Penguins Set to Take On Robert Morris in Home Opener

Jalyn Powell
Jalyn Powell

    The Youngstown State football team plays its first home game of the season against Robert Morris on Saturday. Kickoff for the game at Stambaugh Stadium is set for 2:04 p.m. The game is available on Watch ESPN, WKBN 570 AM and iHeartRadio.
    YSU (0-1) showed heart overcoming a 21-0 halftime deficit at Pittsburgh last Saturday to force overtime against the Panthers. However, the Penguins came up just short falling 28-21 at Heinz Field. In the second half, YSU outgained Pitt 276-85 to mount a furious comeback. Down 21-0, Tevin McCaster scored on a one-yard run with 4:44 left in the third quarter to get the Penguins on the scoreboard. In the fourth quarter, a pair of Hunter Wells to Christian Turner touchdown passes tied up the contest. The first was a 25-yard scoring toss that brought YSU within 21-14 at the 6:10 mark. The pair connected again, this time on a 42-yard score, with 3:35 remaining to tie the contest.
    In overtime, Pitt had possession first and scored on an 11-yard Max Browne to Jester Weah pass. On YSU's posession, Wells was intercepted in the end zone by Bricen Garner to end the contest.
    Robert Morris (1-0) had a thriller of its own about 20 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh as the Colonials defeated Dayton 13-10. The victory was the first in a season opener for the program since 2008 and the first over the Flyers dating back to 2000. Dayton jumped out to a 10-0 lead before the Colonials tied the game in the third quarter on a 72-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Walker to Tavin Allison. With 2:19 left, RMU recovered a Dayton fumble at the Flyers' 28-yard line. After moving the ball to the eight-yard line and with four seconds left, Nick Bisceglia's 26-yard field goal won the contest.
    This marks the third straight season the Colonials and Penguins have played at Stambaugh Stadium. Last year, YSU cruised to a 38-6 win over the Colonials in a game that saw more than an hour weather delay in the first quarter. In 2015, the Penguins rallied for a 21-14 overtime win on a rainy night at Stambaugh.
    YSU plays host to Central Connecticut State next Saturday.

 

 

Quick Notes
• Since moving to Stambaugh Stadium in 1982, YSU is 28-6-1 in the first home game of the season. Since 1989, YSU is an impressive 23-1-1 in home openers.
• First time starters in the opener against Pitt included OG Jacob Zinni, TB Tevin McCaster, CB Bryce Gibson, SS Soloman Warfield, LB Cash Mitchell and DE Fazson Chapman.
• Three Penguins registered the first sack of their careers - DE Fazson Chapman, DE Justus Reed and DT Wes Thompson. Reed and Thompson were playing in their first career games.
• Only two defensive players - Ragland and LB Armand Dellovade - were starters in the 2016 and 2017 openers.
• TB Christian Turner had 124 yards receiving in the contest at Pittsburgh. It marked the first time since Lorenzo Davis on Dec. 2, 1989 at  Furman that a YSU running back had more than 100 yards receiving in a game.
• QB Hunter Wells passed for 311 yards at Pittsburgh. It was the second time in his career that he passed for more than 300 yards in a game (324 at SIU in 2015).
• YSU had more total yards (418-348), passing yards (311-140) and sacks (3-1) against Pitt. The lone sack surrendered came on an intentional grounding.
• OT Justin Spencer has started 40 straight games on the offensive line. Spencer, Gavin Wiggins and Vitas Hrynkwiecz have started the past 17 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: Pitt 28, YSU 21
    YSU showed heart overcoming a 21-0 halftime deficit at Pittsburgh last Saturday to force overtime against the Panthers. However, the Penguins came up just short falling 28-21 at Heinz Field.
    In the second half, YSU outgained Pitt 276-85 to mount a furious comeback. Down 21-0, Tevin McCaster scored on a one-yard run with 4:44 left in the third quarter to get the Penguins on the scoreboard. In the fourth quarter, a pair of Hunter Wells to Christian Turner touchdown passes tied up the contest. The first was a 25-yard scoring toss that brought YSU within 21-14 at the 6:10 mark. The pair connected again, this time on a 42-yard score, with 3:35 remaining to tie the contest.
    In overtime, Pitt had possession first and scored on an 11-yard Max Browne to Jester Weah pass. On YSU's posession, Wells was intercepted in the end zone by Bricen Garner to end the contest.

Last Meeting: YSU 38, RMU 6
    The Penguins built a 24-0 lead and went on to earn an impressive 38-6 win over Robert Morris at Stambaugh Stadium despite a 66-minute weather delay in the first quarter last year.
    Backup QB Trent Hosick helped engineer the victory as TB Martin Ruiz scored three touchdowns, and the defense put the clamps on RMU for most of the contest.
    Ruiz caught a 21-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter before scoring on runs of 14 yards and 80 yards in the game.
    Hosick had a pair of touchdown passes in the game, the first to Ruiz and a 27-yard toss to Kevin Rader in the third quarter.
    YSU led 24-0 before a gadget play led to RMU's only score the game. With the contest 24-6, Ruiz took a handoff 80 yards around the right side for a score. Tevin McCaster capped off the scoring with a 19-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
    The defense stepped up holding RMU to zero yards on 24 plays in the first half. For the game, YSU allowed just 103 total offensive yards.

September Home Winning Streak
    The Penguins have won 18 straight home games in the month of September dating back to the start of the 2009 season.
    Since losing to Florida International in overtime on Sept. 11, 2004, YSU is 28-1 in September at Stambaugh Stadium. The lone loss was a final-play defeat to Liberty in 2008 (31-28). The Penguins own MVFC victories over UNI (2012), Illinois State (2011), Southern Illinois (2010) and Missouri State (2007) during that stretch. YSU has three home games in September this season.

Home Opener Win Streak
    The Penguins have won 21 straight home openers dating back to the 1995 campaign when it lost to Stephen F. Austin. In the 21 games since then, YSU has outscored its opponents by an impressive 793-231 margin.
    Since then the Penguins have posted three shutouts while the most points allowed was 23 by Duquesne in 2014. On offense, the Guins have scored at least 21 points in each of those games and gone over 30 on 15 occasions, including a high of 77 versus Valparaiso in 2011.  YSU won its opener last year beating Duquesne 45-10.

More on Home Openers
    YSU is 52-22-2 all-time in home openers dating back to the program's beginning in 1938.
    Since moving to Stambaugh Stadium in 1982, YSU is 28-6-1 in the first home game of the season. Since 1989, YSU is an impressive 23-1-1 in home openers.

All-Time Home Opener Notes
Most Points: 77 vs. Valparaiso, 2011
Fewest Points: 0 vs. Stephen F. Austin, 1995 (3 times)
Opp. Most Points: 43 by Southern Illinois, 1969
Opp. Fewest Points: 0 by Valparaiso, 2012 (10 times)
Margin of Victory: 64 | 77-13 vs. Valparaiso, 2011

Pennsylvania Visitors
    The Penguins have had a tremendous amount of success against visitors from the Keystone State.
    The last time YSU lost a home game to a team from Pennsylvania was to Villanova on Oct. 28, 1978 (22-17).
    Since that time, the Guins have won 34 straight home games against teams from Pennsylvania.
    Most of those contests have come against members of the Division II PSAC. YSU has three wins over Duquesne and Saint Francis (Pa.) and a pair of wins against Villanova and Robert Morris in the winning streak.

Non-Conference Home Success
      YSU has won 31 of its last 32 non-conference 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, including four last year and two playoff victories.

Two 100-Yard Receivers
    For the first time since 2009, YSU had two players with 100-or-more yards receiving. 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.

Wells Over 300 For Second Time
    At Pittsburgh, QB Hunter Wells passed for 311 yards completing 18-of-32 passes. It marked the second time in his career that Wells has thrown for more than 300 yards. The first time was at Southern Illinois in 2015 when he passed for 324 yards completing 20-of-31 attempts.
    Wells became the sixth quarterback in school history to throw for more than 300 yards in a game twice, joining Trenton Lykes, Denny Klembara, Ron Jaworski, Brandon Summers and Kurt Hess.
    It was the 14th time he threw for more than 200 yards in a game, which is the second most in school history behind Hess.

Second Half Surge
    The Penguins found their offensive and defensive grooves the second half against Pittsburgh.
    YSU's offense had 276 yards in the second half while holding Pitt to just 85 yards. The Penguins threw for 186 yards while rushing for 96 yards on 16 carries. In the first half, YSU had minus-one yard rushing and 131 yards passing. The Guins had five first downs in the first half and 13 in the second half.
    The defense held Pitt to 56 rushing yards in the second half after allowing 146 in the first half. The Panthers had just 29 yards passing after throwing for 93 in the first half.

First Time Sackers
    Against Pittsburgh, the Penguins had three players record their first career sacks in the game. DE Fazson Chapman, DE Justus Reed and DT Wesley Thompson all had the first sacks of their YSU careers. It was the first YSU appearances for Reed and Thompson and the first career YSU start for Chapman. Reed had a sack-fumble that set up the game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. Thompson's sack came on a third-and-goal and forced Pitt to try a field goal, which it missed.

Turner Turns Heads
    All fall camp a freshman wearing No. 20 had been turning heads and in the opener against Pittsburgh, Christian Turner did not disappoint. 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. He also had three rushes for 32 yards. He had 189 all-purpose yards in the contest.

True Freshmen See Action
    Last year YSU played two true freshmen, one was kickoff specialist and the other a special teams/reserve linebacker. After one game in 2017, YSU has played three, and all are in key roles. TB Christian Turner finished with 189 all-purpose yards, including 124 receiving. CB Bryce Gibson started in his debut game and Jake Coates was YSU's punt returner and one of three kickoff returners used during the game.

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 this season - 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 his first 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 but is a reserve defensive back this season.

Penn Guins
    YSU has 15 Keystone State natives on its roster.
    Braxton Chapman (Farrell, Pa.), Antoine Cook (McKeesport, Pa.), Armand Dellovade (Imperial, Pa.), Bryce Gibson (Johnstown, Pa.), Shane Kuhn (Vandergrift, Pa.), Tevin McCaster (New Castle, Pa.), Cole McKenry (Pittsburgh, Pa.), Mike Nash (Pittsburgh, Pa.), Malachi Newell (Farrell, Pa.), Anthony Parente (Pittsburgh, Pa.), Kevin Rader (Pittsburgh, Pa.), Christiaan Randall-Posey (Pittsburgh, Pa.), Justin Spencer (Indiana, Pa.), Steven Wethli (New Castle, Pa.), Gavin Wiggins (Philadelphia, Pa.).

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 40 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 for the Penguins.
    He was a second-team All-MVFC pick in 2016 and an honorable-mention selection in 2015.

Florida Duo at WR
    YSU's top two returning receivers are Florida natives Alvin Bailey and Damoun Patterson. Last season Bailey caught a team-high 47 passes for 511 yards and five touchdowns while Patterson had 20 receptions for 484 yards and two TDs.
    Patterson averaged a school record 24.2 yards per catch, breaking the mark of 23.4 set in 1969 by Dave DelSignore. He was a big-play receiver with nine of his 20 grabs going for 28 yards or more.
    In the playoffs, Bailey had 25 catches for 239 yards and a touchdown. He had a season-best seven grabs in the National Championship game against James Madison for 68 yards.
    At Pitt, Bailey caught four passes for 55 yards while Patterson had two for 27.

Offensive Line A Key
    A big key to YSU's success last year was the offensive line. Four Penguins started all 16 games while the same unit was in the starting lineup for the final 13 contests.
    Three of those Penguins return this season in C Vitas Hrynkiewicz, OG Gavin Wiggins and OT Justin Spencer. Dylan Colucci started all 16 games at right tackle last year while Brock Eisenhuth started the final 13 at right guard.
    Cameron Fraser, who started the first three games at guard last year, started at right tackle against Pittsburgh. Jacob Zinni, a third-year sophomore, made his first career start at right guard. It was just Zinni's third game in his YSU career.

McCaster TD A Good Sign
    Junior TB Tevin McCaster made the first of his career at  Pittsburgh. In his starting debut, he had 73 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown. Last season, McCaster was second on the team in touchdowns with 11 in 2016. He had rushing touchdowns in nine different games, and YSU was 8-1 in contests when he scored, including playoff wins over Samford, Wofford and Eastern Washington.
    McCaster rushed for 652 yards on 129 carries in 2016. At EWU he had a career-high 154 yards on 29 carries and scored three touchdowns in the FCS semifinals.
    He was the only running back to play in all 16 games in 2016.

Dellovade a Key Stopper
    Junior LB Armand Dellovade, a 2016 second-team all-league selection, opened the season on a good note with a nine-tackle performance at Pitt. Last season he led the Penguins with 105 tackles, including 70 solo stops. He was third with 11.5 TFLs, which included 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. Dellovade had five-or-more tackles in 13 of the last 14 games. Against JMU in the national title game he had seven tackles, including five solos. In total he had 31 tackles in the five playoff games.

The Wright Stuff
    Senior LB Lee Wright, a 2015 second-team All-MVFC honoree, opened the season with 10 tackles against Pittsburgh.
    Last season, he started three of the final four playoff games for the Penguins and was credited with 29 total 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.

Wells Digs In
    A familiar face started the past 10 games for the Penguins in QB Hunter Wells.
    Wells had a strong season debut last Saturday against Pittsburgh. Last year, he made his season debut on Oct. 29 against Indiana State and led the Guins to a 7-2 record.
    A veteran with 28 career starts, he has thrown for 5,772 yards and 40 touchdowns while completing 433-of-741 passes. In nine games last year he threw for 1,724 yards completing 136-of-217 passes. In 2015, he completed 159-of-291 passes for 1,975 yards and 13 touchdowns.

TEs Play Big Role
    To open the season TE Kevin Rader caught a career-high six passes for 100 yards against Pittsburgh.
    YSU has three senior tight ends in Rader, Shane Kuhn and Anthony Parente and a fourth-year junior in transfer Chris Durkin.
    Rader had a career year last year with 17 receptions after having just two entering the season. Kuhn tied a career-high with six catches and has 12 in his career. Kuhn also has 31 rushes for 95 yards and five touchdowns.
    In total, the group has combined to play 85 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 130-33 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 25-65.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 157-19-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 132-16 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 154-25 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 109 straight games.

Up Next:
    The Penguins play their final non conference game of the regular season against Central Connecticut State on Sept. 16 at Stambaugh Stadium.
    The Penguins defeated the Blue Devils in 2010 by a score of 63-24 in only other meeting.