No. 8 Penguins Return Home To Face Second-Ranked North Dakota State

Bryce Gibson
Bryce Gibson

    The eighth-ranked Youngstown State football team plays its third straight nationally-ranked foe when No. 2 North Dakota State visits Stambaugh Stadium on Saturday night. Kickoff for the contest is set for 7 p.m. The game is available on Watch ESPN, WKBN 570 AM and iHeartRadio.
    YSU (3-2 overall, 1-1 in the MVFC) suffered a disappointing 31-28 setback at unbeaten and sixth-ranked South Dakota last Saturday at the DakotaDome. Tevin McCaster had a rushing score in each quarter as the Penguins overcame a 28-14 second-half deficit to tie the game at 28 in the fourth. However, South Dakota was able to put together a game-winning drive that ended with a Ryan Weese 29-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining.
    YSU jumped out to a 7-0 first-quarter lead when McCaster scored on a nine-yard run 5:22 into the game. But USD had the next two scores as Chris Streveler threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Randy Baker and Kai Henry scored on a one-yard run. McCaster scored on a three-yard run tying the contest before Streveler found Brandt Van Roeckel for a 22-yard score just before halftime. The Guins trailed 28-14 when Streveler connected with Shamar Jackson on a 71-yard score, but two McCaster scores tied the game with 3:49 left. But, USD moved into field-goal range late to earn the win.
    North Dakota State (5-0 and 2-0) has been impressive this season winning each game by at least 27 points, including a 52-0 win at Indiana State last Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind. Against the Sycamores, Easton Stick threw four touchdown passes while Lance Dunn rushed for a pair of scores. NDSU forced six Indiana State turnovers in the game and had a 448-242 advantage in total yards. This season, NDSU has allowed just three touchdowns and is averaging 51.6 points per game while allowing just 6.2 The Bison have allowed just nine points total in five second halves this year.
    The Penguins have dropped the past five games in the series and have not won at home against NDSU since 2008. Two years ago, YSU dropped a 27-24 contest at Stambaugh Stadium and last year the Penguins lost 24-3 at the Fargodome. YSU has won 11 straight home games while the Bison own a 12-game road winning streak entering Saturday's game.

 

  

Quick Notes
• YSU owns an 11-game winning streak at Stambaugh Stadium. The last team to beat the Penguins at home was North Dakota State on Nov. 14, 2015. YSU had a 24-10 lead in the fourth quarter before the Bison rallied.
• McCaster became the 12th player in school history to score at least four rushing touchdowns in a game with his performance at South Dakota. It was the first four-TD game for a Penguin since Jamaine Cook vs. Saint Francis in 2011.
• McCaster has scored a touchdown in all five games this season.
• The Penguins have outscored opponents 85-19 in the second half this season. In the fourth quarter, the Penguins have scored 45 points while surrendering only six points, a pair of field goals.
• The Penguins had four drives of more than eight plays against South Dakota – three ended in touchdowns. YSU has had 21 drives of at least eight plays or more this season.
• YSU has dominated time of possession in the second half in the past two games. At South Dakota, the Guins held the ball for 19:16. Against South Dakota State, YSU maintained possession for 26:24.
• OT Justin Spencer has started 44 straight games on the offensive line. Spencer, Gavin Wiggins and Vitas Hrynkiewicz have started the past 21 games together on the line.
• YSU has 20 seniors on the roster with 12 on the offensive side and eight on defense. Four positions have the bulk of the group - four wide receivers, three tight ends, three offensive lineman and three in the secondary.
• LB Armand Dellovade, P Mark Schuler, OT Justin Spencer and C Vitas Hrynkiewicz were named first-team preseason All-MVFC in 2017.

Last Time Out: USD 31, YSU 28
    YSU suffered a disappointing 31-28 setback at unbeaten and sixth-ranked South Dakota last Saturday at the DakotaDome.
    TB Tevin McCaster had a rushing score in each quarter as the Penguins overcame a 28-14 second-half deficit to tie the game at 28 in the fourth. However, South Dakota was able to put together a game-winning drive that ended with a Ryan Weese 29-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining.
    YSU jumped out to a 7-0 first-quarter lead when McCaster scored on a nine-yard run 5:22 into the game. But USD had the next two scores grabbing a 14-7 advantage. McCaster scored on a three-yard run tying the contest before Streveler found Brandt Van Roeckel for a 22-yard score just before halftime. The Guins trailed 28-14, but two McCaster scores tied the game with 3:49 left. But, USD moved into field-goal range late on its final possession to earn the win.
Last Meeting: NDSU 24, YSU 3
    YSU suffered a 24-3 loss at fourth-ranked North Dakota State last year at the Fargodome
    Early turnovers haunted the Penguins in the contest. The Bison jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter with 10 points coming off of turnovers. NDSU took a 7-0 lead when Chase Morlock scored on a 71-yard touchdown run on a third-and-1 play at the NDSU 29 midway through the first period.
    YSU then committed two turnovers in a span of four plays that gave the Bison the football at the Penguins' 25 and 15-yard lines. NDSU converted those scores into 10 points on a 36-yard Cam Pederson field goal and a 15-yard pass from Easton Stick to Jeff Illies
    From that point YSU moved the ball at times but was only able to make a field goal, a 32-yarder by Zak Kennedy in the second quarter. The Guins had three points on four trips inside the red zone in the game. NDSU put the game out of reach on a seven-yard touchdown run by Lance Dunn in the fourth.

11 For the Fourth Time
    The Penguins have won 11 straight home games, which is tied for the third longest winning streak in school history.
    Last year, YSU was a perfect 8-0 at home and has wins over Robert Morris, Central Connecticut and South Dakota State in 2017.
    The longest home winning streak is 13 games, which encompassed the 1992 and 1993 campaigns. The current streak is the longest home winning streak for the program since winning 11 straight from 2004-06.

March of the Penguins
    The Penguins had four drives of more than eight plays against South Dakota – three ended in touchdowns.
    YSU has been doing a good job of playing keep away this year and has 21 drives of at least eight plays or more.
    The Penguins have had 14 double-figure play drives, including four each vs. South Dakota State and Robert Morris. YSU is averaging 33:03 in time of possession. That number ranks 15th in the FCS.
    Against South Dakota State, 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.

McCaster Stepping Up
    Junior TB Tevin McCaster has had two of his best performances in the past two contests.
    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. McCaster scored on a one-yard run in the second quarter to give the Penguins a 14-7 lead in the second quarter.
    Through five games, he has rushed for 536 yards on 107 attempts and scored eight touchdowns.

Another Ranked Foe
    The Penguins are facing a team ranked in the top six for the third consecutive week in second-ranked North Dakota State.
    The Bison are the sixth top-10 ranked team that YSU will play in its last nine games against FCS competition. In last year's playoffs, the Penguins faced third-ranked Jacksonville State, second-ranked Eastern Washington and fourth-ranked James Madison in three of their final four games.
    Already this season the Penguins have played fourth-ranked South Dakota State and sixth-ranked South Dakota.
    In the past calendar year (since Oct. 16, 2017) YSU has played seven of the nine teams currently ranked in this week's FCS top 10 (including NDSU last November). Impressively, the Guins have beaten five of the seven teams.
    After Saturday, only one currently ranked foe remains - Illinois State.

Sack Attack Continues
    The Penguins had a tall task following up last year's 49-sack effort. So far, so good on the pressure front as YSU has 14 sacks in five games.
    YSU has had at least three sacks in four of five games this season. At South Dakota, YSU had four sacks, including a pair by Armand Dellovade.
    The Penguins had four against Robert Morris and had three each vs. Pittsburgh and Central Connecticut.
    Seven different players have a sack this year while DEs Fazson Chapman and Justus Reed lead the team with four each.

Mays Has Success
    Sophomore QB Nathan Mays has stepped in and performed well over the past four games.
    Mays made his first career road start last Saturday at South Dakota and engineered four scoring drives. He was 12-of-25 for 153 yards while rushing for 30 yards on 14 carries.
    In the past four games, Mays has rushed for 254 yards on 36 carries and scored five touchdowns. He has completed 47-of-73 passes for 526 yards with a touchdown.
    Against SDSU, Mays had 11 carries for 65 yards and a touchdown. He completed 14-of-19 passes for 113 yards. Mays completed 13-of-17 passes for 149 yards while rushing for 63 yards on seven carries vs. RMU. He had the first passing and first rushing TDs of his career against RMU. Against CCSU he had 96 yards rushing on four carries while completing 8-of-12 passes for 112 yards.
    Last season, Mays had 35 carries for 126 yards while completing 11-of-18 passes for 133 yards.

Dellovade a Key Stopper
    Junior LB Armand Dellovade, a 2016 second-team all-league selection, has continued his strong play at the outset of the 2017 campaign.
    In five games, Dellovade has 25 tackles, including a nine-tackle performance against  Pitt. At South Dakota, he had two sacks in the ball game. Against SDSU, Dellovade had a tackle-for-loss which resulted in a safety and an interception that stopped the Jackrabbits' final drive of the game. He was named the MVFC's Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.
    Last season he led the Penguins with 105 tackles, including 70 solo stops, in 16 games. He was third on the squad with 11.5 TFLs.

Chapman Providing Pressure
    Senior DE Fazson Chapman has performed well in his first year as a starter for the Penguins.
    Through five games, Chapman has 16 tackles, which includes four sacks. At South Dakota, Chapman had five stops, including four solo tackles. He also had a sack and forced fumble against the Coyotes.
    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.

The Wright Stuff
    Senior LB Lee Wright, a 2015 second-team All-MVFC honoree, is off to a fast start this year. In five games, Wright has 32 total tackles, 18 of which are solo stops.
    This year he has five or more tackles in four contests, highlighted by a season-high 10 at Pittsburgh.
    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 the National Championship Game against JMU, he had eight total tackles, five of which were solo stops. At EWU he had seven tackles (four solos), three TFLs, two QB hurries and a pass breakup. 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.
    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.

Spencer A Mainstay
    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 44 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.

Four Starting QBs on Roster
    The Penguins have four players on their roster who have started at quarterback at one point or another during their YSU careers.
    What's impressive is they have all won a game as a starter, and they have started in a span of 18 games. The Penguins are 14-4 in those contests.
    Sophomore QB Nathan Mays made his first career start against Central Connecticut and earned the win. Mays made his first road start at South Dakota last Saturday.
    YSU had three different starters a year ago and all won games - Hunter Wells, Ricky Davis and Trent Hosick. Wells started the final nine games last year and first two in 2017. Hosick started against Robert Morris in 2016, and Davis started a four-game stretch - as well as the first two games - last year.

Secondary Growing Together
    YSU lost five members of last year's secondary, but through five games the group has played well.
    Opposing QBs have completed just 53.9 percent of their passing attempts for a total of 850 yards - 170 yards per game average.
    Billy Nicoe Hurst, Bryce Gibson and Jalyn Powell have started all five games while Kyle Hegedus has stepped in to start the last four games. Powell leads the team with 36 tackles while Hegedus is second with 35. The pair have combined to make 47 solo tackles this year.
    Through five games, the Guins have allowed just five passing touchdowns. Last year they allowed 26 in 16 games.
    As a defensive unit, YSU has 22 pass breakups and two interceptions this year.

McCaster TD A Good Sign
    Junior TB Tevin McCaster has rushed for more than 73 yards in all five games this year.
    Through five games, he has rushed for 536 yards on 107 carries and has eight touchdowns. McCaster has two 100-yard efforts so far this year, the other being a 101-yard performance vs. Central Connecticut.
    He has scored touchdowns in each of the first five games this season. In his career, YSU is 11-3 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.

Defense Stout At Home
    The Penguins have allowed just 16 points in three home games this season.
    YSU opened the year with a shutout of Robert Morris before allowing nine points to Central Connecticut and seven to South Dakota State.
    In five games, the Guins have only surrendered 19 second-half points this season. In the fourth quarter, the Penguins have scored 45 points while surrendering only six points, a pair of field goals.
    YSU has shut out three opponents in the second half this year.

True Freshmen See Action
    Last year YSU played two true freshmen; one was kickoff specialist and the other a special teams/reserve linebacker. After five games in 2017, YSU has played three.
    TB Christian Turner has a team-high 555 all-purpose yards. CB Bryce Gibson has started each game at cornerback. Jake Coates is YSU's punt returner and a kick returner.

Kennedy Provides Points
    Junior PK Zak Kennedy has made five of his last six field goals for the Penguins. His lone miss in the past three games came on a 56-yard attempt.
    Against SDSU, he made a 27-yard field goal. Against CCSU, Kennedy made a 36-yard field goal and eight extra-point tries for 11 points. He kicked three field goals in the win over RMU. Kennedy made kicks of 23, 27 and 30 yards in the win. It was the sixth time in his career that he made three field goals in a game.
    His only miss of the game was a 56-yard try right before halftime. Kennedy had the distance, but the kick went just wide.
    Kennedy was 19-of-29 last season despite missing two games with an injury. He was 11-of-17 before his injury and since returning to the lineup went 8-of-12. At Jacksonville State he had one of the best games of his career making 4-of-5 attempts. On a freezing cold day at EWU he was 2-of-2, making a 42-yarder in the contest.
    In 2015, he had an outstanding year making 19-of-23 attempts to earn first-team All-MVFC honors.
    In his two-plus seasons as YSU's placekicker, Kennedy is 43-of-59 in field-goal tries.

Turner Turns Heads
    Freshman TB Christian Turner has been a key part of the offense rushing for 316 yards on 58 carries this year. He has caught 14 passes for 206 yards and two scores as well. He is averaging 14.7 yards per catch and 5.4 per rush.
    Turner got off to a fast start with more than 100 all-purpose yards in each of his first three games of his YSU career. At Pittsburgh, he had 189 all-purpose yards, he added 107 more against Robert Morris and had 123 vs. CCSU.
    Against South Dakota State, he had 62 yards rushing and 19 receiving for 81 yards.
    Replacing a key player who wore No. 20 for the past four seasons – Jody Webb – Turner showed some Webb-like qualities in his first career game. Turner caught five passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns vs. Pitt. Turner caught fourth-quarter scores of 25 and 42 as YSU rallied to tie the game and force overtime.
    Against RMU, he had 89 yards rushing on 17 carries and caught two passes for 18 yards. Versus CCSU he had 91 yards rushing and 32 receiving.

100-Yard Receivers
    For the first time since 2009, YSU had two players with 100-or-more yards receiving in the same game.
    Against Pitt, TB Christian Turner (124) and TE Kevin Rader (100) each had more than 100 yards receiving. It was the first time YSU had two 100-yard receivers in a game since  WRs Donald Jones and Dominique Barnes had more than 100 yards against Illinois State.
    The last running back with 100-plus yards receiving was Lorenzo Davis on Dec. 2, 1989, at Furman while the last tight end with more than 100 yards was Will Shaw (120) at South Dakota State in 2012.

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.

TE's Play Big Role
    YSU has three senior tight ends in Kevin Rader, Shane Kuhn and Anthony Parente in addition to Chris Durkin, a fourth-year junior in transfer.
    In total, the group has combined to play 100 games the past three years. In fact all three seniors have played in every game since the start of the 2015 season. Kuhn has missed one game since 2014 while Parente has not played in two. Rader played defensive end in 2014.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 133-34 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 25-65.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 160-19-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 135-16 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 156-26 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 85-9-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 186-15 when leading entering the fourth.
• 86-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.
More recently:
• YSU has scored points in 113 straight games.