Top-Five Clash Set As Penguins Head to North Dakota State

Will Shaw
Will Shaw

The Youngstown State football team returns to the site of its most memorable moment of a season ago when it visits top-ranked North Dakota State on Saturday. Kickoff at the Fargodome is set for 2:07 p.m. Eastern/1:07 p.m. Central time. The game will be carried on WKBN 570 AM/iHeartRadio and live on WFMJ TV as produced by the MVFC.

The third-ranked Penguins (4-0 overall and 1-0 in the MVFC) last started a season 5-0 in 2000 when they went on to win their first six games. Two weeks ago, YSU beat its long-time nemisis, UNI, 42-35 in thrilling fashion.

The Penguins trailed 35-28 in the fourth quarter before tying the contest on a one-yard by Torrian Pace with 7:07 remaining. YSU took the lead for good when Kurt Hess connected with Christian Bryan on a 26-yard scoring strike with 1:50 remaining. The pass was Hess's fourth touchdown toss of the game. UNI moved the ball to the YSU 11-yard line with five seconds remaining, but on the final play of the game, Donald D'Alesio and Ali Cheaib broke up a potential touchdown pass as time expired.

North Dakota State (4-0 and 1-0) is also coming off a victory over UNI in Cedar Falls. The Bison cruised to a 33-21 win at the UNI-Dome last Saturday. After falling behind 7-3, NDSU built a 20-7 lead midway through the third quarter. After UNI closed within 20-14 with 7:44 left in the third, the Bison scored the next 13 points to put the game out of reach.

The Bison, the defending FCS Champion, rank in the top eight nationally in six defensive categories and lead the country in total defense and scoring defense. NDSU has won nine straight games since the Penguins' victory last year in Fargo.

YSU leads the all-time series with the Bison by a 4-2 margin. All six all-time meetings have all been decided by one possession, and the road team has won the last three contests, including victories by the Penguins in the Fargodome in 2009 and last year. The YSU victory last year - 27-24 on Nov. 12 - was the lone blemish on North Dakota State's record. The Bison went 14-1 for the campaign and won its last five after being upset by the Penguins.

NDSU Nuggets
• YSU will look to start a season 5-0 for the first time since 2000. That year, the Penguins opened with six consecutive wins.
• The last time YSU opened a conference season 2-0 was in 2006. The Penguins won their first three conference games that year. The Guins have won three straight in October.
• YSU has scored at least 27 points in 13 of its last 14 games. Last year at North Dakota State, the Penguins scored 27.
• The Penguins have scored in every quarter and have trailed for a total of 14:15 this season.
• Senior TE Will Shaw has caught a touchdown pass in four of the past five games.
• Sophomore WR Christian Bryan has caught a pass in 15 straight games.
• YSU has had the same starting offensive line in 14 of the last 15 games.
• The four conference meetings between YSU and NDSU have each been decided by one possession. The total margin of those games is 19 points.
• In three games vs. North Dakota State, TB Jamaine Cook has rushed 42 times for 189 yards. He caught a touchdown pass in last year's win. In two games vs. NDSU, QB Kurt Hess is 42-of-55 for 489 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
• YSU has rushed for more than 194 yards in each of the first four games this season.

UNI Notes
• The 42 points scored by the Penguins were the second most scored in an MVFC opener. YSU's record for points in a league opener is 49 against Missouri State in 2007.
• TB Jamaine Cook had 135 yards total following the first two games. He had 146 on 32 attempts against UNI after rushing for 161 against Albany.
• QB Kurt Hess threw at least four touchdown passes in a game for the fourth time in school history. He is the first player in school history to accomplish the feat.
• The last time the Penguins beat ranked opponents in back-to-back meetings was in 2006. Before taking down the eighth-ranked Panthers, YSU beat No. 1 NDSU in 2011.
• It was only the fifth time since joining the FCS level (1982) that YSU allowed 35 points and won the game.
• Six different players scored a touchdown in the win over UNI.
• SS Jeremey Edwards had the fourth interception of his YSU career in the game. It was the Penguins first INT of the season.
• YSU had more first downs (24-20), rushing yards (194-121), total offense (484-454), total offensive plays (74-63), time of possession (35:41-24:19), more third-down conversions (9-4) and six fewer penalties.

UNI Recap
Youngstown State scored the final 14 points to overcome a fourth-quarter touchdown deficit and defeat UNI for the first time since 2000 by a score of 42-35 at Stambaugh Stadium.
YSU built a 21-7 first-half lead before the Panthers scored three consecutive touchdowns to go in front 28-21.
YSU tied the game at 28 when Kurt Hess threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Will Shaw with 4:51 left in the third quarter. UNI went back on top 35-28 at the 12:42 mark of the fourth quarter. With 8:08 remaining, Hess found Shaw on fourth-and-four from the UNI 29-yard line for a gain of 26. Two plays later, Torrian Pace tied the game at 35.
The Penguins defense forced their lone three-and-out of the second half to get the ball back 56 seconds later. YSU capitalized when Hess threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Christian Bryan with 1:50 remaining.
UNI moved the ball to the YSU 11-yard line with five seconds remaining. However, Donald D'Alesio and Ali Cheaib broke up a Sawyer Kollmorgen pass in the end zone as time expired to preserve the win.

2011 NDSU Recap | YSU 27-24
The Penguins overcame two 11-point deficits and rode a staunch fourth-quarter defensive effort to knock off top-ranked North Dakota State 27-24 at the Fargodome on Nov. 12, 2011.
YSU trailed 14-3 and 21-10 but each time answered NDSU touchdowns to get back within four points.
The Bison fumbled deep in YSU territory on the first play of the third quarter to turn momentum in the game. The Guins marched 86 yards in eight plays as Kurt Hess connected with Jamaine Cook to put the Penguins in front 24-21.
NDSU tied the contest on a 27-yard field goal from Ryan Jastram with 8:52 left in the third. YSU followed with a go-ahead 30-yard field goal by David Brown with 2:49 left in the quarter in what were the final points of the game.
In the fourth quarter, the defense stepped up putting heat on NDSU QB Brock Jensen. Second-down sacks on two of the final three possessions proved to be too much for the Bison to overcome.

Bye Week Production
The Penguins have won six of their last eight games following a bye week dating back to the 1998 campaign. Historically, the Guins have had success following some time to catch their breath and get healthy. Since 1975, YSU has won 24 of 29 games following an idle weekend.
Two of those losses have come after the most recent bye weeks - 2011 vs. South Dakota State and 2009 at Southern Illinois.

Looking to Go 5-0
In 71 previous seasons, the Penguins have started a year 5-0 just seven times. The last time was a 6-0 start in 2000, which included the Guins' last win over UNI.
YSU's other 5-0 campaigns were 1997 (6-0), 1990 (11-0), 1979 (9-0), 1978 (7-0), 1965 (5-0) and 1964 (5-0).

Series History
The six-game North Dakota State-YSU series has featured its fair share of thrillers.
The six games have been decided by a total of 27 points, with eight points being the largest margin of victory (YSU 32-24 in 2008).
The two contests at the Fargodome - both YSU wins - have been determined by a total of seven points. YSU won 39-35 in 2009 and rallied for a 27-24 win last season.
In 2010, each team scored in the final minute at Stambaugh Stadium as NDSU pulled out a 35-29 victory. In 2008, YSU intercepted a pass in the end zone with 22 seconds left to seal a 32-24 win. YSU won in Youngstown 12-10 in 1973 and dropped a 16-10 decision in Fargo in 1972.

Against Top-Ranked Foes
YSU has four wins over the top-ranked team in school history. Last year's 27-24 win at North Dakota State marked the first time in school history that the Penguins defeated No. 1-ranked team during the regular season.
The other wins all came in the postseason – 1997 at Villanova (37-34), 1993 vs. Georgia Southern (34-14) and 1991 at Nevada (30-28). All time, YSU is 4-5 when playing the No. 1 team at some point during the season.

Tough Road Lies Ahead
This October the Penguins play three of their four games on the road and all are against teams currently ranked in the top 25. YSU is at North Dakota State this Saturday, travels to Illinois State on Oct. 13 and makes a visit to South Dakota State on Oct. 27. Added into the road trips is a home game against Southern Illinois on Oct. 20. The three teams the Penguins will see are the road are a combined 13-1 entering the month.
Last year, YSU had a strong month of October winning three of four games.

That's A Winning Streak
YSU has won four straight games for the first time since 2006. During that season the Penguins won five straight, including two in the postseason, and four straight.
Since 1987, YSU has made the playoffs in each year it has posted a winning streak of at least four games. The 2006 campaign was the last time YSU reached the postseason.

High-Output Games
The win over UNI marked the fifth time since joining the FBS ranks that the Penguins allowed 35 points in a win. In 2009, YSU defeated North Dakota State 35-29, in 2000 the Penguins knocked off Hofstra 42-35 in two overtimes, in 1988 YSU outscored Towson 41-39 and in 1986, the Penguins nipped Akron 40-39.

Meteoric Rise
Youngstown State stayed at No. 3 in this week's The Sports Network Top 25. 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 (3,857 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.
The Guins are third in the Coaches Top 25 Poll with 597 points.

Hess Leads the Nation
Junior QB Kurt Hess leads the FCS in passing efficiency after the first five weeks of the season. Hess has a passing-efficiency rating of 175.49 to pace the nation.
In his first four games this year, Hess has completed 55-of-83 passes for 765 yards. He has thrown eight touchdown passes and no interceptions.
In his last 15 games, Hess has thrown 34 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 last November.
Currently he has a streak of 128 attempts since he was last picked off.

Experienced Offense
The Penguins have had the same starting lineup on offense in each of the first four games. The numbers for that group shows why they have scored 27-plus points in 13 of 14 games.
The five offensive linemen have started a combined 105 games in their careers, including a combined streak of 86 straight contests. OT Andrew Radakovich leads the way with 35 total (30 straight). He is joined by D.J. Main (21/7), Chris Elkins (19/19) and Lamar Mady and Mark Pratt (15/15 each).
QB Kurt Hess has started 26 straight games, TB Jamaine Cook has started 25 of the past 26 and WR Christian Bryan has logged 15 consecutive starts as well.
TE Will Shaw, WR Andre Stubbs and WR Kintrell Disher have started the first four games. Shaw has eight straight starts at the tight-end position while Stubbs and Disher have six each in their careers.

Cook Finds His Stride
Senior TB Jamaine Cook is averaging 153.5 yards per game the past two contests after rushing for a total of 135 yards the first two games of the season.
Cook had a 146-yard, 32-carry performance in the win over UNI. A game earlier he had 161 yards on a season-high 33 carries and scored three touchdowns in a win over Albany. The 33 carries tied for the second most in his YSU career.

Shaw Grows into Role
Senior TE Will Shaw caught a career-high five passes for a personal-best 95 yards in the win over UNI. Shaw had two big fourth-down receptions in the second half. The first came with YSU facing a fourth-and-two at the UNI 43 in the third quarter. QB Kurt Hess found a wide open Shaw, who rumbled 43 yards to the end zone and tie the game at 28.
In the fourth quarter, YSU trailed 35-28 while facing a fourth-and-four at the UNI 29. Hess managed to slip through the grasp of a would-be tackler and found Shaw who took the ball down to the Panthers' three.
Shaw has nine catches for 142 yards in the past two contests. In his last seven games, Shaw has 21 receptions, including six for touchdowns. He had two touchdown catches in the victory at Pitt to go along with scoring receptions against Valparaiso and UNI.

Picking up The Pace
Junior TB Torrian Pace has provided a spark for the Penguins this year. Pace has rushed for 209 yards on 31 carries this season. Entering the year, Pace had 203 yards on 38 carries.
The last two games he has scored key fourth-quarter touchdowns. Against Albany, Pace scored on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line with 2:48 left. That touchdown increased YSU's lead from three to 10 points. Against UNI, he scored the game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter with 7:07 left.
Earlier this year, Pace rushed for a career-high 146 yards on 14 carries and scored two touchdowns against Valparaiso.

Brown Keeps Delivering
Senior PK David Brown has made all 22 PATs to start the campaign and all three 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 6-of-7 field-goal attempts, including his last six. After not making a field goal in his first eight games, Brown has six in the past seven contests.
He has made his last 24 extra-point tries dating back to last year's finale against Missouri State. He kicked two field goals (30 and 33 yards) in the Fargodome last year.

Providing Protection
In 26 games under Head Coach Eric Wolford, YSU has allowed just 26 sacks. Conversely, junior quarterback Kurt Hess has started all of those contests. Of those 26 sacks, five came in two games against Indiana State (two in 2010 and three in 2011). Through four games, YSU has allowed only two sacks this season.
The YSU offensive line has surrendered just 11 sacks in the last 15 games overall. The Penguins have started the same offensive line in 14 of those 15 games.
Only five times in the 26 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).

Hess Continues to Impress
Junior QB Kurt Hess became the first player in school history to throw four touchdown passes or more in four games. Hess and Keith Snoddy each had four touchdown passes in three games. Hess threw touchdown passes to four different players against UNI.
In his last 15 games, Hess has thrown 34 touchdown passes and just eight interceptions. His last interception came at the 1:36 mark in the first quarter at North Dakota State in 2011. Currently he has a streak of 128 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.
In his 26-game career, he has thrown for more than 200 yards on 14 occasions, a school record.

Bryan Is Mr. Dependable
Sophomore WR Christian Bryan has caught a pass in every game of his YSU career while hauling in a touchdown pass in more than half of them.
In 15 career games played, Bryan has caught a touchdown pass in eight of them. This season he has 11 receptions for 160 yards and two touchdowns. He had a 26-yard touchdown reception in the win over UNI.
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.

Now We're Cooking
Senior TB Jamaine Cook has resumed his heavy workload for the Penguins with a 32-carry effort against UNI and a 33-attempt performance against Albany. He had 146 yards in the win over UNI and finished with a season-best 161 against Albany.
After the first two games of the season he had 135 yards on 29 attempts.
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 yards in every game.
His performance against UNI marked the 16th time in his career that he eclipsed the 100-yard mark. He is now tied with Adrian Brown for second in school history for 100-yard games in a career. Tamron Smith has the record at 22.
Against the Panthers, Cook moved into the top five in career rushing yardage and has 3,215 for his YSU career.
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.

Preaching Red-Zone Success
Head Coach Eric Wolford continues to stress Red Zone play in his third campaign.
The Penguins are 17-of-18 inside the red-zone this season (94.4 percent). YSU was 2-of-2 vs. UNI, 5-of-5 against Albany, 7-of-8 vs. Valparaiso and 3-of-3 at Pittsburgh. The Guins have scored 14 touchdowns and made three field goals in those trips.
In his 26 games as coach, the Penguins are 100-for-110 (90.9 percent) inside the red zone.
In 47 visits last year, the Penguins scored 39 touchdowns and kicked three field goals. YSU scored a total of 280 points on 42 of those 47 visits (89.4 percent). During Wolford's first campaign in 2010, YSU was 41-of-45 in the red zone for a conversion percentage of 91.1 percent.

Offense Keeps Clicking
The Penguins offense remains a well-oiled machine, averaging 40.8 points per game so far this season. YSU has scored 31-or-more points in each game this season.
Through four games, the Penguins have rushed twice as many times as they have thrown the football. YSU has 190 rushing attempts and 95 passing in the four games.
The offense has scored 21 touchdowns (12 rushing and nine passing) while converting three field goals for a total of 163 points.
Already 12 different players have caught a pass (only two seniors Jamaine Cook and Will Shaw have caught passes) while eight have rushing attempts (with Cook the lone senior).
In three seasons under Coach Eric Wolford, YSU has scored more than 30 points on 17 occasions, eclipsed the 40-point mark six times and is averaging 34.8 points a game during his tenure.

Defensive Improvement
The Penguins will be looking for a bounce-back performance after allowing a season-high 35 points to UNI.
In the end, the defense forced a key three-and-out, which led to the game-winning touchdown, and kept the Panthers from tying the contest on the game's final play.
The defense has forced five turnovers in four games, and, so far this year, they have forced 12 three-and-out series.
YSU has not allowed a 100-yard rusher so far this season. UNI's David Johnson leads the way an 84-yard effort on Sept. 22.
Two of the top four tacklers (CBs Dale Peterman and Julius Childs) did not play at YSU last year.

Three is Still Important
In the past 26 games, YSU is a combined 18-of-22 on field-goal attempts. While Coach Eric Wolford is not a fan, the Penguins are on a hot streak having converted their last six tries.
This season, PK David Brown has converted from 27 (Valparaiso) and 25 (Pittsburgh, Albany) yards. He is now 6-of-8 in his career.
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.

Cheaib's Block Party
Junior LB Ali Cheaib has blocked two punts in just four games this season. Cheaib blocked a punt in the first half against Valparaiso and added his second block of the year in the fourth quarter against Albany. Both blocks helped lead to YSU touchdowns.
Cheaib is the first player since Jarritt Goode in 1996 to block two punts in the same season.

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.

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.

Top of the Liste
Junior punter Nick Liste continues to be a key contributor as punter and kickoff specialist. Handling kickoff duties, he already has eight touchbacks this season after having just three a year ago. He is averaging 38.8 yards per punt this season.
As a sophomore, he averaged 39.8 yards per punt while 16 kicks were inside the opposition's 20. He averaged 41.1 yards per kick in 2010. He has 100 career punts for an average of 40.3 per boot. He has 15 kicks of 50 yards or longer in his three seasons as punter.

Secondary Stability
The Penguins had seven different starting secondaries last season. So far this year they have had the same foursome in each of the first four contests.
The group of CBs Dale Peterman and Julius Childs, FS Donald D'Alesio and SS Jeremey Edwards have started the first four games together.
Entering the season, D'Alesio and Jamarious 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.

49ers Were Back
Timing is everything sometimes and for the second consecutive year while the Penguins had a bye week, the San Francisco 49ers were in town on a week-long road trip. The 49ers stayed in Youngstown between games against Minnesota and the New York Jets.
It paid off against the Jets with an impressive 34-0 on Sunday. YSU and Youngstown received coverage on ESPN's Countdown to Kickoff Show on Sunday and Erin Andrews did a piece that aired on Fox's Sunday Pregame Show.

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 lost one fumble after four games.
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).

Another FBS Win
Despite not having one since 2000, the Penguins picked up their 20th win against an FBS foe by knocking off Pittsburgh, 31-17, in the season opener at Heinz Field.
This one was 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.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 105-23 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 14-49.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 133-18-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 109-11 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 130-20 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 67-7-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 157-10 when leading entering the fourth.
• 69-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.

Up Next: at Illinois State
YSU plays on the road for the second consecutive Saturday when it travels to ninth-ranked Illinois State. Kickoff at Hancock Stadium is set for 2 p.m. Eastern/1 p.m. Central. The Redbirds are off to their best start since 1967.