The Youngstown State football team will play its final regular-season home game on Saturday when the Penguins play host to Elon. Kickoff at Stambaugh Stadium is set for 1 p.m.
YSU (7-2 overall) finished Gateway Football Conference play with a 5-2 mark this season. Northern Iowa earned the Gateway Football Conference crown last Saturday beating Western Kentucky 24-23. The Penguins are a half-game ahead of WKU for second place in the league standings. The Hilltoppers play host to Southern Illinois on Saturday.
The No. 6/7 Penguins were off last Saturday following a 31-7 victory at Southern Illinois on Nov. 3. YSU finished with 507 total offensive yards behind a balanced attack of 275 yards rushing and 232 yards passing. Quarterback Jeff Ryan had his best game of the season rushing for 94 yards and completing 16-of-19 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown. P.J. Mays added 87 yards rushing to go over the 1,000-yard mark on the season and now has 1,075 yards on the year.
The home contest against Elon is the final regular-season game at Stambaugh Stadium for 21 seniors. Of that group, eight redshirted in 1997 while one played (Carlos Pearson) that year and sat out later in his career. Since 1998, the group of seniors has completed a 24-13 record and appeared in two Division I-AA playoffs advancing to the championship game in 1999. The group has defended their home turf well posting a 21-4 mark at Stambaugh Stadium.
Elon is coming off a tough 27-21 loss to second-ranked Georgia Southern last Saturday. Elon took a 7-0 lead and held an advantage until the Eagles scored the game-winning touchdown with 30 seconds remaining. The contest against the Penguins will be the eighth game against a ranked opponent that the Phoenix has played this season.
Last Game Recap: Penguins 31, Salukis 7
The Youngstown State football team put together one of its most balanced offensive efforts of the season and played some strong defense in a 31-7 victory over Southern Illinois on Saturday in Carbondale, Ill. YSU finished with 507 yards total offense while holding SIU to 260. Youngstown had 275 yards rushing and 232 yards passing in the contest. The Penguins took a 3-0 lead on a 36-yard field goal by Jake Stewart. SIU answered later in the first quarter when Brandon Robinson connected on a 38-yard halfback pass to Jason Hollingshead for a 7-3 lead. In the second quarter, Jeff Ryan threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Eugene Mintze and P.J. Mays scored on a one-yard run. In the fourth, Mays added another one-yard score and Darius Peterson scored on a nine-yard scamper.
Game Notes: Quarterback Jeff Ryan threw for 214 yards in the contest, his first 200-plus yard passing performance since Dec. 4, 1999 against North Carolina A&T. Ryan had his seventh 200-plus yard game of his career. With 84 yards, P.J. Mays became the 15th player in school history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season and first since Adrian Brown in 1999. YSU's 17-play 81-yard drive took 8:25 off the clock, it was the longest scoring drive playwise and timewise since a 19-play 80-yard drive that lasted 9:28 against Slippery Rock on Sept. 24, 1994. The Penguins finished with a time of possession of 37:28, its most in a game since 37:51 against North Carolina A&T on Dec. 4, 1999. The 26 first downs were the most since 26 against Edinboro last season. Three times during the game quarterback Colby Street lined up at tailback and once Ryan lined up as a wideout.
Elon Phoenix Scouting Report
Elon has faced the toughest schedule in the country with its 10 opponents posting a 47-31. YSU will add a 7-2 record to that total. The Phoenix have two wins on the season beating Gardner Webb and Charleston Southern. Elon has played contests against Furman, Eastern Kentucky, North Carolina A&T, Western Kentucky, Northwestern State, Georgia Southern and Hofstra -- all are ranked in the top 25 this week.
The Phoenix will bring a run-oriented offense to Stambaugh Stadium. Elon is averaging 214 yards rushing per game and just 73.5 yards passing, which ranks 122 out of 123 Division I-AA teams. Only Western Kentucky has passed for fewer yards. Martin Swindell is Elon's top runner with 551 yards on the year. Quarterback C.W. Singletary has completed 19 passes in nine games this season.
Last Saturday, Elon led for most of the game against second-ranked Georgia Southern before losing 27-21. In that game, Elon had the contest won apparently stopping GSU on a 4th-and-16 play at the Elon 37-yard line with 2:08 remaining, but the Phoenix were called for a roughing-the-passer penalty giving the Eagles a first down. Four plays after the penalty, and after converting a third-and-four play, GSU's Adrian Peterson scored on a two-yard touchdown run with 30 seconds remaining.
Senior Day Has Been Tough Lately for YSU
Senior Day has not been a very lucky one for Youngstown State football seniors lately. Since 1995, the Penguins have won just one Senior Day contest beating SW Missouri State 17-14 in 1999.
Last season, YSU led Southern Illinois 20-0 in the fourth quarter before losing 21-20. In 1998, Northern Iowa beat the Penguins 42-14; in 1997, Western Illinois won 24-21; in 1996, Northern Iowa won 23-10 and in 1995, Illinois State beat YSU 30-13.
Prior to their recent skid, the Penguins had won six consecutive Senior Day contests until 1995. In 1997 and 1999, Youngstown State rebounded to win its final official home game of the season winning in the Division I-AA Playoffs.
Teams in the NCAA Division I-AA Field of 16
Entering Saturday's action around the country, four teams have officially qualified for the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs earning conference automatic berths. In the field of 16 are Northern Iowa (Gateway), Montana (Big Sky), Lehigh (Patriot) and Eastern Illinois (Ohio Valley).
Nick Roberts Named Gateway O-Lineman of the Week
Sophomore Nick Roberts was named the Gateway Football Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week following the Nov. 3 game against Southern Illinois. Roberts played all 84 snaps at guard as the Penguins had 507 total offensive yards. He has been named the team's offensive lineman of the game for the past two contests and three times this season.
Individual Penguins in National Rankings
Junior wide receiver Jerald Burley ranks third in the nation in punt return average (20.75 per return) behind Jacksonville State's Neika Willis, who averages 24 yards per return. Junior tailback P.J. Mays ranks fifth in the nation in scoring (11.33 points per game) and 17th in rushing (119.44 yards per contest). Mays is also 33rd in all-purpose yards. Senior cornerback LeVar Greene ranks fifth in the nation averaging 0.67 interceptions per game. Jake Stewart is 56th with 0.67 field goals per game while junior punter Kosta Karapetsas is 67th in punting average (36.74 per kick).
YSU in the National Categories
The Youngstown State football team ranks in the top 20 in Division I-AA in five categories entering the contest against Elon. YSU is third in the nation in punt returns (17.84 yards), sixth in rushing offense (260.78 yards per game), 10th in kickoff returns (23.15 yards), 13th in scoring defense (16.22 points), 14th in turnover margin (+0.89), 19th in total defense (290.67 yards), 22nd in scoring offense (33.22 points), 27th in passing efficiency defense (102.62), 27th in pass defense (164.22 yards), 32nd in rushing defense (126.44 yards), 40th in total offense (383 yards), 72nd in net punting (31.75 yards), 102nd in passing offense (122.22 yards).
Penguins in the Gateway Conference Rankings
YSU is first in the Gateway in scoring offense, turnover margin and punt returns. The Penguins are second in scoring defense, rushing offense, rushing defense, total offense, total defense, passing efficiency defense, second in sacks allowed and passing efficiency. Other rankings: Sixth in passing offense, third in kickoff returns, third in pass defense, sixth in punting, fourth in first downs and third in time of possession. Individuals: P.J. Mays -- first in rushing, first in scoring, second in all-purpose yards, seventh in total offense. Jake Stewart -- first in FG percentage and seventh in field goals per game. LeVar Greene -- first in interceptions. Jeff Ryan -- fifth in total offense, sixth in passing. Jerald Burley -- first in punt returns and kickoff returns, sixth in all-purpose yards, seventh in receiving yards. Andre Coleman -- third in kickoff returns. Bruce Hightower -- seventh in interceptions. Kosta Karapetsas -- eighth in punting.
Penguins Have Success Following Off Weeks
Since 1975, the Youngstown State football team is 20-3 following an idle weekend. YSU did not play last Saturday entering Saturday's game against Elon. The three losses are to Western Illinois in 1998, Delaware in 1995 and Marshall in 1987 -- all three road games. This year, YSU had an off Saturday prior to its contest against Western Illinois and won that contest 41-7.
Penguins Have Never Lost on November 17
In four games played on Nov. 17 in its school history, Youngstown State is 4-0. The Penguins beat Maine 38-17 in 1990, won at Morehead State 35-31 in 1984, defeated Indiana (Pa.) 44-0 in 1973 and beat Akron 34-21 in 1960.
Wacky Year For Turnovers in YSU Contests
Entering the contest against Elon, the Penguins have forced an impressive 32 turnovers and have turned 20 of them into 124 points. Twenty four of the 31 points scored against Southern Illinois on Nov. 3 came following a Saluki turnover. Twice this year, YSU has forced six turnovers in a game -- against SMS and Clarion -- but has only won the turnover margin in five of nine games. The 32 turnovers forced are the most since causing 45 in 15 games in 1994.
In the two games the Penguins have lost this season they have committed nine turnovers -- an average of 4.5 per game. In the seven victories, YSU has committed 15 turnovers -- an average of just over two per game.
The Penguins have turned the ball over 24 times and allowing nine scores off of its miscues. The 24 turnovers is the most since committing 25 in 1995. YSU turned the ball over 13 times in the first four games -- the most since 1988.
In 15 of the last 16 years (all but 1989), including 12 straight years, Youngstown State has had a plus in the turnover margin department. Entering the contest against Elon, YSU has a plus-8 turnover advantage.
YSU Picks Up 100th Stambaugh Stadium Win
In their 20th campaign at Stambaugh Stadium the Youngstown State football team picked up their 100th victory in the facility on Oct. 13 beating Southwest Missouri State 41-20.
In its 20th season at Stambaugh, which opened in 1982, the Penguins are 101-31-2 (a .763 winning percentage). YSU has won 13 of its last 15 home games.
Since the 1989 season, YSU is an impressive 77-16-1, including undefeated seasons in 1993 and 1994. The Penguins are 32-7 in the past five-plus years at the Ice Castle. At home in the playoffs, YSU is 12-1 having won 11 straight home games.
Against Gateway Conference teams since 1997, the Penguins are 11-5 at home.
YSU and First-Year Head Coaches
First-year Head Coach Jon Heacock has set a school record for wins by a first-year coach with seven in his debut season. He is also the only coach of five to win his first three games and is just one of two -- Bill Narduzzi in 1975 -- to win his debut.
Of those five coaches, four began their collegiate head coaching career at YSU. YSU's first head coach Dike Beede is the only coach who had prior collegiate head coaching experience before coming to YSU. The other three head coaches -- Jim Tressel, Bill Narduzzi and Rey Dempsey -- had never been a college head coach before taking over at Youngstown. Beede guided the team from 1938-72, Dempsey in 1973-74, Narduzzi from 1975-85 and Tressel from 1986-2000. The best first-year coaching record was by Narduzzi in 1975 when he posted a 5-4 mark. In their first years, Beede was 4-5, Dempsey was 4-6 and Tressel was 2-9.
Pan Atlas Offers Bus Trip to Marshall
Pan Atlas Travel of Youngstown is offering a one-day charter motorcoach trip to the Youngstown-Marshall football game on Nov. 24 in Huntington, W.Va. The cost of the trip is $60 per person and includes round-trip transportation and a box lunch. The trip does not include a game ticket, which can be purchased for $15. For information call (330) 742-2391.
Greene Named to Buck Buchanan Watch List
Senior defensive back LeVar Greene is one of 16 players on the Buck Buchanan Battle list. The Buck Buchanan Award honors the nation's top Division I-AA Defensive player. Last year, YSU's Tim Johnson finished third in the voting.
Here is a list of the 16 candidates after revisions were made to the list on Nov. 1.: Yeremiah Bell, S, Eastern Kentucky; D.J. Bleisath, DE, Tennessee Tech; Will Bouton, LB, Furman; Chris Brown, DB, Grambling, Abdul Byron, S, Lehigh; Keith Davis, S, Sam Houston State; LeVar Greene, CB, Youngstown State; Isaiah Greer, DB, Rhode Island; Vince Huntsberger, S, Montana; Josh Jeffries, DE, Appalachian State; Derrick Lloyd, LB, James Madison; Mel Mitchell, S, Western Kentucky; Freddy Pesqueira, DT, Georgia Southern; Travis Stephens, LB, The Citadel; Adam Vogt, LB, Northern Iowa and Tracy White, LB, Howard.
Greene has had a solid season to be deserving of post-season accolades. He leads the team with 14 pass breakups and six interceptions. He has 31 tackles, 23 solo stops, two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and he blocked a punt against Western Kentucky that was returned for a touchdown.
Ryan Becomes All-Time Total Yardage/Plays Leader
Senior quarterback Jeff Ryan is the all-time leader in career touchdown passes, rushing yards by a quarterback, total offensive yards and now total offensive plays. Ryan set the total offensive plays mark in the game against Western Kentucky. He has started 40 games in his career and 28-12 record as a starter. He is 25-9 as a starter since the 1999 season. He has rallied Youngstown State from behind to victory 14 times, including four times last season and once this year. Ryan has produced 7,788 yards of total offense in his career on a total of 1,359 plays -- both school marks.
He is 329 yards shy of setting the school mark for career passing yardage, trailing Trenton Lykes total of 6,341. Ryan currently has 6,012 and trails Mark Brungard (6,116) for second.
Mays Over 1,000 Yards Rushing For the Season
Junior tailback P.J. Mays is the 15th player in school history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a single-season. Mays eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark with an 87-yard outing against Southern Illinois on Nov. 3. His total of 1,075 ranks as the 13th-best single-season total in school history.
In his 21-game career, Mays has rushed for 1,856 yards on 366 carries and has scored 26 touchdowns. He has six 100-plus yard games in his two-year career.
This year, Mays became the second player in school history to rush for more than 200 yards in a game twice in a season. Mays rushed for 226 yards in the season opener against Lock Haven and had 218 yards against SMS. The only other player to have more than 200 yards twice in a season was Paris Wicks in 1981. Wicks rushed for 227 yards against Morehead State on Nov. 24, 1981 and the next week had 215 yards against Northern Iowa on Nov. 31. Wicks finished his career with three 200-plus yard performances.
Seniors Play Final Regular Season Home Game
Saturday is the final home game for 21 seniors. Here is a list of the seniors playing in their final home game: Antulio Aroche, Todd Blackwell, Andre Coleman, Pat Crummey, Greg Giannios, Marcus Green, LeVar Greene, Sean Guerriero, Lavelle Hawkes, Bruce Hightower, Dave Hong, Jerry Johnson, Eugene Mintze, Charles Mister, Carlos Pearson, Jeff Ryan, Bob Sivik, Ryan Smith, Dave Tesniarz, Michael Thomas and Steve Valley.
YSU Scoring Almost Every Way Imaginable
The Youngstown State football team has scored almost every imaginable way this season. The Penguins twice blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown -- against Lock Haven and Western Kentucky (returned 36 yards by Darius Peterson and returned 27 yards by Chris DiMauro); returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Lock Haven (returned 89 yards by Andre Coleman); returned a fumble for a touchdown against Clarion (returned six yards by Bruce Hightower); returned an interception for a score against Western Illinois (returned 23 yards by LeVar Greene) and returned a punt for a touchdown against Illinois State (returned 77 yards by Jerald Burley). YSU has also scored via a safety (long snapper sent the ball through the end zone in game against Illinois State), field goal and rushing and passing touchdowns. The only ways left (and there may be more) are a defensive extra point or a blocked field goal for touchdown.
Coaches Game Day Assignments
YSU offensive coordinator/offensive line coach John Klacik has spent the past three games on the field after moving from the coaches booth in the press box down to the sidelines to call plays prior to the SMS game. The week before YSU assistant coach George Small moved from the coaches booth down to the sideline joining defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis and defensive line coach Bob Stoops. Offensively, Klacik is joined by wide receivers coach Trent Boykin and quarterbacks coach Brian Wright as the on-field coaches. Up in the coaches booth on gameday are assistant head coach/running backs coach Sam Eddy and offensive graduate assistant Nick Siciliano, linebackers coach Todd Murgatroyd and defensive graduate assistant Don Houser.
Nine Players Remain From 1997 Title Team
Nine members of the 1997 championship team remain part of the 2001 Penguin football team. This season, all nine players have key roles on the squad. Those nine players are defensive back Andre Coleman, wide receiver Sean Guerriero, offensive guard Lavelle Hawkes, strong safety Bruce Hightower, linebacker Carlos Pearson, linebacker Bob Sivik, center Dave Tesniarz, linebacker Mike Thomas and holder/wide receiver Steve Valley. All players except for Pearson redshirted that first season. Pearson saw limited action on the 1997 squad as a true freshman but after the season left the squad and returned this past spring.
Five Seniors Named Team Captains This Season
The Penguins have tabbed seniors Jeff Ryan, Dave Tesniarz, Bob Sivik, LeVar Greene and Bruce Hightower as the team captains for the 2001 season. Last season, with 12 seniors, the Penguins had game captains, but prior to this season, Coach Jon Heacock announced that Ryan, Tesniarz, Sivik, Greene and Hightower were named the captains for the season. YSU has 21 seniors on the roster this year.
Up Next: YSU Concludes Regular Season at Marshall
The Penguins end the regular season on Nov. 24 playing at Marshall. Kickoff at Marshall Stadium in Huntington, W. Va. is set for 7 p.m. This will be the 10th meeting between the two schools and the first since the 1993 NCAA Division I-AA National Championship Game. The series is currently tied 4-4-1.
The Penguins and the Thundering Herd played for three straight I-AA titles in 1991, 1992 and 1993, but have not played since. YSU won two of those three title contests, including a 17-5 victory over MU at Marshall Stadium in 1993.
Since then, the Penguins have won two Division I-AA National Titles while Marshall, after winning the I-AA title in 1996, has joined the Mid-American Conference and had success winning five Motor City Bowl titles.