Penguins Try to Rebound at Southern Illinois

The Youngstown State football team will be looking to bounce back this Saturday when it travels to Carbondale, Ill., to play Southern Illinois. Kickoff for the contest at McAndrew Stadium is set for 1:37 p.m. EST. The game will be televised back to Youngstown on WYFX Fox 17/62 as the Gateway Football Conference's game of the week.

The No. 10/11 Penguins (6-2 overall and 4-2 in the Gateway) will be trying to avoid their first two-game losing skid in almost two years against the Salukis (1-6 and 1-3). YSU is coming off a disappointing 24-14 loss last Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium to Western Kentucky. The Penguins have not lost consecutive games since Nov. 14, 1998.

Against WKU, YSU trailed 14-0 in the first quarter, before rallying within 17-14 in the fourth. But two key turnovers gave the momentum back to the Hilltoppers and they took advantage in the 24-14 victory handing YSU it first home loss of the year and second in the last 15 games.

Southern Illinois has lost three consecutive games entering Saturday's contest with its lone win this season coming at Illinois State. The Salukis are 0-3 at home in 2001 and have not won at McAndrew Stadium since Oct. 14, 2000.

The past two meetings between YSU and SIU have been thrillers. Last season, YSU led 20-0 before the Salukis scored 21 points in a 5:50 span of the fourth quarter to pull out the win. In 1999 at Southern Illinois, SIU scored a touchdown and had a successful two-point conversion as time expired to force overtime. In the overtime, the Salukis missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt and YSU's Adrian Brown scored the game-winning touchdown in a 43-37 win.

Last Game Recap: Hilltoppers 24, Penguins 14
The first Gateway Football Conference matchup between Western Kentucky and Youngstown State went to the Hilltoppers who earned a 24-14 victory at Stambaugh Stadium last Saturday. WKU jumped out to a 14-0 lead after its first two offensive possessions and never trailed in the contest. WKU quarterback Donte Pimpleton scored on a one-yard run and DeWayne Gallishaw scored on an eight-yard carry to give the Hilltoppers an early 14-0 advantage. YSU cut the deficit to 14-7 at halftime on a three-yard run by Jeff Ryan. Peter Martinez gave the Hilltoppers a 17-7 advantage entering the fourth quarter. The Penguins got back in the game when LeVar Greene blocked a Brian Claybourn punt and Chris DiMauro returned it 27 yards for a touchdown. YSU drove to the WKU 27, but Ryan was intercepted by Erik Dandy to end the drive. After the Penguins forced a punt, Claybourn's kick hit YSU's Carlos Pearson in the facemask and WKU recovered at the YSU 24. Four plays later, Curtis Hamilton scored on a one-yard run to give the Hilltoppers a 24-14 advantage.
Game Notes: WKU now leads the series with YSU 7-4. The 18 yards passing by the Hilltoppers were the fewest allowed by the Penguins since Eastern Kentucky had 13 yards passing on Oct. 24, 1987. Chris DiMauro scored his first career touchdown. Jerry Johnson had a career-high four rushing attempts. Jon Tekac had a career-best 16 tackles. YSU suffered its worst home defeat since losing 42-14 on Nov. 7, 1998 to Northern Iowa. Jeff Ryan became the school leader in all-time total offensive plays and moved to third for rushing touchdowns scored by a quarterback.

Southern Illinois Salukis Scouting Report
Southern Illinois brings a balanced offense into the contest averaging 196.9 yards per game rushing and 158.9 yards passing per game. SIU is coming off a tough 20-14 loss at Indiana State last Saturday. SIU fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter and turned the ball over six times in the defeat.
The Salukis have been outscored 191-118 this season and have allowed 17-or-more points in each game this season while allowing 20-or-more on five occasions.
Quarterback Kevin Kobe has thrown two touchdown passes and seven interceptions this season while averaging 123 yards per game. Tailback Tom Koutsos is averaging 107.7 yards per game and has six rushing touchdowns.

The Southern Illinois-Youngstown State Series
This is the 13th meeting between the Penguins and Salukis, with Youngstown State owning a 7-4-1 series advantage. YSU has won four of the last five contests entering Saturday's game.
The overall series begin in 1965 as the Penguins won three of the first four games with the 1966 contest a 21-21 tie. SIU won three in a row before YSU has had its current success.
The past two games have been thrillers. In the last contest at McAndrew Stadium at Carbondale, Ill., SIU scored on the final play of regulation and completed the two-point conversion to force overtime. After the YSU defense stopped SIU, Adrian Brown scored on a 12-yard touchdown run to end the game. YSU is 3-2-1 all-time in Carbondale.
Last season at Stambaugh, YSU owned a 20-0 advantage in the fourth before SIU scored 21 points in an 5:50 span in the fourth quarter. After the Salukis lost 36 yards when the long snapper sent the ball over punter Scott Everhart's head, Jake Stewart's 47-yard field goal with 1:53 left was short.

Preview: Saturday's Gateway Action
Western Kentucky travels to Illinois State, which picked up its first win last Saturday, while Northern Iowa plays host to Indiana State. Northern Iowa is a half-game ahead of Western Kentucky in the league standings. SW Missouri State plays host to Drake and Western Illinois looks to snap a two-game losing streak as it travels to Sam Houston State in non-conference action.

Individual Penguins in National Rankings
Junior wide receiver Jerald Burley ranks second in the nation in punt return average (23.10 per return) behind Montana State's Junior Adams, who averages 23.71 per return. Junior tailback P.J. Mays ranks sixth in the nation in scoring (11.25 points per game) and 14th in rushing (123.5 yards per contest). Mays is also 25th in all-purpose yards. Senior cornerback LeVar Greene ranks 14th in the nation averaging 0.63 interceptions per game. Jake Stewart is 63rd with 0.63 field goals per game while junior punter Kosta Karapetsas is 69th in punting average (36.45 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 Southern Illinois. YSU is fifth in the nation in punt returns (18.61 yards), seventh in rushing offense (259 yards per game), 15th in the nation in scoring offense (33.5 points), 16th in turnover margin (+0.75), 19th in scoring defense (17.38 points), 20th in kickoff returns (22.04 yards), 23rd in total defense (294.5 yards), 25th in passing efficiency defense (103.76), 34th in pass defense (170.75 yards), 37th in rushing defense (123.75 yards), 49th in total offense (367.5 yards), 67th in net punting (31.5 yards), 109th in passing offense (108.5 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, rushing offense, rushing defense, total offense, total defense and passing efficiency defense. Other rankings: Seventh in passing offense, fourth in kickoff returns, fifth in punting, fourth in pass efficiency, fourth in first downs, third in sacks allowed and third in time of possession. Individuals: P.J. Mays -- first in rushing, all-purpose yards, scoring, eighth in total offense. Jake Stewart -- sixth in scoring, first in FG percentage and seventh in field goals per game. LeVar Greene -- first in interceptions. Jeff Ryan -- sixth in total offense, seventh in passing. Jerald Burley -- first in punt returns and kickoff returns, fourth in all-purpose yards, seventh in receiving yards. Andre Coleman -- third in kickoff returns. Bruce Hightower -- seventh in interceptions. Kosta Karapetsas -- eighth in punting.

Current Penguins Against Southern Illinois
• Jeff Ryan -- 3 games; 30-of-53 (57 percent) for 386 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. 37 rushes for minus-13 yards. Last season, Ryan was sacked six times and had minus-50 yards rushing on 10 attempts.
• Andre Coleman -- 3 games, three receptions for 20 yards. Seven kickoff returns for 167 yards.
• P.J. Mays -- 1 game, five carries for seven yards, one touchdown.
• Jake Stewart -- 1 game, 2-of-3 PAT kicks, missed 47-yard field goal in 2000
• Eugene Mintze -- 1 game, three catches for 34 yards.
• Jerald Burley -- 1 game, one rush for minus-nine yards
• Sean Guerriero -- 3 games, two catches for 38 yards.
• LeVar Greene -- 3 games, six tackles, two pass breakups. Bruce Hightower -- 3 games, seven tackles. Matt Mechling -- 2 games, five tackles, one sack. Martin Stachowicz -- 2 games, nine tackles. Mike Thomas -- 2 games, 10 tackles (all in 2000). Jon Tekac -- 1 game, seven tackles, two pass breakups. Anthony Barone -- 2 games, five tackles, one pass breakup and three punt returns for 19 yards. Guy Mazard -- 1 game, three tackles. Bob Sivik -- 2 games, one tackle. Russell Stuvaints -- 1 game, one tackle.
• Justin Dellarose -- 1 game, two tackles before suffering a broken leg in the second quarter of last year's game.

Difference Between Winning and Losing Big for YSU
The statistics in Youngstown State's six wins and its two losses are as different as night and day.
In the six victories, YSU has forced 21 turnovers while committing 12; YSU's opposition has a combined record of 16-33; the Penguins have averaged 303.7 yards rushing and 460.5 total offensive yards per contest; the YSU defense has held opponents to just 70.8 yards rushing and 276.5 total offensive yards. In the six wins, YSU has outscored the opposition 243-85.
In the two defeats, YSU has committed nine turnovers while forcing six; the two team's that defeated YSU are a combined 12-4; the Penguins have averaged 125 yards rushing per game and 266 total offensive yards per contest; the YSU defense has allowed 282.5 yards rushing per game and 348.5 yards of total offense. In their two defeats, the Penguins have been outscored 54-25.

Turnovers Critical in Drive for Success
In the two games the Penguins have lost this season they have committed nine turnovers -- an average of 4.5 per game. In the six victories, YSU has committed 12 turnovers -- an average of two per game.
Entering the contest against Southern Illinois, the Penguins have forced an impressive 27 turnovers and have turned 16 of them into 100 points. Twice this year, YSU has forced six turnovers in a game -- against SMS and Clarion -- but has only won the turnover margin in four of eight games.
The Penguins have turned the ball over 21 times and allowing eight scores off of its miscues. 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 WKU, which has a plus-two turnover margin, 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 six 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.

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. Tony Moss of The Sports Network tabbed Greene the nation's best defensive player through the first half of the season.
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.
Greene has had a solid season to be deserving of post-season accolades. He leads the team with 12 pass breakups and five 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 39 games in his career and 27-12 record as a starter. He is 24-9 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 7,480 yards of total offense in his career on a total of 1,325 plays -- both school marks.

Mays Nears 1,000 Yards Rushing For the Season
Junior tailback P.J. Mays is just 12 yards shy of becoming the first YSU back since Adrian Brown in 1999 and 15th in school history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. Mays has 988 yards entering the game at Southern Illinois on Saturday.
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. In his 20-game career, Mays has rushed for 1,769 yards on 342 carries and he has scored 24 touchdowns.

Tekac Has Career-Best Showing vs. WKU
Junior linebacker Jon Tekac had the best game of his Youngstown State career against Western Kentucky recording a career-high 16 tackles, including two tackles for losses. He now is the Penguins' leader in tackles with 51 on the season. He has five tackles for losses, a pass breakup and a forced fumble to his credit this year.
Tekac's previous career-best tackles day came against Cal Poly on Oct. 16, 1999 when he had 11 stops. Last season' Tekac's high-game tackle total came against Hofstra when he had 10 stops. This year, his previous high was nine against Indiana State.

Penguins Show Savvy Following Defeat
Since the November 1998 season, the Youngstown State football team has lost just eight times and on seven of those occasions -- with Saturday's contest begin the eighth chance to return to the win column -- the Penguins have turned things around in their next game to pick up a victory. Since losing three straight in 1998, YSU has bounced back from defeat winning its next game. The Penguins will be looking to bounce back from their eighth defeat on Saturday at Southern Illinois.

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 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.

Up Next: YSU Has an Open Weekend Before Elon
The Penguins will have an open week before playing host to Elon in the final regular-season home game of the season. Since 1986, Youngstown State is 12-2 following an open week, including a 1-0 mark this season. This will be the first meeting between the Phoenix and the Penguins. They have one common opponent this season in Western Kentucky. Elon lost 24-7 at WKU on Oct. 6, while the Penguins lost this past weekend to the Hilltoppers 24-14. The game will be the final regular-season home contest for 21 seniors who will be honored in a ceremony prior to kickoff.