Top-Ten Showdown Set As Penguins Host Panthers

Teven Williams
Teven Williams

The Youngstown State football team opens Missouri Valley Football Conference play on Saturday against UNI. Kickoff at Stambaugh Stadium is set for 7:05 p.m. The game will be carried on WKBN 570 AM/iHeartRadio, live on ESPN3.com, and aired on a tape-delay basis by MyYTV.

The fourth-ranked Penguins (3-0) last started a season 4-0 in 2000 when they went on to win their first six games. Last Saturday, YSU pulled out a hard-fought 31-24 win over Albany at Stambaugh Stadium. With the contest tied at 21 at halftime, YSU scored the first 10 points of the second half while the defense held the Great Danes to a late field goal in the victory.
Jamaine Cook rushed for a season-high 161 yards and scored three touchdowns while Torrian Pace added a one-yard score on fourth down in the fourth quarter. The defense limited Albany to just 112 yards in the second half, forcing punts on four of five second-half possessions.

No. 8 UNI (1-2) will be playing its third road game in the first four weeks of the campaign. The Panthers are coming off a 27-16 loss at Iowa. Against the Hawkeyes, UNI trailed 14-13 late in the second quarter, but managed only a field goal in the second half. Redshirt freshman QB Sawyer Kollmorgen completed 20-of-33 passes for 245 yards.

The Panthers have had YSU's number winning the last 11 meetings to lead the all-time series 20-6. Of those 11 contests, four have been decided by four points or fewer, including the previous two meetings. Last year, UNI won 21-17 at the UNI-Dome and won 34-30 at Stambaugh Stadium in 2010. Both tilts featured late Panthers touchdowns (1:59 in 2011 and 2:08 in 2010) with YSU holding on to fourth-quarter leads.

Entering its 16th season in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, YSU has won 12 league openers. Of note, YSU is 8-0 in MVFC openers played at Stambaugh Stadium. In home conference games in September, YSU is 7-0.

The contest against UNI is the 200th at Stambaugh Stadium, which opened in September 1982. All-time the Penguins are 146-52-1 in the Ice Castle.

UNI Usables
• YSU will look to start a season 4-0 for the first time since 2000. That year, the Penguins opened with six consecutive wins, including their last victory over the Panthers.
• YSU has scored at least 27 points in 12 of its last 13 games. The only time it did not was at UNI last season (17).
• The Penguins have scored in every quarter and have trailed for a total of 4:27 this season.
• YSU has not allowed a point in the third quarter through three games. Also, the Penguins have surrendered just one touchdown and a total of 10 points in the second half.
• Sophomore WR Christian Bryan has caught a pass in 14 straight games.
• YSU has had the same starting offensive line in 13 of the last 14 games.
• In its 16th season of Missouri Valley Football Conference membership, this is the first time YSU opens league play with UNI.
• In three games vs. UNI, TB Jamaine Cook has rushed 58 times for 223 yards and two touchdowns. In two games vs. UNI, QB Kurt Hess is 31-of-56 for 393 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
• YSU has rushed for more than 200 yards in the first three games this season.

Albany Notes
• The Penguins concluded the non-conference portion of their season with a perfect 3-0 mark. The last time YSU went unbeaten in the regular season against non-league foes was in 2000. The last time the Guins started a season 3-0 was in 2005.
• TB Jamaine Cook entered the game with 135 yards on 29 carries. Against the Great Danes he rushed for 161 yards on 33 carries and scored three touchdowns.
• Cook went over 3,000 yards rushing for his career. Cook has 3,069 yards on 594 attempts. He scored three touchdowns in the win over Albany, the third time in his career he scored at least three touchdowns in a single game. The 33 attempts tie for the second most in a game his career.
• QB Kurt Hess went over 5,000 yards passing for a career as well in the game. Hess has thrown for 5,060 yards in his YSU career.
• LB Ali Cheaib blocked a punt for the second consecutive game. Cheaib is the first player since Jarritt Goode in 1996 to block two punts in the same season.
• PK David Brown kicked a field goal for third consecutive game. Brown made a 25-yard kick in the third quarter. He is 3-of-3 on the season and has made six straight overall.
• YSU had more first downs (26-18), rushing yards (212-110), total offense (395-338), total offensive plays (74-58), time of possession (36:51-23:09) and sacks (3-1).

Albany Recap
    Youngstown State used a solid running attack and the defense had a strong second half to hold off upset-minded Albany 31-24 last Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium.
    The Great Danes took a 7-0 lead when Will Fiacchi connected on a 44-yard touchdown pass to Cole King just over five minutes into the contest.
    YSU answered as Jamaine Cook scored the first of his three rushing touchdowns, tying the contest at seven.
    Cook put the Penguins on top 14-7 with a seven-yard score early in the second quarter, but the Great Danes tied the contest when Omar Osbourne scored on a 32-yard run.
    Cook's third touchdown run of the first half, and second from seven yards, gave the Penguins another seven-point lead, but with nine seconds left before halftime, Fiacchi connected with Drew Smith for a nine-yard scoring toss.
    The Penguins went in front 24-21 on a 25-yard David Brown field goal late in the third before taking their biggest lead of the day with 2:48 remaining in the game when Torrian Pace scored from a yard out on fourth-and-goal at the Albany one.

Looking to Go 4-0
    In 71 previous season, the Penguins have started a year 4-0 on eight occasions. The last time was a 6-0 start in 2000, which included the Guins's last win over UNI.
    YSU's other 4-0 campaigns were 1997 (6-0), 1990 (11-0), 1979 (9-0), 1978 (7-0), 1974 (4-0), 1965 (5-0) and 1964 (5-0). The Penguins are 3-0 for the first time since 2005.

2011 UNI Recap
    YSU took a 17-14 lead early in the fourth quarter, but sixth-ranked UNI rallied scoring the game-winning touchdown with 1:59 remaining as the Penguins dropped a 21-17 decision at the UNI-Dome in 2011.
    YSU took a 3-0 lead on a 28-yard field goal by David Brown before UNI answered on a 32-yard touchdown pass from Jared Lanpher to Terrell Sinkfield.
    With 27 seconds left in the second quarter, Jamaine Cook put the Guins on top briefly on a one-yard run. However, Lanpher found Sinkfield again on a 31-yard scoring pass with six seconds left in the first half.
    After a scoreless third quarter, YSU took its third lead of the game on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Kurt Hess to Will Shaw with 13:42 remaining.
    Each team went three-and-out twice before UNI moved into position for the winning score. On fourth-and-goal from just inches outside the YSU end zone, David Johnson was stopped on his initial push, but wiggled his way into the end zone with 1:59 left.

MVFC Openers
    The Guins are 12-3 in Missouri Valley Football Conference openers since joining the league in 1997. In its 16th season of play in the league, this is the first time that YSU will open the conference slate against UNI.
    Of the 15 league openers, the Guins are a perfect 8-0 at home while going 4-3 on the road. In MVFC openers YSU is 4-0 against Missouri State, 3-0 vs. Indiana State, 2-0 against Western Illinois, 2-0 against Illinois State, 1-0 against Southern Illinois, 0-1 vs. South Dakota State and 0-2 vs. Western Kentucky.

Series History
    UNI has won the last 11 meetings since a Penguins victory at Stambaugh Stadium on Oct. 18, 2000. Of those 11 meetings, five have been at Stambaugh Stadium.
    In the past four meetings in Youngstown, the Penguins have scored at least 20 points, including 30 in 2010.
    Nine of the 26 meetings have been decided by four points or fewer. However, the Penguins have just one victory in those games.

Cook Finds His Stride
    Senior TB Jamaine Cook had the biggest day of his season so far with a 161-yard, three-touchdown performance in the win over Albany. Cook finished the game with 33 carries, tying for the second most in his stellar YSU career. His career high is a 43-carry effort at Illinois State as a sophomore.

D-Line Steps Up
    Senior DT Aronde Stanton had a career-high six total tackles, including a career-best four solo stops, in the win over Albany. Defensive End Kyle Sirl, who had seven career tackles and four solo stops, picked up two key sacks versus the Great Danes. In the third quarter, Sirl sacked Albany QB Will Fiacchi on a third-and-four play. YSU followed that with the go-ahead field goal. In the fourth quarter, Sirl's second sack came on a third-and-9 from the YSU 33 early in the period. Later he had a hurry on a second-and-7 from Albany's own 11.

Second-Half Shutdowns
    In three games the Penguins have allowed 31 points in the first half and just 10 in the second half. The opposition has amassed 468 yards of total offense in the first half and 394 in the second. After allowing 152 to Pittsburgh in the opener, Valparaiso had 130 and Albany was held to 112 last Saturday.
    The Penguins are yielding just 299 yards of total offense a game. In 2011, YSU allowed 352.3 yards a game while in 2010 opponents averaged 411.2 yards. Last year, teams scored 130 points in the second half as well.

September Home Streak
    The Penguins are 7-0 at home in September since Head Coach Eric Wolford took over the program in 2010 and have won eight straight overall. Since losing to Florida International on Sept. 11, 2004, YSU is 20-1 in September at Stambaugh Stadium. The lone loss was a final-play defeat to Liberty in 2008 (31-28).

Meteoric Rise
    Youngstown State has moved up to No. 4 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 (3,579 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 tied for third with Sam Houston State in the Coaches Top 25 Poll.

Experienced Offense
    For the third consecutive week the Penguins started the same offensive unit. The numbers for that group shows why they have scored 27-plus points in 12 of 13 games.
    The five offensive linemen have started a combined 100 games in their careers, including a combined streak of 81 straight contests. OT Andrew Radakovich leads the way with 34 total (29 straight). He is joined by D.J. Main (20/6), Chris Elkins (18/18) and Lamar Mady and Mark Pratt (14/14 each).
    QB Kurt Hess has started 25 straight games, TB Jamaine Cook has started 24 of the past 25 and WR Christian Bryan has logged 14 consecutive starts as well. TE Will Shaw, WR Andre Stubbs and WR Kintrell Disher have started the first three games. Shaw has seven straight starts at the tight-end position while Stubbs and Disher have five each in their careers.

Defense On the Uptick
    The Penguins' defense has allowed just five touchdowns in 12 quarters so far this season. Also in three games, the Penguins have not allowed a 100-yard rusher (Pitt's Ray Graham had season-high 71 yards).
    YSU had two takeaways in each of the first two games but did not force a turnover in the win over Albany. The Penguins are still looking for their first interception of the 2012 campaign. So far this year, the Guins have forced nine three-and-out series.
    Two of the top five tacklers (CBs Dale Peterman and Julius Childs) 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 40.3 points per game so far this season. YSU has scored 31-or-more points in each game this season.
    So far in three games, the Penguins have rushed twice as many times as they have thrown the football. YSU has 144 rushing attempts and 67 passing in the three games.
    The offense has scored 15 touchdowns (10 rushing and five passing) while converting three field goals for a total of 114 points.
    Already 11 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).

Hess Continues to Impress
    Junior QB Kurt Hess did not throw a touchdown pass in a game for the first time in 13 contests against Albany. He did throw for a season-high 183 yards in the game.
    In his last 14 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 100 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 25-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.

Picking up The Pace
    Junior TB Torrian Pace has provided a spark for the Penguins this year. Pace has rushed for 201 yards on 26 carries this season. Entering the year, Pace had 203 yards on 38 carries.
    At Pittsburgh he contributed 22 yards on six carries before enjoying the finest day of his YSU career in the win over Valparaiso.
    Pace rushed for a career-high 146 yards on 14 carries and scored two touchdowns versus the Crusaders. Pace averaged 10.4 yards per attempt and had runs of 28, 16 (twice), 14 and 12 (twice) in the game.
    Against Albany, he had six carries for 33 yards, including a one-yard touchdown run with 2:48 left in the game that gave the Penguins a 10-point advantage.

Providing Protection
    In 25 games under Head Coach Eric Wolford, YSU has allowed just 25 sacks. Conversely, junior quarterback Kurt Hess has started all of those contests. Of those 25 sacks, five came in two games against Indiana State (two in 2010 and three in 2011). Through three games, YSU has allowed only one sack this season.
    The YSU offensive line has surrendered just 10 sacks in the last 14 games overall. The Penguins have started the same offensive line in 13 of those 14 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).

Getting Ready to Cook
    Junior TB Jamaine Cook saw his workload increase in the win over Albany. Cook's 33 carries were the second most in his career while his 161 yards were a season high. He entered the game with 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 in every game.
    It was the 15th time in his career that he eclipsed the 100-yard mark. He is one behind Adrian Brown for second in school history for 100-yard games in a career. Cook is also just 32 yards behind Paris Wicks from moving into the top five for career rushing yards. With 198 all-purpose yards against Albany he now ranks fifth at YSU with 4,149 yards in his 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.

Brown Nearly Automatic
    Senior PK David Brown has made all 16 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 six contests.
    He has made his last 18 extra-point tries dating back to last year's finale against Missouri State.

Preaching Red-Zone Success
    Head Coach Eric Wolford continues to stress Red Zone play in his third campaign.
    YSU is again scoring at a high rate inside the opposition's 20-yard line. The Penguins are 15-of-16 inside the red-zone this season (93.8 percent). YSU was 5-of-5 against Albany, 7-of-8 vs. Valparaiso and 3-of-3 at Pittsburgh. The Penguins have scored 12 touchdowns and kicked three field goals in those trips.
    In his 25 games as coach, the Penguins are 98-for-108 (90.7 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 47 visits (89.4 percent) a year ago.
    During Wolford's first campaign in 2010, YSU was 41-of-45 in the red zone for a conversion percentage of 91.1 percent.

Shaw Grows into Role
    Senior TE Will Shaw caught a career-best four passes in the win over Albany. Shaw had receptions of 24, 10, nine and four yards against the Great Danes.
    In his last six games, Shaw has 16 receptions, including five for touchdowns. Shaw caught an 11-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter against Valparaiso. 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.

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.

Bryan Moves Forward
    Sophomore WR Christian Bryan has caught a pass in every game of his YSU career while hauling in a touchdown pass in half of them.
    Bryan had two receptions for 32 yards in the win over Albany giving him at least one catch in all 14 games he has suited up for the Guins.
    In 2012, he has seven catches for 95 yards and one touchdown.
    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.

Three is Still Important
    In the past 25 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.

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 seven touchbacks this season after having just three a year ago. He is averaging 37.2 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 14 kicks of 50 yards or longer in his three seasons as punter.

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.

Secondary Stability
    The Penguins had seven different starting secondaries last season. So far this year they are three-of-three.
    The group of CBs Dale Peterman and Julius Childs, FS Donald D'Alesio and SS Jeremey Edwards have started the first three games together.
    Entering the season opener at Pitt, 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.
    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 lost one fumble after three games in 2012.
    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).

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 146-52-1. 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.

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, 31-17. That's a very impressive number that is one of the most all-time by an FCS program.
    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 104-23 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.
• 129-20 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: North Dakota State
    YSU has a bye on Sept. 29 before heading to Fargo for the second straight year to play top-ranked North Dakota State.