Penguins Play Final Road Contest at Illinois State

Shereif Bynum (Photo by Ron Stevens)
Shereif Bynum (Photo by Ron Stevens)

    The Youngstown State football team plays its final contest of the season at Illinois State on Saturday. Kickoff at Hancock Stadium is set for 1 p.m. Eastern time/Noon Central time. The game is available on WBCB TV, ESPN+, WKBN 570 AM and iHeartRadio.
    YSU (4-6, 3-4) is coming off an impressive 31-10 win over UNI last Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium. The Penguins played spoiler to all but eliminate the Panthers from the FCS Playoff race with a three-TD victory on Senior Day.
    Against UNI, the seniors produced in all facets in YSU's biggest win over UNI since 1979. Tailback Tevin McCaster scored three touchdowns, Montgomery VanGorder threw a touchdown pass and Zak Kennedy booted a field goal to provide the offense for YSU. Senior Armand Dellovade led the team with nine tackles and a pass breakup, Chrispin Lee had six tackles and Avery Larkin and Savon Smith each had five. Smith added a sack for a 14-yard loss in the game.
    YSU jumped out to a 14-0 lead and never looked back as it was more physical than UNI the entire contest. VanGorder connected with Darius Shackleford for a 62-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. McCaster scored his first touchdown of the game in the second quarter to give YSU a 14-0 lead. UNI cut the deficit to 14-7 at halftime before the Penguins struck quickly just 45 seconds into the third quarter on a 29-yard run by McCaster. Later in the quarter, McCaster scored on a one-yard run to put the Guins in front 28-10. Kennedy added a 28-yard field goal in the fourth quarter for the final margin.
    Illinois State (5-5 and 2-5) suffered its fourth straight loss after dropping a 28-23 contest at Indiana State last Saturday. The Redbirds jumped out to a 10-0 lead before the Sycamores scored 21 second-quarter points to grab a 21-10 halftime advantage. The Redbirds pulled within 21-17 in the third quarter before the Sycamores pushed their advantage back up to 11 at 28-17. Illinois State scored in the final seconds for the final margin.
    The Redbirds grabbed a 14-13 edge in the all-time series with a 35-0 win at Stambaugh Stadium last October. The Penguins won 20-6 in their last visit to Normal back in 2016.

   

Quick Notes
• TB Tevin McCaster has an outside shot at rushing for 3,000 yards in his career. McCaster needs 172 yards to become just the ninth player in school history to reach the mark.
• McCaster is just seven carries shy of 600 for a career. He would be just the eighth player to reach that number.
• LB Armand Dellovade is just nine tackles from 100 for the season. He has 91 stops entering the contest against Illinois State this Saturday. It would mark the second time in his career he reached the 100-tackle mark.
• QB Montgomery VanGorder is just 89 yards shy of passing for more than 2,000 in his lone season with the program.
• PK Zak Kennedy made the 52nd field goal of his career vs. UNI, tying him with Paul McFadden for the second most in school history.
• LB Armand Dellovade has a team-high 91 total tackles. He also has a team-best 49 solo stops. Against North Dakota State on Nov. 3 he had a career-high 16 tackles. The 16 stops were the most by a Penguin since Jeremiah Wright had 18 at Missouri State on Nov. 13, 2004.
• DE Shereif Bynum has a team-high 10.5 tackles for losses. DT Savon Smith has a team-best six sacks.
• Ten different Penguins have caught touchdown passes, and for seven of those it was their first career touchdown catch. WR Natavious Payne and TE Miles Joiner went one better; their first career catch went for a touchdown.  The other four who have hauled in their first TD catches are Tevin McCaster, Zach Farrar, Kendric Mallory, London Pearson and Darius Shackleford.
• Five players have started each of the last 20 games - C Vitas Hrynkiewicz, OG Gavin Wiggins, LB Armand Dellovade, DE Johnson Louigene and CB Bryce Gibson.
• PK Zak Kennedy has made his last 73 PATs entering the game vs. Illinois State. His last miss came in the second quarter of YSU's playoff win over Wofford in 2016.

Last Game: YSU 31, UNI 10
    YSU picked up an impressive 31-10 win over UNI last Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium. The Penguins played spoiler to all but eliminate the Panthers from the FCS Playoff race with a three-TD victory on Senior Day.
    Against UNI, the seniors produced in all facets in YSU's biggest win over UNI since 1979. YSU jumped out to a 14-0 lead and never looked back as it was more physical than UNI the entire contest.
    QB Montgomery VanGorder connected with Darius Shackleford for a 62-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. Tevin McCaster scored his first touchdown of the game in the second quarter to give YSU a 14-0 lead. UNI cut the deficit to 14-7 at halftime before the Penguins struck quickly just 45 seconds into the third quarter on a 29-yard run by McCaster. Later in the quarter, McCaster scored on a one-yard run to put the Guins in front 28-10. PK Zak Kennedy added a 28-yard field goal in the fourth quarter for the final margin.

Last Meeting: ISU 35, YSU 0
    YSU was never able to get on track in a 35-0 defeat to Illinois State at Stambaugh Stadium last October.
    The Redbirds scored two touchdowns in a span of 45 seconds in the first quarter to seize control of the contest.
    Against Illinois State, YSU was never able to get going suffering its first shutout since 2008.
    ISU jumped out in front 7-0 on an 11-yard touchdown run by James Robinson just over five minutes into the game. Just 45 seconds later, Matt McCown scooped-and-scored on a fumble by QB Nathan Mays giving the Redbirds at 14-0 lead. In the final seconds of the first half, Markel Smith's one-yard touchdown run gave ISU a 21-0 lead at halftime. In the second half, Robinson added scoring runs of two yards and three yards for the final outcome.

McCaster Liked Home Cooking
    TB Tevin McCaster rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the Penguins' six home games. He had 166 against Butler, 141 vs. Valparaiso, 116 vs. Southern Illinois and 176 vs. South Dakota, 165 yards vs. Indiana State and 136 vs. UNI in the home finale last Saturday.
    In YSU's six home games, he had 900 yards on 175 carries and has scored eight touchdowns. McCaster averaged an impressive 150 yards per contest at Stambaugh Stadium in 2018.

Gettin' Wiggy With It
    Gavin Wiggins made his first career start at left tackle in the Penguins' impressive 31-10 win over UNI last Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium.
    It was Senior Day for Wiggins, who was starting for the 41st consecutive time on the offensive line in his career. Previously, Wiggins had started the first 40 games at guard since 2015 before moving to left tackle vs. the Panthers.
    The Penguins had 401 yards of total offense against UNI with 209 coming through the air and 192 on the ground. It was the first time in an MVFC game this year that the Penguins did not allow a sack. UNI had three sacks the previous week vs. Illinois State.

Savon Applying Pressure
    Senior DT Savon Smith has been playing some of the best football of his career as of late.
    In the past six games, he has 21 tackles, 7.5 TFLs and five sacks.
    He had the best game of his YSU career in the Penguins' 29-17 win over South Dakota on Oct. 20. Smith was credited with a career-high seven total tackles and had a career-best six solo stops. He had a career-best three tackles for losses, two sacks and a pair of quarterback hurries against the Coyotes.
    In his next game, he had two sacks against Indiana State. Last time out against UNI he had five total tackles and a sack for a 14-yard loss in the fourth quarter.

Big Win Over UNI
    The Penguins had one of their most impressive performances against UNI since 1979 when they won 29-0 at Austintown Fitch High School.
    The 21-point margin of victory over UNI was the second-largest for YSU in a series history which includes 31 games dating back to 1978.
    YSU's last four wins in the series had been by a total of 24 points with the largest being a 29-20 win in 1999.
    In the past two games at Stambaugh Stadium the Guins' defense has been tough allowing just 10 points in each contest. YSU also held UNI to under 200 yards of total offense in both games.

Shack Attack
    WR Darius Shackleford hauled in a 62-yard touchdown pass in the win over UNI. It was the second TD reception of the season for Shackleford. His other touchdown catch came against Valparaiso.
    On four occasions Shackleford has caught multiple passes in a game this season. He had not caught a pass since Oct. 6 vs. South Dakota.

Kennedy Now Stands Second
    Senior PK Zak Kennedy sits in second place in school history in points by a placekicker and career field goals made.
    With 40 points this season - 22 PATs and six field goals - he now has 294 points which moved him into second. Jeff Wilkins set the school career mark of 373 from 1990-93 before moving on to having a successful NFL career.
    Kennedy has made 52 field goals in his career and 138 extra points in his four years with the program. He has made his last 73 PAT kicks dating back to December 2016. In his career, he only has three misses.
    Against UNI he booted the 52nd field goal of his YSU career, tying him with Paul McFadden for the second most in YSU history.
    Against South Dakota State, he had the first punts of his career. He punted four times for an average of 41.0 yards per kick with a long of 57.

McCaster Up For Payton
    Tevin McCaster is one of numerous FCS offensive standouts who have been named to the Walter Payton Award Watch List by STATS FCS.
    McCaster is one of five Missouri Valley Football Conference representatives on the Watch List. Other MVFC standouts on the list include Illinois State running back James Robinson, North Dakota State running back Bruce Anderson, NDSU quarterback Easton Stick and South Dakota State quarterback Taryn Christion.

Seniors Helped Lead The Way
    Against UNI, the seniors produced in all facets in YSU's biggest win over UNI since 1979.
    Tailback Tevin McCaster scored three touchdowns and had 136 yards on 35 carries, QB Montgomery VanGorder threw a touchdown pass and passed for 209 yards and PK Zak Kennedy booted a field goal to provide the offense for YSU. Senior LB Armand Dellovade led the team with nine tackles and a pass breakup, SS Chrispin Lee had six tackles and FS Avery Larkin and DT Savon Smith each had five. Smith added a sack for a 14-yard loss in the fourth quarter.

VanGorder Throwing TDS
    QB Montgomery VanGorder has 14 touchdown passes this season. What is most impressive is that he's found 10 different receivers for those scores.
    He has completed 144-of-264 passes for 1,911 yards and 14 touchdowns.
    Last year, the most touchdown passes by any YSU quarterback was five, and four of those came in one game.
    Against UNI he passed for 209 yards on 13 completions. It was the fifth time this year that he threw for more than 200 yards in a game. It marks just the 12th time in school history that a QB has had five 200-yard games in a season.
    On three occasions, VanGorder has thrown for three touchdowns. VanGorder has had three TD tosses against Butler, Valparaiso and at Western Illinois.
    It is the first time since Kurt Hess in 2013 that a YSU quarterback has thrown for three TDs on three occasions during a year. It has happened three other times since 1999 - Jeff Ryan (four in 1999), Brandon Summers (three in 2008) and Hess again in 2011 (three).

McCaster A 2,800/30 Player
    Senior TB Tevin McCaster has rushed for more than 2,800 yards and scored 35 rushing touchdowns in his impressive YSU career.
    In 41 games played, McCaster has rushed for 2,828 yards on 593 carries. He scored three touchdowns in the win over UNI last Saturday and has 35 for his career. It was the sixth multi-TD performance of his career.
    This year, McCaster caught the first touchdown pass of his stellar career vs. South Dakota on Oct. 20.
    In his 20 games as a starter, he has rushed for 2,138 yards on 449 carries and scored 24 of his 35 career rushing TDs.
    With a 141-yard rushing performance against Valparaiso on Sept. 15, McCaster eclipsed the 2,000-yard rushing mark in his YSU career.
    He ranks seventh in school history for rushing touchdowns with 35 and is four shy of sixth. He is ninth in attempts with his 593 (two shy of eighth and 19 shy of seventh) and ninth in rushing yards after moving past Marcus Mason in the UNI game.

Most Tackles in 18 Years
    Senior LB Armand Dellovade has the most career tackles by any YSU player since 2000.
    Dellovade had a career-high 16 tackles at North Dakota State which included seven solo stops. He also forced a fumble and had a pass breakup against the Bison. In his final home game he had nine vs. UNI.
    Dellovade now has 326 career tackles which rank him 12th in school history. It's the most by any YSU player since the end of the 2000 season. Among the Penguins' FCS history, he ranks 10th in career tackles.

Plenty of Newcomers
    YSU has had plenty of new faces see action this season.
    A total of 34 players have made their Penguins debut while 23 players, including 14 on offense, have made their first career starts.
    The Guins who have made their first career starts are QB Montgomery VanGorder, OTs Devon Robinson and Charles Baldwin; TEs Miles Joiner, Kierre Hawkins, Chris Durkin and Josh Burgett; WRs Darius Shackleford, Kendric Mallory, Zack Torbert, Donovan McWilson, Ryan Emans, Zach Farrar and Samuel St. Surin; PK Grant Gonya; SS Terray Bryant, SS Chrispin Lee; FS Devanere Crenshaw, NB Will Latham, LB Christiaan Randall-Posey, LB Ray Anderson, DE Shereif Bynum and DT Wes Thompson.
    Nine true freshmen have played this year: WR Natavious Payne, PK Grant Gonya, LB Myles McHaney, DB Paul French, DB Alec Burzynski, LB Griffin Hoak, DT DeMarko Craig, DT Dontae Cilenti and TE Jake Benio. Through 10 games, only Payne will not be able to redshirt.

Lee Produced in Final Year
    Senior SS Chrispin Lee has made a big impact in the secondary this season. After seeing limited playing time his entire career, Lee has started the past nine games at strong safety.
    Against Southern Illinois he had 11 total tackles, nine of which were solo stops. He had his first career sack in the contest against the Salukis. At West Virginia earlier in the year he had a career-high 15 stops. He has five-or-more tackles in six games this year.
    This season, Lee has 61 total tackles, including 35 solo stops. In his previous 20 games played, mostly on special teams, he had 13 stops.

Bynum Having Big Season
    Junior DE Shereif Bynum has had a breakout year in his first season as a starter.
    Bynum has 33 total tackles, 20 of which are solo stops. He leads the team with 10.5 TFLs and ranks second with four sacks.
    In three contests this season he has five tackles - West Virginia, Western Illinois and Southern Illinois. Against the Salukis he had a pair of sacks. He also had sacks against Butler and Valparaiso.
    Entering the season, he had four total tackles in his career. In eight of the 10 games, he has at least three tackles.

Dellovade Always Plays Tough
    YSU senior LB Armand Dellovade has been a mainstay on the Penguins' defense throughout his career.
    In 48 career games played, Dellovade has  326 career tackles, 191 of which are solo stops. Impressively, Dellovade has made 46 starts in his 48 games played. The only non starts by Dellovade were his first career game at Pittsburgh 2015 and later in the season vs. Missouri State when the Penguins started a six defensive-back package on the contest's opening snap.
    He has had a strong campaign recording at least seven tackles in nine games. He had a career-high 16 tackles at North Dakota State. Previously, his season best was 15 stops vs. Western Illinois on Sept. 29. He leads the team with 91 tackles, including 49 solos. Dellovade intercepted a pass against Valparaiso.
    He had the 300th tackle of his career in the third quarter against Indiana State.
    Last season, he was second on the team with 76 total stops, 40 of which were solos. He also had three sacks.
    As a sophomore he had 105 tackles in 16 games. As a true freshman in 2015, he was credited with 54 total tackles.

Dellovade Reaches 300
    Senior LB Armand Dellovade recorded the 300th tackle of his career in the third quarter of the contest against Indiana State on Oct. 27.
    Dellovade entered the game against Indiana State just eight tackles shy of 300 before finishing with nine stops against the Sycamores.
    He is just the 13th player to be credited with 300 tackles as a Penguin and the first since Jeremiah Wright finished with 308 from 2003-07.

Gonya Makes Strong Debut
    The Penguins made a switch at placekicker against South Dakota with freshman Grant Gonya getting the call.
    After a tough start missing two PAT kicks, which came against a wind gusting up to 30 mph, Gonya settled down to make his third and fourth attempts.
    In the second quarter, he calmly kicked a 27-yard field goal to put the Penguins ahead of the Coyotes, 22-0. Against Indiana State he had two PATs and kicked a 33-yard field goal.

Spreading the Ball Around
    The Penguins have had an impressive 16 different players catch passes this year.
    Overall, nine wide receivers, four tight ends and three tailbacks have caught passes from QBs Montgomery VanGorder and Nathan Mays.
    Wide receivers with receptions are Zach Farrar, Samuel St. Surin, Kendric Mallory, Darius Shackleford, Natavious Payne, Jermiah Braswell, Ryan Emans, Zack Torbert and Jake Cummings.
    TBs Christian Turner, Tevin McCaster and London Pearson have catches as do TEs Miles Joiner, Chris Durkin, Josh Burgett and Kierre Hawkins.
    Ten different players have a touchdown reception while Joiner leads the team lead with three.
    An impressive 12 players caught passes in the game at Western Illinois on Sept. 29.

Gibson Leads Secondary
    Sophomore CB Bryce Gibson has been the leader of a secondary that's been improved following some shuffling to start the year.
    Eight different players have started a game in the secondary with Gibson and DJ Smalls being the only two to have started all 10 games.
    Chrispin Lee has started nine games, Devanere Crenshaw and Avery Larkin have started five, while Will Latham has started four times. Melvin Jackson and Terray Bryant have each started once as well. Jackson made his first career start vs. SIU.
    Last year, Gibson started all 11 games as a true freshman. YSU's unit led the FCS in fewest passing yards allowed in 2017.

Tough In November
    The Penguins have won seventh of their last eight games in November dating back to 2016. YSU went 3-0 in November last year and won its last three games in 2016. YSU had a six-game winning streak snapped at NDSU last Saturday.
    In 2017, YSU won at Southern Illinois and Indiana State before knocking off Missouri State to end the season. In 2016, the Guins beat Southern Illinois at home before winning at Missouri State. In the opening round of the playoffs, the Guins beat Samford.

Pick Six For Smalls
    With lottery fever gripping the U.S. a few weeks ago, DJ Smalls joined in the fun returning an interception 65 yards for a touchdown against South Dakota. After the game, his grandmother thought his "pick six" had something to do with the lottery numbers for the evening. In some ways she was right, but the Penguins were happy to get an interception return to be a winner.

VanGorder's Record Breaker
    QB Montgomery VanGorder set three school single-game passing records at Western Illinois.
    VanGorder finished the game with 418 yards passing completing 33-of-57 passes. In the first half, he was a modest 7-of-15 for 83 yards.
    In the third quarter he was 11-of-18 for 140 yards, and in the fourth period he was 15-of-24 for 191 yards. In total, he was 26-of-42 for 331 yards and three touchdowns in the second half.
    The marks for yards and attempts were set in 1968 by Denny Klembara while Brandon Summers had the school mark for completions back in 2008.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 137-37 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 27-71.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 166-21-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 141-18 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 162-27 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 87-10-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 192-16 when leading entering the fourth.
• 89-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.