshman he had 91.
    With an 11-point performance at Indiana State, Kennedy moved past John Dowling (237) and Paul McFadden (240) and now has 242 points in a YSU uniform.
    He has made 45 field goals in his career and 111 extra points in his three years with the program.

Schuler Has Been Solid
    Sophomore punter Mark Schuler has had strong efforts the past three games.
    At Southern Illinois, Schuler had three punts that each were 47 yards. At Indiana State, he had three punts for an average of 44 yards per punt and placed two inside the opposition's 20-yard line. Against Illinois State, Schuler tied his career high for punts with eight and averaged 40.5 yards per attempt against the Redbirds.
    This season he has played in eight games – did not punt against Robert Morris and Central Connecticut – and has 37 punts for an average of 42.7 yards per boot.
    He has placed 11 kicks inside the opponents' 20-yard line and has five kicks of more than 50 yards on the campaign. Last season he averaged 42.5 yards per punt.
    In his career he is averaging 42.5 yards per punt on 101 boots.

Game to Remember For Davis
    Senior Ricky Davis had one of the best performances by a starting quarterback in school history at Indiana State.
    Davis accounted for six touchdowns and had career highs in passing yards and rushing yards in the Penguins' 66-24 win at Indiana State.
    He completed 10-of-12 passes for 349 yards and four scores. His yardage total was the fourth-most in school history and the most by a YSU QB since 1983 (Jamie DeVore vs. Eastern Kentucky). Davis averaged an impressive 34.9 yards per completion. Davis had completions of 6, 10, 18, 19, 23, 39, 52, 53, 61 and 64 yards in the game. He also completed 10 of his final 11 attempts.  He also added 98 yards rushing and two scores on 14 attempts.
 
Losing Some Close Ones
    Four of YSU's five losses this season have come by a total of 18 points. Three of those defeats have come on the road by a total of 15 points. YSU dropped its opener at Pittsburgh 28-21 in overtime, lost a 31-28 contest at South Dakota on a late field goal and dropped a 19-14 decision at UNI. YSU had its 11-game home winning streak snapped by North Dakota State with a 27-24 overtime defeat.

Working Overtime
    Twice this season the Penguins have played an overtime game. YSU battled North Dakota State to OT after the contest was tied at 24 at the end of regulation. The Penguins, however, suffered a 27-24 setback to the Bison.
    YSU opened the season with an overtime contest at Pittsburgh. The Penguins came up short in that contest as the Panthers scored a TD and the defense held YSU in a 28-21 contest.
    YSU is now 8-7 all-time in overtime games and has played six since November 2014 after last playing an overtime game in September 2004. At home, the Penguins are 5-3 with their last win coming against Wofford in 2016.

True Freshmen See Action
    Last year YSU played two true freshmen; one was a kickoff specialist and the other was a special teams/reserve linebacker. After 10 games in 2017, YSU has played four.
    TB Christian Turner has 936 all-purpose yards. CB Bryce Gibson has started each game at cornerback. Jake Coates is YSU's punt returner and a kick returner and LB Terray Bryant has played on special teams.

Rugged Ranked Stretch
    The Penguins endured a daunting stretch facing then fourth-ranked South Dakota State, then-sixth-ranked South Dakota and second-ranked North Dakota State. YSU also played then 16th-ranked Illinois State.
    YSU came within six points of sweeping the top five teams (USD and NDSU), but came up just short on two occasions.
     The Guins opened MVFC play with an impressive 19-7 win over South Dakota State. YSU then dropped a 31-28 decision at South Dakota as the Coyotes kicked a field goal with seven seconds left. Against NDSU, YSU lost in overtime after missing a field goal while the Bison converted a 36-yarder for the win.
    The four FCS teams to beat YSU have a combined record of 28-9. NDSU, USD, UNI and Illinois State all have six wins entering the week of the regular season.

McCaster Carries the Load
    Junior TB Tevin McCaster has rushed for more than 62 yards in eight games this year. McCaster also has at least 19 carries in seven contests.
    This year, he has rushed for 885 yards on 194 carries and has 11 touchdowns. McCaster has three 100-yard efforts so far this year - 183 vs. South Dakota State, 158 at Missouri State and 101 vs. Central Connecticut. Against the Jackrabbits he had a career-high 35 carries.
    He has touchdowns in eight games this season. In his career, YSU is 13-4 when he scores a touchdown, including an 8-1 record a year ago.
    Last season, McCaster was second on the team in touchdowns with 11 while rushing for 652 yards on 129 carries. His best performance was at EWU, where he had 154 yards on 29 carries and scored three touchdowns.
    He was the only running back to play in all 16 games in 2016.

20 Seniors Breakdown
    The roster features 20 seniors who have come to YSU through a variety of ways. Eight of the 20 have spent their entire college careers at YSU.
    Five players are fifth-year seniors - Ricky Davis, Cole Newsome, Anthony Parente, Kevin Rader and Justin Spencer. Davis has moved to wide receiver after serving as a quarterback his first four years. Rader was a originally a defensive end for two seasons before moving to tight end.
    DE Fazson Chapman came to YSU in 2013, then spent the 2014 season at Rochester Community College, before returning in 2015.
    Three seniors on the roster joined the program in 2014 and never redshirted - TE Shane Kuhn, DB DJ Thomas and QB Hunter Wells. LB Lee Wright transferred to YSU from Appalachian State while OT Cameron Fraser joined the team from Louisville in 2014.
    Those who have been with the program for three seasons include Big Ten transfers Jalyn Powell (Michigan State) and Soloman Warfield (Iowa) and juco transfer Lasander Washington.
    Five junior college transfers and an FBS transfer are in their second seasons at YSU. Alvin Bailey joined the program in the spring of 2016 from Florida. Junior college transfers who came to YSU last summer are Stefan Derrick, Donald Mesier, Trent Hosick, Billy Nicoe Hurst and Damoun Patterson. Hosick came to YSU as a quarterback.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 134-35 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 26-66.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 161-20-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 137-16 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 158-26 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 85-9-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 188-15 when leading entering the fourth.
• 86-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.