The Youngstown State football team renews one of its biggest rivalries when it travels to Huntington, W. Va., on Saturday to play Marshall. Kickoff for the game at Marshall University Stadium, which will be broadcasted back to Youngstown on TV-21 WFMJ, is at 7 p.m.
The Penguins (8-2 overall) are ranked sixth in the latest Division I-AA polls and will have their work cut out for them facing Marshall (9-1), the 20th-ranked team in Division I-A. The Thundering Herd has won nine consecutive contests since losing the season opener at then-No. 1 Florida. The contest is believed to be YSU's first-ever against a ranked Division I-A team.
Youngstown State is coming off an impressive performance beating Elon 45-7 on Saturday. The Penguins had one of their best total offensive days in school history amassing 609 yards. That total ranks third in school history for yardage in a single game. The 45 points were a season high and marked the eighth time in 10 games that YSU had scored more than 31 points in a game this year.
Marshall's offense has been equally impressive this year. In eight of 10 games, the Thundering Herd has scored 34-or-more points and have six 40-plus point scoring games. MU ranks second in Division I in passing offense (356.2 yards per game) and third in total offense (514 yards).
This is the first game between the two schools since the 1993 title game which YSU won at Marshall, 17-5. Youngstown State and Marshall hooked up in the national title game in 1991 with the Penguins winning 25-17. In 1992, Marshall pulled out a 31-28 win in Huntington. The Thundering Herd have posted an 87-5 record at home since Marshall University Stadium opened in 1991 (the Herd are 41-1 since 1996). The Penguins are one of just four teams who have left victorious winning in 1993. In fact, YSU has two victories in the Stadium -- beating Boise State in the 1994 title game.
Tonight's Coaches Capsules
Youngstown State: Jon Heacock (Muskingum, 1983) is in his first year as the Penguins' head coach. He owns a 8-2 record through 10 games. Heacock was hired on Jan. 25, 2001 to take over for 15-year YSU Coach Jim Tressel. Heacock is no stranger to the Youngstown State program having been an assistant coach at YSU for seven seasons since 1990. In 2000 and from 1992 through 1996 he was the Penguins' defensive coordinator. He was the defensive coordinator at Indiana from 1997 through 1999 before returning to YSU prior to last season.
Marshall: Bob Pruett (Marshall, 1965) has an impressive 67-10 record in his sixth year as the head coach at the school. In five of his first six seasons he guided the Thundering Herd to 10-or-more wins. In 1996, he led MU to a 15-0 record and the Division I-AA National Championship. He is one win shy of tying the school mark for career wins. He has guided MU to five consecutive bowl games.
Last Game Recap: Penguins 45, Phoenix 7
The Youngstown State football team put together one of the most impressive total offensive efforts in school history amassing 609 total yards in a 45-7 victory over Elon on Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium. YSU finished the game with 364 yards rushing and 245 yards passing. YSU jumped out on top in the first quarter on two P.J. Mays touchdown runs (24 and two yards). In the second quarter Mike Burns burst up the middle 44 yards for his first career touchdown and Sean Guerriero caught a 13-yard touchdown pass just before the half to put YSU on top 27-0. In the third, Jake Stewart kicked a 31-yard field goal, Eugene Mintze caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Ryan and the Penguins blocked an Elon punt for a safety to lead 38-0 after three periods. In the fourth, Elon scored on a 35-yard touchdown run by Rashuad Palmer but YSU answered with an eight-yard scoring run by Colby Street for the final margin.
Game Notes: Junior tailback P.J. Mays had 170 yards rushing and tailback Mike Burns had 116 yards, the first 100-plus rushing yard game of his career. It marked the second time this season YSU had more than one runner over 100 yards. Tight end Dennis Dlugosz caught four passes for 135 yards, which marked the first better than 100 yards receiving day since Elliott Giles against Montana on Nov. 27, 1999. Defensive Back LeVar Greene tied the school mark for pass breakups in a season with on breakup. He now has 15 breakups this year. Darius Peterson blocked his second punt of the season. Quarterback Jeff Ryan threw for 164 yards and moved into second place on the career school passing yardage list. Ryan now has 6,176 yards passing in his four-year career. YSU scored 45 points, its highest output since scoring 50 against Clarion on Sept. 3, 1998. In the past two games YSU has 52 first downs and has collected 1,116 yards. The contest marked the final regular-season home game for 21 seniors. It was only the second victory on a Senior Day since 1995.
Penguins-Herd Have Strong Past History
In the early 1990's, the Marshall-Youngstown State game was for all the marbles in Division I-AA. In 1991, 1992 and 1993 the school's played for the I-AA title and from 1991 through 1997 they combined to win six (out of seven) I-AA National Championships. Marshall won in 1992 and 1996 while the Penguins won in 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1997. On Montana broke through in 1995 winning at Marshall.
In 1993, YSU won 17-5 in front of 29,218 fans at Marshall Stadium. In that game, Tamron Smith had 109 yards rushing as the Penguins outrushed MU 220-49. YSU led 17-0 before a safety and field goal cut the deficit to 12. But with 5:14 remaining the Thundering Herd had a fourth-and-goal at the one, only to be stopped by YSU.
In 1992, Marshall won 31-28 in a thrilling game before 31,304 fans that saw the Penguins fall behind 28-0 only to rally and tie the game with 3:28 left. But Marshall's Willy Merrick kicked a 22-yard field goal with seven seconds left to pull out the win. Smith had 82 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns. Nick Cochran threw for 256 yards for YSU.
The first championship battle came in 1991 when the two teams squared off at Allen E. Paulson Stadium in Statesboro, Ga. YSU scored 19 fourth-quarter points to win 25-17 and earn the school's first national title. Marshall led 17-6 at the end of the third quarter before Ray Isaac threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Herb Williams to cut the deficit to 17-12. Ryan Wood scored on a three-yard touchdown run with 7:09 remaining and Smith scored on a five-yard run with 5:42 left to put the Penguins in front 25-17. Marshall drove to the Penguins' 28-yard line in the closing seconds but a Michael Payton pass to the end zone was incomplete.
YSU-MU Tidbits: Smith's three-touchdown 18-point game is a stadium record by an opponent against Marshall since Marshall Stadium opened in 1991...Penguin senior defensive tackle Todd Blackwell was a freshman at Marshall in 1998 before transferring to Youngstown State...current YSU assistant coaches Trent Boykin and Pete Rekstis and Athletic Director Ron Strollo played in the title games in the early 1990s. YSU Head Coach Jon Heacock was the defensive coordinator of all three squads that played against Marshall for the national titles...YSU is 2-3 all-time in Huntington.
Marshall Thundering Herd Scouting Report
Marshall has one of the best passing offenses in the nation led by junior quarterback Byron Leftwich. The Thundering Herd rank second in the country in passing offense and third in total offense. Leftwich ranks second in the nation in passing efficiency (167.55) and second in total offense (356 yards) trailing only Florida's Rex Grossman. MU receiver Darius Watts averages 7.9 receptions per game -- fourth best in the nation -- and 129.2 receiving yards per game -- third best in the county.
While the Thundering Herd average 37.4 points per game their defense is allowing 24.3 points per contest. Marshall allows 411.2 yards per game in total offense --195.3 yards rushing per game.
Marshall will play for the Mid-American Conference championship on Nov. 30 at Toledo and has accepted a bowl bid to play in the GMAC Bowl against a Conference USA opponent.
Teams in the NCAA Division I-AA Field of 16
Entering Saturday five 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), Eastern Illinois (Ohio Valley) and Florida A&M (MEAC).
The Southern Conference (Georgia Southern or Furman), Atlantic 10 (Hofstra or Villanova) and Southland (Sam Houston State or McNeese State) will have their automatic bids decided Saturday.
Individual Penguins in National Rankings
Junior wide receiver Jerald Burley ranks third in the nation in punt return average (18.47 per return). Junior tailback P.J. Mays ranks fourth in the nation in scoring (11.4 points per game) and 17th in rushing (124.5 yards per contest). Mays is also 29th in all-purpose yards. Senior cornerback LeVar Greene ranks fifth in the nation averaging 0.70 interceptions per game while senior Bruce Hightower is 43rd at 0.40. Jake Stewart is 49th with 0.70 field goals per game while junior punter Kosta Karapetsas is 71st in punting average (36.78 per kick).
YSU in the National Categories
The Youngstown State football team ranks in the top 20 in Division I-AA in eight categories entering the contest against Marshall. YSU is fifth in rushing offense (271.10 yards per game), sixth in the nation in punt returns (16.59 yards), ninth in scoring defense (15.3 points), 11th in kickoff returns (22.74 yards), 13th in turnover margin (+0.90), 13th in total defense (283.90 yards), 13th in pass defense (150.30 yards), 16th in scoring offense (34.40 points), 22nd in passing efficiency defense (99.48), 26th in total offense (405.6 yards), 38th in rushing defense (133.60 yards), 75th in net punting (31.79 yards), 100th in passing offense (134.5 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, pass defense, rushing offense, rushing defense, total offense, total defense, passing efficiency defense, sacks allowed and passing efficiency. Other rankings: Sixth in passing offense, third in kickoff returns, sixth in punting, fourth in first downs and third in time of possession. Individuals: P.J. Mays -- first in rushing, first in scoring, first in all-purpose yards, seventh in total offense. Jake Stewart -- first in FG percentage and fifth in field goals per game. LeVar Greene -- first in interceptions. Jeff Ryan -- fourth in total offense, fifth in passing. Jerald Burley -- first in punt returns and kickoff returns, seventh in all-purpose yards, eighth in receiving yards. Andre Coleman -- fourth in kickoff returns. Bruce Hightower -- fourth in interceptions.
Where the 2001 Penguins Stack Up
The 2001 Youngstown State football team has scored more than 30 points in eight games this season setting a school record for 30-plus point games in a season. YSU has had five 40-point contests tying the school mark of five previously set back in 1978.
YSU is averaging 34.4 points per contest, the best average in a school history ahead of the 33.5 set back in 1978. The Penguins are allowing 15.3 points per game the fourth-best mark since the Penguins began playing at least 10 games per season on an annual basis in 1976. The 271.1 rushing yards per game rank number one ahead of 261.7 in 1989. The 405.6 total yards per game are also a school best ahead of 395.6 per game averaged in 1979.
However, YSU has committed 26 turnovers, the most in a single campaign since committing 32 in 15 games in 1991. The Penguins had 27 turnovers in 11 games in 1988.
YSU Second Winningest Team at Marshall Stadium
Youngstown State and Appalachian State are tied for the second-most wins at Marshall Stadium since the facility opened in 1991. Youngstown State earned a win over the Herd in the 1993 National Championship game and beat Boise State in the 1994 title game. Appalachian State won twice beating MU in 1992 and 1995. The only other team to win at Marshall Stadium is Western Michigan, which beat the Thundering Herd on Oct. 5, 2000. Marshall is 87-5 in the facility and 41-1 under Coach Bob Pruett.
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 102-31-2 (a .763 winning percentage). YSU has won 14 of its last 16 home games.
Since the 1989 season, YSU is an impressive 78-16-1, including undefeated seasons in 1993 and 1994. The Penguins are 33-7 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.
Wacky Year For Turnovers in YSU Contests
Entering the contest against Marshall, the Penguins have forced an impressive 35 turnovers and have turned 22 of them into 138 points. 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 35 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 eight victories, YSU has committed 17 turnovers -- still an average of just over two per game.
The Penguins have turned the ball over 26 times and allowing nine scores off of its miscues. The 26 turnovers is the most since committing 22 in 1991 in 15 games. 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-9 turnover advantage.
Marshall carries a turnover margin advantage of plus-5 into the contest. Despite throwing 390 passes on the year, Thundering Herd quarterbacks have thrown just six interceptions with four coming against Buffalo and Kent State.
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 eight and is second in Gateway history . 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.
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 and has tied the school record with 15 pass breakups. His seven interceptions lead the team and the league and are one shy of tying the Gateway Football Conference's record of eight held by Northern Iowa's Michael Beamon (1990). He has 36 tackles, 26 solo stops, three 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 total offensive plays. Ryan set the total offensive plays mark in the game against Western Kentucky. He has started 41 games in his career and has 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 7,974 yards of total offense in his career on a total of 1,377 plays -- both school marks.
He has one more record in his sights that he would like to set before leaving Youngstown State. Against Elon, Ryan moved into second on the all-time career passing yardage shot, but still has a chance at the top spot. Ryan currently has 6,176 yards trailing Trenton Lykes' total of 6,341. Ryan needs 165 yards to tie for the mark.
Mays Over 1,000 Yards For Season/2,000 For Career
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 1,245 ranks as the ninth-best single-season total in school history.
In his 22-game career, Mays has rushed for 2,026 yards on 381 carries and has scored 28 touchdowns. He has seven 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.
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.
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 Will Host Selection Show Gathering
The Penguins' regular season will end on Nov. 24 following the Marshall game, but on Sunday, YSU will be hoping its season continues when the NCAA Football Playoff field of 16 is announced at 12:30 p.m. The team, coaching staff and support staff will gather at the DeBartolo Stadium Club in Stambaugh Stadium to see if the Penguins earn one of eight at-large bids available. Eight teams earn automatic berths as conference champions.
YSU fans and members of the media are invited to attend the gathering which begins at noon with the regular-season wrapup edition of Penguin Power. The show will air live from the Stadium Club with host Bob Hannon and Head Coach Jon Heacock beginning at noon.