Penguins Finally Return Home to Face Southern Illinois

Donald D'Alesio
Donald D'Alesio

The Youngstown State football team looks to get back on the winning track this Saturday when the Penguins return home to entertain Southern Illinois. Kickoff at Stambaugh Stadium is set for 4:05 p.m. The game will be carried on WKBN 570 AM/iHeartRadio with MyYTV providing a tape-delay broadcast.

The 15th-ranked Penguins (4-2 overall and 1-2 in the MVFC) last played at home on Sept. 22. After that contest YSU stood at 4-0, but two road conference road games have resulted in losses, the last of which was a disappointing 35-28 loss at previous No. 14 Illinois State. The Penguins jumped out to a 28-7 first-half lead but could not quite put the Redbirds away. ISU scored just before halftime and then shut out the Penguins in the second half, while scoring three touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter, in the come-from-behind win.

Senior TB Jamaine Cook rushed for 177 yards on 30 carries and scored three first-half touchdowns, but YSU could not hold on to the victory. ISU quarterback Matt Brown threw for three scores and rushed for the another in rallying the Redbirds past the Penguins.

Southern Illinois (4-2 and 3-1) has won two straight games thanks to opportunistic defense and special teams. In the past two contests, the Salukis have scored touchdowns on blocked punts and combined to force seven turnovers. SIU is coming off a hard-fought 34-31 victory over UNI. The Salukis trailed 21-6 midway through the second quarter before tying the game on a blocked punt recovery in the end zone and a 100-yard fumble return by Bryan Presume. PK Austin Johnson provided the final margin connecting on 24-yard field goal with 59 seconds left that capped an 18-play, 8:55 minute march.

The Penguins have won the past two in the series with the Salukis. Last year in Carbondale, YSU overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to pull out a 35-23 victory. Two years ago at Stambaugh Stadium, the Penguins held on for a 31-28 win. YSU leads the all-time series against SIU by a 12-10-1 margin, including seven wins in 11 games in Youngstown.

SIU Segues
• YSU snapped a two-game conference losing streak last year with a key win at SIU. That victory was the first in a three-game winning streak.
• YSU has scored 24-or-more points in each of the past 16 home games. In that time, YSU has scored more than 28 on 15 occasions.
• The Guins have won five of their last six home games.
• The Penguins have scored 28-or-more points in five of six games this season.
• Sophomore WR Christian Bryan has caught a pass in 17 straight games. Senior TE Will Shaw and sophomore WR Kintrell Disher have caught a pass in every game this year.
• YSU has played three ranked teams this season, and a fourth Albany is now in the Top 25.
• In a weird twist, the Penguins have lost to two teams they beat last year (Illinois State, North Dakota State) and defeated a team (UNI) they lost to a year ago.
• QB Kurt Hess has thrown a touchdown pass in five of six games this year and 16 of his last 17 contests.
• Hess is three TD passes shy of tying the school record of 51 in a career.
• YSU has scored at least 27 points in 14 of its last 16 games.
• TB Jamaine Cook is 76 yards shy of passing P.J. Mays (3,511) for fourth place in career rushing yardage.

ISU Notes
• The Penguins scored 28 points and had 300 yards on their first 30 plays. On their last 41 snaps, they had 110.
• TB Jamaine Cook had his second three-touchdown game of the season (Albany). He rushed for a season-high 177 yards vs. the Redbirds.
• QB Kurt Hess had the 15th 200-yard passing game of his career, completing 16-of-29 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown.
• WR Kintrell Disher caught the second touchdown pass of his career and his first of the season.
• Hess threw the 48th touchdown pass of his YSU career. He is now just three shy of the school record of 51.
• YSU had more first downs (23-18), total yards (410-378), total plays (71-62), time of possession (32:36-27:24), fewer penalties (7-4) and did not turn the ball over while recovering a fumble in the fourth quarter.
• The Penguins had a season-long pass 45  (Hess to Andrew Williams) yards and a season-long run 44 (Cook) in the game.
• OT Kyle Bryant and WR Andrew Williams made their first career starts while Nickelback Deionte Williams made his first start of the season.

Illinois State Recap
    Youngstown State built a 28-7 first-half lead, but Illinois State fought back by scoring the final 28 points of the game to hand the Penguins a disappointing 35-28 loss last Saturday at Hancock Stadium.
    YSU dominated the early portion of the game as Jamaine Cook scored three touchdowns and Kurt Hess hit Kintrell Disher on a perfect fade route in the opening 20:19 of the contest.
    Trailing 28-7, the Redbirds scored with 32 seconds left in the first half and took their initial possession of the second half in for a score to make the contest 28-21.
    The game was that way until the fourth quarter when Matt Brown connected with Tyrone Walker from 14 yards out to tie the game at 28 with 10:36 left.
    ISU broke the stalemate with 2:44 left when Brown scored on a quarterback sneak just three plays after wide receiver Phil Dudley threw a 50-yard pass to Lechein Neblett.
    YSU drove to the Illinois State 26-yard line, but three straight incompletions and a sack ended any Penguin comeback hopes.
    Hess threw for 201 yards while Cook rushed for a season-high 177 on 30 carries and scored on runs of one, seven and 14.

2011 SIU Recap | YSU 35-23
    YSU overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to rally for a 35-23 win over Southern Illinois in the Penguins' first-ever trip to Saluki Stadium last October.
    SIU took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter on a two-yard run by Jewel Hampton. The Penguins tied the contest in the second when Adaris Bellamy scored on a two-yard run.
    But the Salukis closed out the half by scoring the final 10 points as Hampton scored on a six-yard run and Jackson MacLachian kicked a 34-yard field.
    In the third quarter, the Penguins pulled within 17-14 on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Kurt Hess to Christian Bryan and took their first lead of the game at 21-17 on a two-yard run by Jamaine Cook.
    SIU regained the lead on Hampton's third rushing score of the game, but YSU went in front for good when Hess hit Jelani Berassa on a 15-yard scoring toss with 1:11 left in the third. The Penguins sealed the win when Josh Lee recovered a muffed punt in the end zone with 2:48 left in the game.

League Race Wide Open
    Of the 10 teams in the MVFC, nine have at least one loss. Only South Dakota State remains unbeaten, but it is just one of four teams that have played just three games. Four teams have one loss while two have two. Four teams already have won three games in league play and six have won four overall.
Two Games Rolled Into one
    The loss to Illinois State featured two distinctly different performances by the Penguins. In the first 27:46, YSU outscored the Redbirds 28-7 and had 323 yards of total offense. In the final 32:14, Illinois State outscored the Penguins 28-0 and YSU had 87 yards of total offense. The defense allowed just 80 yards in the first 28 minutes before surrendering 298 the remainder of the game.

Series History
    The Penguins have won the past two meetings to take a 12-10-1 in the all-time series with the Salukis. Under Head Coach Eric Wolford, YSU owns a 31-28 win in 2010 and a 35-23 triumph last year in Carbondale.
    Prior to Coach Wolford's arrival, SIU had won six of seven meetings with the Penguins' lone victory coming in 2006.
    Of the 23 meetings, 10 have been decided by a touchdown or less with the Penguins holding a 5-4-1 edge in such contests. In 11 meetings in Youngstown, YSU has won seven times with the last SIU win coming in 2008.
    The magic number for YSU is 21. The Penguins are 10-0-1 against the Salukis when scoring at least 21 points, including 10 consecutive wins since a 21-21 tie in 1966.

Hess Closing in on TD Mark
    Junior QB Kurt Hess is closing in on another YSU record. Entering this Saturday's game against Southern Illinois, Hess has thrown 48 career touchdown passes. The current mark of 51 was established by Tom Zetts from 2003-07. Jeff Ryan is the only other quarterback in school history to throw 50 in a career from 1998-2001. Hess has five career touchdown passes in two games vs. the Salukis.

Cook Finding the End Zone
    Senior TB Jamaine Cook had the second three-touchdown game of the season against the Redbirds. Earlier this year he scored three times in the win over Albany. It was the fourth time in his career that he scored at least three touchdowns in game and the ninth multi-touchdown game of his career. Cook has 3,435 career yards and trails P.J. Mays by 76 for fourth place in school history.

Tough Road Still Ahead
    The October grind for the Penguins continues this Saturday. YSU's first two opponents of this month are a combined 11-2 after last Saturday. The two remaining foes - Southern Illinois and South Dakota State - are a combined 9-4 but are 6-1 in MVFC league play. SIU has won back-to-back games over Illinois State and UNI while SDSU is on a five-game winning streak after dropping its opener at Kansas.

Hess in Top Eight
    Junior QB Kurt Hess is eighth in the FCS in passing efficiency through his first six games. Prior to the NDSU contest, Hess ranked first with a rating of 175.49. He is now at 153.07, which is tops in the MVFC.
    Hess has completed 82-of-132 passes for 1,083 yards. He has thrown 10 touchdown passes and two interceptions. For the season he is averaging 180.5 yards per contest.
    He had a season-high 29 attempts at Illinois State and threw for 201 yards. It was the 15th 200-yard plus performance of his career.
    In his last 17 games, Hess has thrown 36 touchdown passes and just 10 interceptions.

Hess Over 6,ooo Yards
    QB Kurt Hess is now over 6,000 total offensive yards in his YSU career following last Saturday's game at Illinois State. He is one of just five players to eclipse the mark. He is averaging 216.7 total-offense yards per game in his career and has run 857 plays.

Really Young Receivers
    A group of young receivers led the way against the Redbirds. Three freshmen and two sophomores combined for 12 of the 16 receptions in the game. Redshirt Freshman Andrew Williams had a career-high three catches for a career-best 61 yards while freshman Michael Wheary had two grabs for 35 yards. Sophomore Kintrell Disher caught the second touchdown pass of his career. Andre Stubbs had two catches for 31 yards, and Christian Bryan had two for 14 to round out the young group.
    Wheary also had two rushes for 17 yards.

Brown Keeps Delivering
    Senior PK David Brown has made all 27 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 nine contests. On PAT tries he is 80-of-83.
    He has made his last 29 extra-point tries dating back to last year's finale.

Tight Ends Find Paydirt
    Junior Carson Sharbaugh's first touchdown catch at North Dakota State gives all three YSU tight ends a touchdown catch for the year. Senior Will Shaw has caught four touchdown passes while sophomore Nate Adams has one. Tight ends have caught touchdown passes in four of the six YSU games so far this year.

Experienced Offense
    The Penguins had two new offensive starters at Illinois State. Redshirt freshman WR Andrew Williams and junior OT Kyle Bryant were in the starting lineup. At NDSU, TE Carson Sharbaugh made his first start to the season.
    YSU had the same starting lineup in the first four games. The numbers for that group shows why they have scored 27-plus points in 14 of the last 16 games.
    QB Kurt Hess has started 28 straight games while TB Jamaine Cook has started 27 of the past 28.
    Junior OG Chris Elkins has started 21 consecutive games, the longest streak on the offensive line. Senior C Mark Pratt and senior OG Lamar Mady have started all 17 games of their careers. Right tackle D.J. Main has started nine straight games and 23 in his career. Left tackle Andrew Radakovich did not play at Illinois State, snapping his streak of 36 consecutive appearances in the starting lineup.
    Sophomore WR Christian Bryan has logged 17 consecutive starts as well. Senior TE Will Shaw has started all seven games this year. WR's Kintrell Disher and Andre Stubbs have been starters five times in 2012.

Cook Finding His Stride
    Senior TB Jamaine Cook had his best game of the season last Saturday at Illinois State. Cook rushed for a season-best 177 yards and tied a season-high with three touchdowns.
    In three of the past four games Cook has rushed for more than 146 yards and has a total of seven touchdowns.
    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. He has 10 30-plus carry performances in his Penguin career.

Providing Protection
    In 28 games under Head Coach Eric Wolford, YSU has allowed just 29 sacks. Conversely, junior quarterback Kurt Hess has started all of those contests. Of those 29 sacks, five came in two games against Indiana State (two in 2010 and three in 2011). Through six games, YSU has allowed only five sacks this season.
    The YSU offensive line has surrendered just 14 sacks in the last 17 games overall. The Penguins have started the same offensive line in 15 of those 17 games.
    Only six times in the 28 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).

Stubbs All-Around Player
    Redshirt freshman Andre Stubbs, who is a member of the Jerry Rice Watch List, had his fourth 100-plus all-purpose yard game of the season at North Dakota State. Stubbs had 170 yards against the Bison, including a career-high 148 yards on kickoff returns. Stubbs had 172 at Pittsburgh, 155 against UNI and 124 versus Albany.
    Stubbs has been Kurt Hess' go-to receiver on third-down situations. Of his 13 receptions, seven have been for first downs on a third-down situation.

Poll Position
    Youngstown State is now ranked 15th in this week's The Sports Network Top 25. The Penguins were a solid third prior to their loss at North Dakota State two weeks ago.
    To open the 2012 preseason, the Guins were ranked 13th after being unranked at the end of the 2011 campaign. After defeating Pittsburgh, YSU moved up to sixth and received seven first-place votes.
    The Guins fell all the way to 16th in the Coaches Top 25 Poll with 252 points.

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 11 touchbacks this season after having just three a year ago. He is averaging 41.4 yards per punt this season. At North Dakota State he averaged 52.3 yards on three kicks, with a long of 56.
    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 110 career punts for an average of 40.7 per boot. He has 16 kicks of 50 yards or longer in his three seasons as punter.

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 to 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 12 catches for 173 yards in the past four contests. In his last eight games, Shaw has 24 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 234 yards on 38 carries this season. Entering the year, Pace had 203 yards on 38 carries.
    This year he has scored two 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.

Offense Has Been Impressive
    The Penguins are averaging 33.0 points per game so far this season.
    Through six games, YSU has rushed for 1,247 yards and passed for 1,158. At Illinois State, the Penguins had great balance with 209 on the ground and 201 through the air.
    The offense has scored 26 touchdowns (15 rushing and 11 passing) so far this year.
    Already 13 different players have caught a pass (only two seniors Jamaine Cook and Will Shaw have caught passes) while 10 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 33.6 points a game during his tenure.

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 17 games, Hess has thrown 36 touchdown passes and just 10 interceptions.
    In his 28-game career, he has thrown for more than 200 yards on 15 occasions, a school record. He has thrown 48 career touchdown passes, just three shy of the school's all-time career record.
    At Pitt, he engineered the first victory over a BCS program in school history.

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 almost half of them.
    In 17 career games played, Bryan has caught a touchdown pass in eight of them. He has started every game as well.
    This season he has 14 receptions for 183 yards and two touchdowns. He had a 26-yard touchdown reception, which proved to be the game winner against UNI.
    Last season, Bryan had a team-leading 46 receptions for 722 yards and six touchdowns.

Preaching Red-Zone Success
    Head Coach Eric Wolford continues to stress Red Zone play in his third campaign.
    The Penguins are 22-of-25 inside the red-zone this season (88 percent). YSU was 4-of-4 at Illinois State, went 1-of-3 at NDSU, 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 19 touchdowns and made three field goals in those trips.
    In his 28 games as coach, the Penguins are 105-for-118 (88.9 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.

Winning Streak Is Key
    YSU won four straight games for the first time since 2006 to open the season. In 2006, the Penguins won five straight, including two in the postseason, and four straight during the year.
    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.

Secondary Stability
    The Penguins had seven different starting secondaries last season. So far this year they have had the same four starters in every game. The group of CBs Dale Peterman and Julius Childs, FS Donald D'Alesio and SS Jeremey Edwards have started the first six games together.
    Entering the season, D'Alesio and Jamarious Boatwright were the only two players on the roster with YSU starts at cornerback. Now, D'Alesio is playing safety while Boatwright's three starts came in 2010.

Spreading the Wealth
    The Penguins have six players on the defense with 26-or-more tackles. Senior SS Jeremey Edwards leads the team after being credited with 31 total tackles. Sophomore LB Teven Williams is second with 30, junior CB Dale Peterman is third with 28, sophomore LB Travis Williams is fourth with 27 and junior LB Ali Cheaib and sophomore CB Julius Childe are tied at 26.
    Edwards has the Guins' lone interception while six different players have at least one sack. Travis Williams leads the team with 5.5 TFLs.

Three is Still Important
    In the past 28 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 six 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 Terrell Williams is a defensive end. Impressively four - Andrew, Teven, Travis and Deionte - started at Illinois State.

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.

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 two fumbles after six 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 105-24 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 14-50.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 133-18-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 109-12 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 130-21 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 67-7-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 157-11 when leading entering the fourth.
• 69-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.

Up Next: At South Dakota State
    YSU plays its third ranked foe of the month when it travels to MVFC leader South Dakota State on Oct. 27. The Penguins have dropped four straight to the Jackrabbits.