Clash of Unbeatens Set For Saturday As Penguins Host Albany

LB Travis Williams
LB Travis Williams

The Youngstown State football team goes for its first 3-0 start to the campaign in seven years on Saturday against Albany. Kickoff at Stambaugh Stadium is set for 4 p.m. The game will be carried on WKBN 570 AM/iHeartRadio and aired on a tape-delay basis by MyYTV.

The fifth-ranked Penguins (2-0) last started a season 3-0 in 2005 when they went on to finish 8-3. After knocking off Pittsburgh 31-17 in the season opener, YSU shut out Valparaiso 59-0 last Saturday in the home opener. The Penguins scored 49 points in the first half of the contest and were able to hold on for their first shutout since blanking Indiana State 28-0 in 2009.

Torrian Pace and Demond Hymes each scored two touchdowns while Kurt Hess threw for two scores in the contest's opening 4:07. Hess found Christian Bryan for a 24-yard score two minutes in and followed that with an 11-yard toss to Will Show just 67 seconds later. Pace scored twice in the second quarter while Hymes had touchdown runs in the second and fourth quarters.

The defense limited the Crusaders to 190 yards of total offense, including just 47 on the ground. YSU forced two fumbles and blocked a punt in the win.

Albany (2-0) comes to Youngstown following two impressive wins to start the campaign. The Great Danes opened with a 40-23 win over Colgate before going on the road last week to defeat Robert Morris 35-10. A 2011 playoff participant and preseason pick to win the Northeast Conference this season, Albany scored 28 unanswered points after falling behind 3-0. Sophomore quarterback Will Fiacchi tossed three touchdown passes in the win, all to wide receiver Cole King. Fiacchi also rushed for a score in the 25-point victory.

This is the first meeting between the programs. Since joining the FCS ranks in 1999, the Great Danes have posted 10 winning seasons, including six straight.

YSU opens Missouri Valley Football Conference play on Sept. 22 when it welcomes UNI to Stambaugh Stadium. Kickoff for the contest is set for 7 p.m.

Albany Anecdotes
• YSU will look to start a season 3-0 for the first time since 2005. That year, the Penguins opened with wins over Slippery Rock, Northeastern and at Liberty before losing at Pittsburgh.
• The last time YSU posted a perfect record against non-conference foes in the regular season was in 2000. That year the Guins beat Slippery Rock, Edinboro, Kent State, Hofstra and Cal Poly.
• TE Will Shaw has caught a touchdown pass in three consecutive contests. He had an 11-yard touchdown catch against Valparaiso in  the first quarter. He has five TD receptions in the past three games.
• YSU has scored at least 27 points in 11 of its last 12 games.
• The Penguins have scored in every quarter and have not trailed this season.
• Hess has thrown a touchdown pass in 13 consecutive games. In his 24 career starts, he has thrown for a score in 19 contests.
• Sophomore WR Christian Bryan has caught a pass in 13 straight games.
• YSU has had the same starting offensive line in 12 of the last 13 games.
• After two games the Penguins' defense has surrendered just 17 points. The last time YSU had allowed fewer was seven in 2001.

Valparaiso Notes
• The shutout was the 10th time the Penguins blanked an opponent in the home opener and first since 2008.
• In home openers all time, YSU improves to 48-22-2 since the program's origin in 1938. Since moving to Stambaugh Stadium in 1982, YSU is 24-6-1 in the first home game of the season. Since 1989, YSU is now 20-1-1 in home openers, including a streak of 17 consecutive victories.
• Players who made their YSU debuts included Randall Gillum, Justin Getz, Jordan Markota and Trevor Strickland. Players who made their first career starts were DE Kyle Sirl and DT Steve Zaborsky.
• TB Demond Hymes scored his first career touchdown while TB Torrian Pace recorded his first career 100-yard game. PK David Brown made his first field goal at Stambaugh Stadium. QBs Patrick Angle and Dante Nania completed their first career passes.
• Eight players had receptions, seven players had rushing attempts, three quarterbacks completed passes and 24 made at least one tackle.
• For the second consecutive year YSU blocked a punt against the Crusders.
Jeremey Edwards returned a fumble seven yards for a touchdown in first quarter.
• In the two-game series against Valparaiso, the Penguins scored 19 touchdowns.

Valpariso Recap
    Youngstown State scored 21 points in just over five minutes to start the game and built a 49-0 halftime lead before polishing off a 59-0 victory over Valparaiso in the home opener at Stambaugh Stadium last Saturday.
    QB Kurt Hess threw two touchdown passes in a 2:07 span and Jeremey Edwards added a score on a seven-yard fumble return for touchdown as the Guins jumped on top in a hurry, 21-0.
    In the second quarter, YSU scored four rushing touchdowns was Torrian Pace scored from 14 and three yards, Jamaine Cook scored from two yards out and Demond Hymes found paydirt from one yard.
    In the second half, David Brown kicked a 27-yard field goal while Hymes scored on a three-yard run. The defense was able to preserve its first shutout since 2008.
    Pace finished with 146 yards on 14 carries while Hymes had 80 on 11. Hess was 7-of-10 for 138 yards and two scores and departed at the 12:54 mark of the second quarter.

Hess, Cook Limited Action
    QB Kurt Hess and TB Jamaine Cook saw limited action in the win over Valparaiso. Both Walter Payton Award Watch List members exited the game at the 12:54 mark of the second quarter with YSU leading 35-0.
    Hess completed 7-of-10 passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Cook had eight carries for 51 yards and one score.

Looking to Go 3-0
    Since 1993, the Penguins have opened a season 3-0 only five times -- 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2005. The final combined records of those four seasons was 48-16.
    However in 1998 (6-5) and 2005 (8-3) the Guins did not get an invite to the postseason.

Experienced Offense
    For the second consecutive week the Penguins started the same offensive unit. The numbers for that group shows why they have scored 27-plus points in 11 of 12 games.
    The five offensive linemen have started a combined 95 games in their careers, including a combined streak of 76 straight contests. OT Andrew Radakovich leads the way with 33 total (28 straight). He is joined by D.J. Main (19/5), Chris Elkins (17/17) and Lamar Mady and Mark Pratt (13/13 each).
    QB Kurt Hess has started 24 straight games, TB Jamaine Cook has started 23 of the past 24 and WR Christian Bryan has logged 13 consecutive starts as well. TE Will Shaw, WR Andre Stubbs and WR Kintrell Disher have started the first two games. Shaw has six straight starts at the tight-end position while Stubbs and Disher have four each in their careers.

Home Sweet Home
    YSU has won 17 of its last 18 non-conference regular-season home games since September 2004. The lone loss was a final-play 31-28 setback to Liberty in 2008. Coach Eric Wolford is 5-0 at home against non-conference foes with wins over Butler, Valparaiso (twice), Central Connecticut State and Saint Francis (Pa.). In those five games, the Guins have outscored the opposition 239-67 (an average of 47.8-13.4).

Meteoric Rise
    Youngstown State has moved into the No. 5 spot in this week's The Sports Network Top 25. But on further review, looking at where YSU was in January compared to now is nothing short of phenomenal.
    In the final 2011 poll, despite being the only team to beat national champion North Dakota State, YSU garnered seven total votes (3,367 as of this week). To open the 2012 preseason, the Guins were ranked 13th. After defeating Pittsburgh, YSU moved up to sixth and received seven first-place votes. Now YSU sits seventh with four first-place votes.

New Faces on Defense
    The Penguins' new-look defense has allowed just 17 points in the first two games while forcing four takeaways. The impressive part of the four takeaways is they were all fumbles forced by four different players. A total of five players have forced a fumble so far this season.
    In the opener at Pittsburgh, CB Dale Peterman led the way with 10 tackles. Against Valparaiso, LB Travis Williams was credited with 10 stops, including two for losses.
    Three players registered their first career sacks against Valpo - LB Parnell Taylor, DT Emmanuel Kromah and DE Terrell Williams. None played on defense last year.
    Three of the top five tacklers did not play at YSU last year. Of all the players on defense who have a tackle so far, 13 did not play a snap last year for the Guins.

Offense Keeps Clicking
    It looks like the Penguins' offense remains a well-oiled machine, averaging 45 points per game so far this season. YSU had 59 against Valparaiso to follow up on a 31-point performance at Pittsburgh in the season opener.
    In both games so far, the Penguins have rushed for more than they have thrown. YSU has 92 rushing attempts and 45 passing in the two games.
    The offense has scored 11 touchdowns (six rushing and five passing) while converting two field goals for a total of 83 points.
    Already 11 different players have caught a pass (only two seniors Jamaine Cook and Will Shaw have caught passes) while seven have rushing attempts (with Cook the lone senior).

Pick Up The Pace
    Junior TB Torrian Pace enjoyed the finest day of his YSU career in the win over Valparaiso.
    Pace rushed for a career-high 146 yards on 14 carries versus the Crusaders. Pace averaged 10.4 yards per attempt and had runs of 28, 16 (twice), 14 and 12 (twice) in the game. He scored on a three-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter and later added a 14-yard score in the period.

Hymes Chimes In
    Redshirt freshman TB Demond Hymes had the first rushing attempts of his YSU carrer in the win over Valpo. Hymes had 11 carries for 80 yards and scored two touchdowns. He had the Penguins' longest run of the season going for a 33-yard scamper in the fourth quarter.

Staunch Defense
    The Penguins forced five three-and-outs in the first half while the longest sustained drive by the Crusaders was seven plays for 30 yards.
    In the second half, Valpo crossed the 50-yard line for the first time in the game with just over seven minutes remaining. The deepest penetration was to the YSU 16-yard line, but the drive went backwards and ended on the 24-yard line.

Providing Protection
    In 24 games under Head Coach Eric Wolford, YSU has allowed just 24 sacks. Conversely, junior quarterback Kurt Hess has started all of those contests. Of those 24 sacks, five came in two games against Indiana State (two in 2010 and three in 2011). Through two games, YSU has yet to yield a sack this season.
    The YSU offensive line has surrendered just nine sacks in the last 13 games overall. The Penguins have started the same offensive line in 12 of those 13 games.
    Only five times in the 24 games have the Guins allowed more than one sack and four of those came in 2010. In the contests against Pittsburgh, Michigan State and Penn State, the Penguins allowed a total of one sack (PSU).

Shaw Grows into Role
    Senior TE Will Shaw has caught five touchdown passes in the past three games.
    Last Saturday against Valparaiso, Shaw caught an 11-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. He had touchdown receptions of 14 and 23 yards against Pittsburgh.
    Last year Shaw was moved from defense to offense during fall camp.
    He finished the year with eight receptions, seven of which came in the final three games. Shaw had his first career touchdown reception at UNI and ended the year with a two-touchdown game versus Missouri State.

Stealthy Stubbs
    Not the most imposing figure at 5-6, 160 pounds, redshirt freshman WR Andre Stubbs deceived Pittsburgh for two touchdowns and 172 all-purpose yards.
    Stubbs finished with 71 yards rushing on six carries (an average of 11.8 per attempt) and caught four passes for 61 yards. He even chipped in 40 yards on two kickoff returns.
    Stubbs, who was named the MVFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance, scored his first career touchdown on a nifty 27-yard reception from Kurt Hess in the first quarter. He added a 13-yard run in the fourth quarter for his first career rushing score.

Getting Ready to Cook
    Junior TB Jamaine Cook has 135 yards on 29 carries so far this season. Cook scored his first touchdown of the campaign in the win over Valparaiso.
    After rushing for 84 yards on 21 carries at Pittsburgh he had 51 on eight totes in a quarter and five plays of work against Valparaiso. He exited the game with YSU leading 35-0 early in the second quarter.
    Cook's load should increase with perennial-playoff team Albany and the MVFC slate looming in the next nine games.
    As a junior, Cook had 202 yards on 32 carries after two games. In the next nine contests he rushed for 1,184 yards on 239 carries and had at least 90 in every game.
    Against Pittsburgh he completed the first pass of his career. In the third quarter he found Will Shaw open for a 23-yard scoring toss.

Brown Nearly Automatic
    Senior PK David Brown has made all 12 PATs to start the campaign and both of his field-goal attempts. He made 35 straight PAT kicks at one point during the 2011 campaign and for the season was 53-of-56. The 53 makes tied for second most in school history while the 56 attempts are also second.
    In his career, Brown has made was 5-of-6 field-goal attempts, including his last five. After not making a field goal in his first eight games, Brown has five in the past five contests.

Preaching Red-Zone Success
    Head Coach Eric Wolford continues to stress Red Zone play in his third campaign.
    YSU has picked up the 2012 campaign right where it left off scoring on 10-of-11 visits inside the red zone. YSU was 7-of-8 against Valpo and 3-for-3 against Pitt. The Penguins have scored eight touchdowns and kicked two field goals.
    In 47 trips last year, the Penguins scored 39 touchdowns and kicked three field goals. YSU scored a total of 280 points on 42 of 47 visits (89.4 percent) a year ago.
    In his 24 games as coach, the Penguins are 93-for-103 (90.3 percent) inside the red zone.
    During Wolford's first campaign, YSU was 41-of-45 in the red zone for a conversion percentage of 91.1 percent.

Williams With 10 Stops
    LB Travis Williams, who started all 11 games last year, made his first start of the 2012 season against Valparaiso. Williams finished the game with a team-leading 10 tackles, including two for losses. Williams did not start against Pittsburgh but came on to see significant action. He the co-leader in tackles on the squad with 12 after two games.

Bryan Moves Forward
    Sophomore WR Christian Bryan caught the  seventh touchdown pass of his career against Valparaiso. In his 13-game career, Bryan has caught a touchdown in seven contests.
    He had three receptions for 56 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown toss from Kurt Hess against the Crusaders.
    Last season, Bryan had a team-leading 46 receptions for 722 yards and six touchdowns. He averaged 65.6 yards per game and 15.7 per catch.
    He set a freshman record for most receptions in a game with seven at Indiana State and set the mark for receiving yards with a 131-yard performance at Southern Illinois.
    His 46 receptions topped the previous freshman standard of 25 set by Renauld Ray while his 722 yards bettered Ray's 507.

Hess Continues to Impress
    Junior QB Kurt Hess extended his streak of touchdowns in a game to 13 with two in the first five minutes against Valparaiso.
    In his last 13 games, Hess has thrown 30 touchdown passes and just eight interceptions. His last interception came at the 1:36 mark in the first quarter of the North Dakota State game. Currently he has a streak of 78 attempts since he was last picked off.
    At Pitt, he engineered the first victory over a BCS program in school history and first against an FBS foe since 2000 with his performance against the Panthers.
    As a sophomore, he amassed 2,460 yards and threw a school-best 26 touchdown passes. Hess threw for 2,117 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2010. He is one of just three YSU QBs (Mark Brungard and Trenton Lykes) to pass for more than 2,000 yards in consecutive seasons.
    In his 24-game career, he has thrown for more than 200 yards on 13 occasions.
    He is one of two quarterbacks in school history to throw for at least 200 yards in 13 different games. Hess shares the school mark with signal-caller Tom Zetts, who accomplished the feat in 47 career starts.

Three is Still Important
    In the past 24 games, YSU is a combined 17-of-21 on field-goal attempts. While Coach Eric Wolford is not a fan, the Penguins are on a hot streak having converted their last five tries.
    In the opener, senior PK David Brown hammered home a 25-yard kick in the fourth quarter on a field that had seen its fair share of rain throughout the evening. He added a 27-yard boot against Valpo on a windy day at Stambaugh Stadium.
    Brown is now 5-of-7 in his career, and that conversion was his first outdoors with the program as well as his first off of natural grass.
    In 2011, the Penguins did not make a field goal in the first eight games before converting a 28-yard kick at UNI and two (33 and 30) at North Dakota State. The 30-yard kick by Brown in the third quarter at North Dakota State turned out to be the difference in the game.
    YSU was 12-of-14 in 2010.

2012 Senior Class
    The Penguins' 2012 senior class has been heavily impacted by the junior-college ranks. In fact, of the 14 seniors on the roster, 10 played at a junior college. D.J. Main is the only fifth-year senior on the squad while Jamaine Cook and Andrew Radakovich have both been with the program four seasons.
    Senior DE Chuck Lengyel has been with YSU three seasons after transferring from Mount Union. Lengyel had to sit out in 2010 after transferring up from the NCAA Division III school in Alliance, Ohio.

Williams Times Six
    The Penguins have six players on the roster with the last name Williams. On offense Andrew Williams and Antuan Williams are wide receivers. On defense YSU has linebackers Teven Williams and Travis Williams, while Deionte Williams is a safety and freshman Terrell Williams is a defensive end. Five of the six saw action against Valparaiso.

Winning the Openers
    The Penguins snapped a five-game losing streak in season openers with the win at Pittsburgh. Included in that list was a 2009 loss to the Panthers. All were at BCS programs. The Penguins have now won 17 straight home openers dating back to the 1995 campaign when it lost to Stephen F. Austin. In the 17 games since then, YSU has outscored its opponents by an impressive 675-177 margin.

Top Tacklers Return
    YSU returns its top three tacklers and four of its top five from 2011. Sophomore LB Teven Williams led the way with 67, sophomore LB Travis Williams had 59, senior SS Jeremey Edwards was third with 54 and junior FS Josh Garner was fifth with 47. Senior DT Aronde Stanton finished with 32 tackles last season. He was the only player last year with an interception and a fumble recovery.

Changes in Secondary
    The Penguins had seven different starting secondaries last season. So far this year they are two-of-two.
    The group of CBs Dale Peterman and Julius Childs, FS Donald D'Alesio and SS Jeremey Edwards have started the first two games together. Against Valpo, reserve corners Ricardo Dixon and Jamarious Boatwright saw a good amount of action. At safety, Deionte Williams, Josh Garner and Twin Fernandes saw a fair amount of work.
    Entering the season opener at Pitt, D'Alesio and Boatwright were the only two players on the roster with YSU starts at the cornerback position. Now, D'Alesio is playing safety while Boatwright's three starts came in 2010.
    In 2011, eight different players started at some point during the season.

More Close Ones
    The Penguins' last seven FCS losses have come by a total of 29 points. The final three defeats of the 2010 campaign were by a total of 12 points while all four last season were by a combined 17. Last year, YSU lost to Indiana State by two, UNI by four, Missouri State by four and South Dakota State by seven.
    Dating back to November 2009, 13 of YSU's last 17 league games have been decided by a touchdown or less.

Early Season Attention
    The Penguins had four players named to the Missouri Valley Football Conference's preseason all-league squad.
    All four of the players came on offense and were headlined by 2011 first-team all-conference selections in quarterback Kurt Hess and tailback Jamaine Cook. Senior center Mark Pratt, a second-team pick in 2011, and junior guard Chris Elkins, an honorable-mention selection last year, were also preseason first-team picks.
    Hess and Cook are also among the top 20 FCS players in the country who have been tabbed to the preseason Watch List for the Walter Payton Award honoring the division's top player.

Single Digits in Fumbles
    The Guins lost five fumbles (two on non offensive plays) for the entire campaign in 2011. It marked the eighth straight year of losing single digits in fumbles.
    YSU has been fumble free so far through two games this season.
    In 2010, the Penguins lost nine fumbles. In 2009, YSU lost just three fumbles. In 2008, YSU lost nine in 12 games. YSU had nine fumbles lost in 2007, five in 2006, eight in 2005 and eight in 2004. Prior to the current seven-year streak, the Guins had committed single digits in fumbles lost in consecutive years just twice in school history (1986-87 and 1958-59).

Top of the Liste
    Junior punter Nick Liste was a key contributor as both punter and kickoff specialist last season, and that has continued this year.
    He has four punts this year for an average of 37.2 yards per kick. As kickoff specialist, he already has five touchbacks this season after having just three a year ago.
    As a sophomore, Liste averaged 39.8 yards per punt while 16 of his 53 attempts were inside the opposition's 20-yard line. He averaged 41.1 yards per kick as a redshirt freshman in 2010. He has 94 career punts for an average of 40.5 per boot. He has 14 kicks of 50 yards or longer in his two seasons as punter.

Stambaugh at 30
    The first-ever on-campus home of the Penguins, Stambaugh Stadium will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2012.
    The beautiful facility opened in September 1982 when the Penguins played host to Akron.
    All-time in the facility, the Penguins own a record of 145-52-1. More than 2.5 million fans have attended a YSU game in the Ice Castle in its 30-plus years. The 200th Youngstown State contest will be against UNI on Sept. 22.

Milestone Update
    TB Jamaine Cook is closing in on the 3,000-yard mark for rushing yards (2,908). TB Adaris Bellamy is just shy of 1,000 yards rushing (933). QB Kurt Hess is within reach of the 5,000-yard mark for career passing yards with 4,877. He threw the 42nd touchdown pass of his career against Valparaiso last Saturday. Junior P Nick Liste is two attempts shy of 100 punts for his career. Cook has 49 career receptions while Christian Bryan is moving in on 1,000 yards receiving (785).

Career Update
    TB Jamaine Cook ranks sixth in rushing yardage (2,908) and is sixth in attempts (561). He is also ninth in all-purpose yards (3,900). QB Kurt Hess is fifth in completions (386). Hess is third in touchdown passes (42) and fifth in passing yardage (4,877).

Another FBS Win
    Despite not having one since 2000, the Penguins picked up their 20th win against an FBS foe by knocking off the Panthers. That's a very impressive number that is one of the most all-time by an FCS program.
    This one is probably the most impressive. In seven previous games against BCS teams, YSU had never scored more than 14 points while the closest margin of defeat was 22 at Michigan State last year.
    Of the 20 wins, 17 have come against teams in the Mid-American Conference. Last Saturday's against Pitt and in the early 1980's YSU beat Cincinnati, then an Independent, twice.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 104-23 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 13-49.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 133-18-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 108-11 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 128-20 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 67-7-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 156-10 when leading entering the fourth.
• 69-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.

Up Next: UNI
    YSU opens Missouri Valley Football Conference play with a big contest against UNI. Kickoff for the tilt at Stambaugh Stadium is set for 7 p.m. It is the 200th game at the Stadium.
    The Panthers visit Iowa this Saturday before coming to Youngstown. UNI dropped a five-point contest at Wisconsin to open the year before beating Central State 59-0 last Saturday.