The Youngstown State football team plays their 61st annual Homecoming game this Saturday, when the Penguins play host to Illinois State. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.
No. 5/5 YSU (5-1 overall and 3-1 in the Gateway) will be looking to have a successful Homecoming and remain in the Gateway Football Conference title race against winless Illinois State (0-6 and 0-2). The Redbirds are off to their worst start since 1978 when they were 0-9.
Also on Saturday, first-place Northern Iowa plays at Western Illinois in a key game. That contest begins at 1 p.m.
The Penguins improved to 4-0 and picked up their 100th win at Stambaugh Stadium with a 41-20 victory over Southwest Missouri State last Saturday. YSU's ground game was strong gaining 393 yards. Junior tailback P.J. Mays carried the load with 24 carries for 218 yards and three touchdowns. Youngstown State's defense forced six SMS turnovers. YSU led 21-13 at the half and broke the game open with a 20-point third quarter. Leading 28-13, the Penguins turned a fumbled punt and interception into one-yard touchdown drives 57 seconds apart to take a 41-13 lead.
Mays has 870 yards rushing on 121 carries and has scored 12 rushing touchdowns. Last season, he had 780 yards in 12 games and scored 10 touchdowns.
Of the Redbirds' six losses, three have been by a touchdown or less. Last season, ISU started 1-4 before going on a tear and winning its final six games. Last Saturday, Illinois State scored 20 fourth-quarter points in a 33-23 loss at Normal, Ill., to Western Illinois.
In four games at home this year, the Penguins are averaging 41 points per game and have not scored fewer than 38 points. YSU has won 12 of its last 13 home games since losing to ISU in 1998.
All-time in Homecoming games, YSU owns a 45-14-1 mark and has won nine straight.
Last Game Recap: Penguins 41, Bears 20
The Youngstown State football team used a 20-point third quarter to open a 21-13 halftime lead to a 41-13 bulge en route to a 41-20 victory over Southwest Missouri State last Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium. The win was the 100th by the Penguins at the Ice Castle. YSU jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead on a 24-yard touchdown run by Jerald Burley and a 29-yard score by P.J. Mays. SMS crept within 14-10 before Mays scored on an eight-yard run in the second and YSU led 21-13. In the third quarter, YSU took its first possession 76 yards for a score when Jeff Ryan went over from the one. The Penguins added two touchdowns in 57 seconds later in the quarter. After a fumbled punt at the SMS one, Mays had this third touchdown and after Guy Mazard returned an interception 18 yards to one, Jerry Johnson scored his first career touchdown. YSU finished with 393 yards rushing
Game Notes: Mays became the second player in school history with two 200-plus yards rushing games in the same season joining Paris Wicks who accomplished the feat in 1982. Quarterback Jeff Ryan had a 16-yard punt in the fourth quarter, the first punt of his career and the first by a YSU quarterback since Cliff Stoudt in 1976. Guy Mazard had the first interception of his career. Fullback Jerry Johnson scored his first career touchdown on a one-yard run. YSU improved to 6-0 all-time against SMS. SMS had two receivers with more than 100 yards receiving, the first time since Alcorn State (11/25/1994) had two receivers with more than 100 yards in a game against the Penguins. Antulio Aroche had a career-best 11 tackles while Bruce Hightower had a career-best 10.
Illinois State Redbirds Scouting Report
The Illinois State football team is coming off a 33-23 loss at home to Western Illinois to remain winless for the 2001 season. The Redbirds are off to their worst start since 1978. Against the Leathernecks, ISU's special teams had some break downs allowing two blocked punts, a blocked extra-point attempt, a turnover off an onside kickoff attempt and a bad snap off a punt attempt that resulted in a safety. WIU led 26-3 before ISU scored 20 points in the third quarter.
Quarterback Dusty Burke threw for 291 yards against the Leathernecks. The outing was his best of the season accounting for almost half of his 483 yards passing on the year. Tailback Willie Watts is the team's leading rusher averaging 90 yards per game. ISU is being outscored by an average of 32-18 and is allowing 419.3 yards per game while its offense is averaging 328.7 yards. Linebacker Gean Gilot leads the team with 66 tackles. ISU has a turnover margin of plus-five -- with 14 takeaways on the year.
The ISU-Youngstown State Series
This is the 10th meeting between the Penguins and Redbirds, with Illinois State holding a 5-4 edge in the first nine games. In fact, the cumulative score of the nine games has ISU with a tight 202-187 lead.
Illinois State had won five of the six previous meetings before YSU won 14-12 last year in Normal. YSU won the first two meetings of the series in 1979 and 1992. Against Illinois State at Stambaugh Stadium, the series is tied 2-2. Of the nine games, five have been decided by six points or less, including the last two contests.
In the game last season, Colby Street started at quarterback for YSU and threw a touchdown pass to John Schumacher for a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. YSU trailed 12-7 before Eric Lockhart scored on a one-yard run to give the Penguins a 14-12 lead. With 3:22 remaining, the YSU defense stuffed the Redbirds on a fourth-and-inches play and the Penguins ran out the clock.
Preview: Saturday's Gateway Action
Northern Iowa travels to Western Illinois in a game that will effect the Gateway standings. Kickoff for the game between the first-place Panthers and the Leathernecks, who are tied with YSU for second in the league, is 1 p.m. Also, Indiana State travels to SMS as both teams look for their first conference win of the season. In non-conference action McNeese State is at WKU and Eastern Illinois is at SIU.
Mays, Aroche Gateway Players of the Week
Junior tailback P.J. Mays was named the Gateway Football Conference's Offensive Player of the Week while senior defensive back Antulio Aroche was named the league's defensive player of the week. Mays had 218 yards rushing on 24 carries and scored three touchdowns. Aroche had a career-best 11 tackles, along with a fumble recovery and a forced fumble.
Individual Penguins in National Rankings
Junior tailback P.J. Mays ranks fourth in the nation in scoring (13 points per game) and fifth in rushing (145 yards per contest). Mays is also 18th in all-purpose yards. Senior cornerback LeVar Greene ranks sixth in the nation averaging 0.83 interceptions per game. Greene has intercepted a pass in three of the past four contests. Senior strong safety Bruce Hightower is 50th in the nation averaging 0.5 INTs per game.
YSU in the National Categories
The Youngstown State football team ranks in the top three in Division I-AA in two categories entering the contest against Illinois State. YSU is second in the nation in kickoff returns (28.0 yards per game), third in rushing offense (301.2), eighth in turnover margin (1.5 per game), 10th in scoring defense (14.17 points), 14th in punt returns (14.94), 16th in scoring offense (35 points) 24th in pass efficiency defense (99.4), 27th in total offense (400.1), 28th in total defense (301.2), 39th in rushing defense (121.8), 52nd in pass defense (179.3), 52nd in net punting (32.9) and 114th in passing offense (99).
Penguins in the Gateway Conference Rankings
YSU is first in the Gateway in scoring offense, rushing offense, kickoff returns, total offense, punt returns and turnover margin. The Penguins are second in scoring defense, total defense and passing efficiency defense and pass efficiency. Other rankings: Seventh in passing offense, fifth in passing defense, fourth in punting, third in first downs and fourth in time of possession. Individuals: P.J. Mays -- first in rushing, all-purpose yards, scoring, fifth in total offense. Jake Stewart -- fourth in scoring, first in FG percentage. LeVar Greene -- first in interceptions. Jeff Ryan -- sixth in total offense, seventh in passing. Jerald Burley -- first in punt returns. Andre Coleman -- first in kickoff returns.
YSU Players Against Illinois State
• Jeff Ryan: 3 games, 45 rushes for 160 yards...completed 26-of-61 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns and two interceptions. Last season was 3-of-13 for 23 yards and had 49 yards rushing.
• Colby Street: 2 games, 3-of-12 passing for one touchdown, two rushes for minus-nine yards.
• Andre Coleman: 3 games, five receptions for 49 yards, four kickoff returns for 99 yards.
• John Schumacher: In two games, has caught four passes for 21 yards.
• P.J. Mays: Had 38 yards on 15 carries and caught a pass for a yard last season.
• Jake Stewart: Had two extra-point kicks last season.
• Sean Guerriero: In three games has four catches for 51 yards.
• Dennis Dlugosz: In two games has one catch for five yards.
• Defense: Anthony Barone: In one game, had a punt return for two yards and four tackles. Bruce Hightower - 3 games, 12 tackles; LeVar Greene - 3 games, 14 tackles, 1 INT (2000); Matt Mechling - 2 games, six tackles; Mike Thomas - 3 games, two tackles; Jon Tekac - 3 games, six tackles; Justin Dellarose - 1 game, 10 tackles, 1 INT for 33 yards (2000); Martin Stachowicz - 1 game, four tackles; Bob Sivik - 3 games, five tackles. Russell Stuvaints - 1 game, two tackles; Guy Mazard - 1 game, two tackles; Antulio Aroche - 1 game, one tackle.
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 last Saturday beating Southwest Missouri State 41-20.
In its 20th season at Stambaugh, which opened in 1982, the Penguins are 100-30-2 (a .763 winning percentage). YSU has won 12 of its last 13 home games.
Since the 1989 season, YSU is an impressive 76-15-1, including undefeated seasons in 1993 and 1994. The Penguins are 31-6 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.
Turnovers Critical in Drive for Success
For the second time this season the Youngstown State defense forced six turnovers in a game when the Penguins forced six SMS giveaways last Saturday. YSU forced six turnovers against Clarion in the second game of the season. Through six games, the Penguins have caused 24 turnovers, but have turned the ball over themselves 15 times.
Of the 24 forced turnovers, YSU has capitalized on 14 of them scoring 86 points. The Penguin have turned the ball over 15 times and allowed just four touchdowns off of its miscues. YSU turned the ball over 13 times in the first four games -- the most since 1988, but since has had just one turnover against Indiana State and one against SMS.
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 ISU, which has a plus-5 turnover margin, YSU has a plus-9 turnover advantage.
YSU and First-Year Head Coaches
Jon Heacock is the only coach of five in school history to win his first three games. The only other coach to win his debut was Bill Narduzzi in 1975.
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.
Homecoming A Successful Day for the Penguins
Homecoming has almost always been a successful date for the YSU football team. In 60 Homecoming's the Penguins are 45-14-1 all-time in Youngstown. All-time at Stambaugh Stadium YSU is 16-3 at in Homecoming contests.
Youngstown State has won nine straight Homecoming contests and 13 of 14 since 1987. The only loss on Homecoming was a 10-8 defeat to Liberty in 1991. The nine-game Homecoming winning streak is the second longest in school history. The Penguins won their first 11 Homecoming games from 1938 through 1951 before tying Marshall in 1952.
Last year, the Penguins defeated Indiana State 42-7 before more than 20,000 fans at Stambaugh Stadium. This will be the first time that YSU has played Illinois State for its Homecoming game.
Greene Named to Buck Buchanan Watch List
Senior defensive back LeVar Greene had his name added as 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 Oct. 3: D.J. Bleisath, DE, Tennessee Tech; Will Bouton, LB, Furman; Abdul Byron, S, Lehigh; Keith Davis, S, Sam Houston State; LeVar Greene, CB, Youngstown State; Isaiah Greer, DB, Rhode Island; T.J. Hill, S, Northeastern; Vince Huntsberger, S, Montana; Josh Jeffries, DE, Appalachian State; Derrick Lloyd, LB, James Madison; Robert Mathis, DE, Alabama A&M; Freddy Pesqueira, DT, Georgia Southern; Doug Shanahan, S, Hofstra; Bobby Sippio, CB, Western Kentucky; Travis Stephens, LB, The Citadel; Tracy White, LB, Howard.
Jeff Ryan Becomes All-Time Total Yardage Leader
Senior quarterback Jeff Ryan is in his fourth year as the signal caller for the Penguins. Ryan, the all-time leader in career touchdown passes and rushing yards by a quarterback, will leave the program with his name all over the offensive-category part of the record books. He has started 36 games in his career and owns a 26-11 record as a starter. He is 23-7 as a starter since the 1999 season. He has rallied Youngstown State from behind to victory 13 times, including four times last season. Ryan has produced 7,197 yards of total offense in his career.
Stewart Perfect on Field Goals
Sophomore placekicker Jake Stewart is a perfect 3-of-3 on field-goal attempts this season, including a career-long 49 yarder against Northern Iowa on Sept. 29. Stewart kicked a 42-yard field goal in the season opener against Lock Haven and hit on a 24-yard kick against Clarion.
YSU's opponents have made just 3-of-6 field-goal tries against the Penguins.
Dating back to last season, Stewart has made four straight field goals. He is 25-of-26 on extra-point attempts this season.
Mays Goes Over 200 Yards for Second Time
Junior tailback P.J. 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 on Saturday 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.
In his 18-game career, Mays has rushed for 1,651 yards on 305 carries and he has scored 22 touchdowns. Against Indiana State, he had a career-best 34 carries and scored four rushing touchdowns against the Sycamores. Against Western Illinois he rushed for two scores and took a shovel pass 50 yards for a third touchdown. Against Clarion he rushed for 180 yards on nine carries. His 20-yards-per-carry average set a school record for yards per attempt in a 100-yard game. In the opener, he had the best game of his YSU career against Lock Haven rushing for 226 yards on 21 carries and scoring one touchdown. His 226-yard total was the sixth best in school history and the first time over 200 by a Penguin back since Jake Andreadis ran for 210 yards against Wingate on Oct. 21, 1995.
Top Rushing Performances in School History
Yards Player vs. Opponent, Date
304 Dick Adipotti vs. Southern Connecticut, 10/22/66 (24 carries)
264 Robby Robson vs. Delaware, 11/10/79 (30 carries)
253 Frank Horvath vs. Gustavus-Adolphus, 11/10/60 (20 carries)
246 Tamron Smith vs. Samford, 12/14/91 (46 carries)
227 Paris Wicks vs. Morehead State, 11/24/81 (24 carries)
226 P.J. Mays vs. Lock Haven, 8/31/01 (21 carries)
218 P.J. Mays vs. SW Missouri State, 10/13/2001 (24 carries)
Offensive Productivity Impressive So Far
YSU is averaging an impressive 35 points through the first six games. In five of the six games, all wins, the Penguins have scored more than 35 points. YSU has scored more than 40 points in its past three home games for the first time since a three-game stretch in 1993 when the Penguins scored 56, 42 and 42 in three consecutive home games.
Youngstown State has scored 210 points through six games, the fourth-best total through four games in school history. The best point production through six games is 255 points in 1978. The Penguins scored 226 points in the first six contests of the 1992 season and scored 215 at the start of the 1997 season.
Coaches Game Day Assignments
Last Saturday against SMS, YSU offensive coordinator/offensive line coach John Klacik moved from the coaches booth in the press box down to the the sidelines to call plays. 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 Players 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.
Eight Inducted Into YSU Athletics Hall of Fame
Prior to the kickoff of today's game the eight members of the 2001 YSU Athletics Hall of Fame will be announced. The 2001 inductees are Ned Mervos (football), Lorenzo Davis (football), Pat Danko (football), Tony Bowen (football), Mike Nitolli (baseball), Bruce Timko (men's basketball), Sandy Treece Cummings (volleyball/softball) and Tom Shipka (contributor).
Heacock's Brother Was Head Coach at ISU
Jon Heacock's brother Jim was the head coach at Illinois State from 1988 through 1995. Jim, who is the defensive line coach at The Ohio State University with former YSU head coach Jim Tressel, had a 37-49-2 mark as the Redbirds' head coach. His 37 wins are the third most in ISU school history. Illinois State had one winning season under Heacock going 6-4-1 in 1993.
Up Next: YSU Plays Host to Western Kentucky
The Penguins conclude their second three-game homestand of the season playing host to new Gateway Football Conference member Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers (4-2 and 2-1) are ranked 10th in the nation and this weekend play host to McNeese State in a non-conference game. YSU has not played Western Kentucky since 1990, but the team's have played 10 times. YSU won the last meeting 17-14 in 1990.