Penguins Off to UNI to Wrap Up Road Slate #YSUFootball

Terrell Williams
Terrell Williams

    The eighth-ranked Youngstown State football team plays its final regular-season road game at UNI on Saturday. Kickoff at the UNI-Dome is set for 5:05 p.m. Eastern time/4:05 p.m. Central. The game is available on WKBN 570 AM, iHeartRadio and WFMJ TV.
    YSU (8-1 overall and 5-0 in the MVFC) enters the contest against the Panthers on a six-game winning streak - the program's longest since 2000. The Penguins extended their winning streak in dramatic fashion with a come-from-behind 38-34 win at South Dakota last Saturday in their first-ever trip to the DakotaDome. YSU trailed by as many as 11 points in the second half before taking a 31-27 lead in the fourth quarter. But with 2:14 left, South Dakota went on top 34-31 following an 11-yard run by Jordan Roberts. The unflappable Penguins drove 74 yards on 10 plays as freshman TB Martin Ruiz capped the march with a three-yard run with just 14 seconds left. Senior QB Kurt Hess passed for 283 yards, completing 22-of-26 passes, against the second-best pass defense in the FCS.
    UNI (4-5 and 0-5) has lost five consecutive games for the first time since 1978 following a 13-3 defeat at Illinois State last Saturday. On a windy day at Hancock Stadium, neither team could muster an offensive score. The Redbirds' lone touchdown came via a 17-yard fumble return by Tevin Allen in the second quarter. Tyler Sievertson's 37-yard field goal with 3:37 left in the third quarter brought the Panthers within 10-3 before the Redbirds added a fourth-quarter field goal to secure the win.
    Last year the Guins snapped a 11-game losing skid to UNI by beating the Panthers 42-35 at Stambaugh Stadium in September. YSU trailed 35-28 in the fourth quarter before scoring two touchdowns in the final 7:07 for a comeback victory. The Panthers have won 20 of the 27 all-time meetings and the Penguins have won back-to-back contests in the series just twice (1978-79 and 1999-00). The 1999 campaign was the YSU's last win in the UNI-Dome. In 2011, the Guins came up just short dropping a 21-17 decision to the Panthers.
    The Penguins return to Stambaugh Stadium to take on top-ranked North Dakota State on Nov. 16.

South Dakota Notes
• The Penguins scored 13 fourth-quarter points, which marked the fourth time they have scored double figures in the final period this year.
• YSU won for the first time when losing three fumbles since beating Lock Haven in 2001.
• The Penguins' 38 points were three more than the Coyotes allowed in each of their first three home games.
• Sophomore WR Michael Wheary and freshman TB Jody Webb each had the first touchdown receptions of their careers. Freshman TE Jacob Wood had the first reception of his career (49 yards).
• The Penguins had 517 yards of total offense. The previous high allowed by the Coyotes was 398 (UNI) in two overtimes.
• YSU had a season-high 78 total offensive plays and 51 rushing attempts. The Guins also had a season best 34:04 time of possession.
Andrew Sinko started at right guard while Trevor Strickland started at right tackle. All five offensive lineman played all 79 offensive snaps. Sophomore TB Demond Hymes made his first career start.
• YSU has trailed at the half in three of four road games. The Guins rallied for late wins at South Dakota and Southern Illinois.
• QB Kurt Hess had his 24th multiple-TD passing game of his career and sixth of the season. He has thrown a touchdown pass in eight straight games.
• Hess made his 42nd straight start and had his 23rd 200-yard plus passing performance, an ongoing school record.
• TB Martin Ruiz had 131 yards on 23 attempts. It was his fourth 100-yard rushing performance of the campaign.

South Dakota Recap
    Martin Ruiz scored on a three-yard run with 14 seconds to help lead YSU to a dramatic come-from-behind 38-34 win over South Dakota at the DakotaDome last Saturday.
    YSU trailed by as many as 11 points in the second half before taking a 31-27 lead with 11:14 left in the fourth quarter on a 42-yard run by Jody Webb.
    USD took a 34-31 lead with just 2:14 remaining when Jordan Roberts scored on an 11-yard run.
    However, the Penguins marched 74 yards in 10 plays as Ruiz found the end zone two minutes later for the ninth lead change of the contest.
    QB Kurt Hess was 22-of-26 for 283 yards and two scores against the second-best pass defense in the FCS. The Guins amassed 517 yards of total offense against a defense that had been allowing just 297 yards per game and was ranked fifth in the country.

Last Meeting vs. UNI
    YSU 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 last September.
    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 left. Donald D'Alesio and Ali Cheaib broke up a Sawyer Kollmorgen pass in the end zone as time expired.

Series History
    The Penguins snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Panthers last year with a 42-35 victory at Stambaugh Stadium.
    In the history of the series, YSU has won in back-to-back years on just two occasions - 1978-79 and 1999-2000. The win in 1999 was the last victory for the program at the UNI-Dome.
    The Panthers lead the all-time series 20-7. However, eight of the Penguins' defeats have come by four points or fewer, including a 21-17 setback at the UNI-Dome in 2011.

Been A Great Year
    Since the start of last November, YSU is 11-1. The lone loss since that point in time came earlier this season at Michigan State. The Spartans are now ranked 17th in the BCS and own a 8-1 overall mark while leading the Big Ten's Legends Division with a 5-0 mark.
    YSU has won six straight games for the first time since 2000. In MVFC play, the Guins carry an eight-game winning streak into the contest with the Panthers.

Two at the Top
    With just three weeks remaining in the conference slate, YSU and North Dakota State own a two-game advantage in the standings.
    The Penguins and Bison are each 5-0 with three games remaining. YSU plays UNI, NDSU and South Dakota State. The Bison play Illinois State, YSU and South Dakota. Should the teams win this Saturday, the Nov. 16 contest will determine the league's automatic playoff representative.

4th-Quarter Road Rallies
    For the first time since 1999, the Penguins have had two fourth-quarter comebacks on the road in the same season. This year, YSU rallied from a 27-14 fourth-quarter deficit to win at Southern Illinois and overcame a late 34-31 deficit to beat South Dakota 38-34 in the final two minutes.
    In 1999, YSU won at Montana in the playoffs, and at UNI and Indiana State in the regular season. The Guins had five fourth-quarter comebacks that season.

Road Warriors
    The Penguins have won four straight Missouri Valley Football Conference road games with wins this year at Southern Illinois, Indiana State and South Dakota. YSU won its final road game of 2012 at Western Illinois.
    The last time the Penguins were perfect on the road in a conference season was 2006 when they beat Missouri State, Western Illinois, Southern Illinois and Western Kentucky.
    YSU last knocked off Indiana State and Southern Illinois on the road in the same year in 2001. Additionally, the win over South Dakota was the first in the state since 1974.

6-0 League Start
    The Penguins are off to their first 5-0 league start in school history.
    Only three times in school history has YSU won its first four conference games - 2013, 2005 and 1999. In 2005 YSU was 5-2 in league play, and the Guins were 5-1 in 1999. YSU tied for the league title in 2005 and was second in 1999. The school record for conference wins in a season is six (6-1 in 2006).

School-Best Win Streak
    The Penguins are on a school-best eight-game MVFC winning streak. YSU closed out the 2012 campaign winning its last three league games and has won its first five this season.
    The Guins' previous longest conference win streak was five. That spanned the final game of the 1998 season and the first four of 1999.

Six with Two-Plus TDs
    The Penguins have six players who have caught at least two touchdowns, making it tough to have defenses focus on just one-or-two players.
    Leading the way are Marcel Caver, Nate Adams and Andre Stubbs with three. Christian Bryan, Andrew Williams and Carson Sharbaugh each have a pair.
    The last time the Guins had six players with two-or-more receiving touchdowns in the same year was 1990 (in 12 games). Last year, YSU had four players catch just two-or-more with Will Shaw leading the way with five.

Freshmen Playmakers
    Freshman TBs Martin Ruiz and Jody Webb combined for 195 yards rushing on 28 carries and had three touchdowns while catching four passes for 71 yards and a score in the win at South Dakota.
    This year, the duo has 174 carries for 1,218 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. In MVFC play, Ruiz has 643 yards on 95 attempts and scored seven touchdowns. Webb has 186 yards on just 19 carries, an average of 9.8 per rush.

Bryan Nearing 100
    Junior WR Christian Bryan has 99 career receptions entering Saturday's game at UNI. Bryan will be just the 14th player in school history with 100 catches in a career on his next grab.
    With his next few grabs he will zoom up the charts in school history. Dave DelSignore (1966-69) ranks 10th in school history with 102 grabs.
    Bryan is tied for 11th in school history for career touchdown receptions with his 11 TDs. He is one of 13 players in YSU history with 11-or-more TD grabs in a career.
    Twenty of his last 23 catches this year have come in the final six games.

Ruiz Sets Frosh Record
    Freshman TB Martin Ruiz has already set the school record for rushing yards by a freshman and the mark for touchdowns by a freshman. Ruiz has rushed for 906 yards on 140 carries and scored 14 touchdowns.
    The previous yards mark for a freshman was established by Kamryn Keys back in 2008. Keys had 804 yards that year. The previous rushing touchdown mark was 11 set by Adrian Brown (1996) and Adaris Bellamy (2010).
    The school mark for carries by a freshman is 164 set by Brown in 1996.

Ruiz Making Big Impact
    Freshman TB Martin Ruiz leads all FCS freshmen in touchdowns scored with 14 and rushing yards per game (100.7). Ruiz ranks ninth in the FCS in points scored per game with 10.0 (90 points in nine games).
    He is tied for eighth in the FCS with 14 rushing scores while the next closest freshman running back is Mercer's Caleb Brown with seven, also in nine games played.
    Ruiz has started the past four contests and has combined to rush for 556 yards on 75 attempts, averaging 7.4 yards per carry with seven touchdowns.
    He has a touchdown in eight of nine games this year (did not score at Southern Illinois).
    In his first start at Indiana State, he had 141 yards and three touchdowns. He had a career-high 199 yards against WIU.

Another Record in Sight
    Senior QB Kurt Hess has chased down almost every career passing mark in school history. He still trails Tom Zetts's career attempts mark of 1,094. Hess sits at 1,085. Also he is two shy of 300-yard passing performances.
    With his 311-yard passing performance in the win over Illinois State on Oct. 12, Hess joined former YSU QBs Trenton Lykes, Denny Klembara, Brandon Summers and Ron Jaworski as players who have multiple 300-yard passing games in their careers. Hess's previous best was 306 set against Missouri State in 2011.
    Hess owns school marks with 72 career touchdown passes, 23 200-yard passing games, 203.0 passing yards per game, a passer rating of 145. and TDs responsible for with 82.

Williams Steps Up
    Junior LB Teven Williams has had six-or-more tackles in seven of his eight games this season. Williams had a high of 13 in the win at Southern Illinois.
    At South Dakota, Williams was credited with eight solo stops. The week before he had nine in the win over Western Illinois.
    Willams leads the Penguins with 62 total stops and is second on the squad with 35 solo stops.

Hess in a Rhythm
    Senior QB Kurt Hess has had solid outings the past eight contests.
    In his last eight games, Hess is 127-of-196 for 1,758 yards and 19 touchdowns. He has a passing efficiency of a whopping 171.11.
    On three occasions he has been named the MVFC Offensive Player of the Week. Hess received the honors following wins over Southern Illinois, Illinois State and South Dakota.
    Against the Redbirds, he was 17-of-21 for 311 yards and four touchdowns.
    At Southern Illinois he led YSU back from a 27-13 deficit in the fourth quarter and was 25-of-37 for 258 yards and four scores.
    At South Dakota, he was 22-of-28 for 283 yards and two scores against the second-ranked pass defense in the FCS.

Kickers Have Been Strong
    Senior P Nick Liste and junior PK Joey Cejudo have both been honored as MVFC Specialists of the Week - Cejudo against Morehead State and Liste at Michigan State and Western Illinois.
    Liste is averaging 44.2 yards per punt on 36 attempts. As the kickoff specialist, he has 33 touchbacks in 66 kicks. This season, 50 percent of his kickoffs have been for touchbacks compared to 17 percent his first two years.
    Cejudo has been solid converting 44-of-45 PAT tries and making field goals from 33, 34, 37, 38 and 40 yards. He made a season-long 40-yarder in the first quarter vs. Duquesne.

Red-Zone Success
    YSU has converted at a high success rate in the red zone under Head Coach Eric Wolford. Entering this Saturday's contest at UNI, YSU is ranks first in the FCS in red-zone percentage.
    This year, YSU is 37-of-39 (94.2 percent) after going 4-for-4 vs. Dayton, 7-of-8 against Morehead State, 2-of-2 at Michigan State, 5-of-6 vs. Duquesne, 4-of-4 at Southern Illinois, 3-of-3 at Indiana State, 5-of-5 vs. Illinois State, 3-of-3 vs. Western Illinois and 4-of-4 at South Dakota. YSU has scored touchdowns on 34 of those 39 red-zone visits.
    In his 42 games as coach, the Penguins are an amazing 155-for-175 (88.6 percent) inside the red zone.
    The Penguins were 35-of-43 inside the red-zone in 2012 (81.7 percent).
    In 47 visits in 2011, 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 (91.1 percent).

More Forced Turnovers
    In just five conference games, the Penguins have forced eight turnovers. YSU has intercepted four passes and recovered four fumbles.
    Last year in eight conference games, the defense created seven turnovers. Four of those came in the final two games. In the last seven conference games, the Guins have forced 12 turnovers.

>400 Yards/27 Points
    The Penguins have had more than 400 yards of total offense in 23 of the 42 games under Head Coach Eric Wolford. YSU has eclipsed the mark in five games this season. Of his 42 contests, YSU has had more than 300 yards in 36 of them. Additionally, the Guins have scored 27-or-more points in 31 of Wolford's 42 games at the helm.

Numbers Under Wolf
    After 42 games, Head Coach Eric Wolford is now 24-18. YSU has won 19 of its last 26 games under Wolford since the mid-point of the 2011 season. A couple of good notes have come from his first 42 games regarding wins and losses:
• YSU is 12-0 when allowing 20 points or fewer
• YSU is 21-1 when allowing 27 points or fewer
• YSU is 22-2 when allowing 33 points or fewer

11-Game FCS Win Streak
    YSU owns an 11-game winning streak against FCS foes entering the UNI tilt this Saturday.
    In its last 11 contests at the FCS level, YSU is averaging 37.2 points per game, 233.6 yards rushing per game, 213.7 yards passing per game and 447.4 yards of total offense per game while scoring 56 TDs. Its opponents are averaging 16.6 points, 108.3 rushing yards, 227.1 passing yards and 335.4 total yards and have scored 23 touchdowns.

Scoring in Bunches
    YSU has had a knack for scoring in bunches this season to put the opposition away.
    Against Morehead State, the Guins opened the game by scoring 36 straight points before going on a 24-point burst later in the game. Against Duquesne, the Guins opened up a 24-0 lead and scored 35 of the final 38 points.
    At Southern Illinois, YSU trailed 27-13 but scored 14 points in under eight minutes to rally in the fourth quarter. At Indiana State, YSU scored 21 straight points and added back-to-back touchdowns in the second half.
    Against Illinois State, YSU trailed 7-0 before scoring 28 unanswered points. After the Redbirds closed to within 28-14, YSU scored 24 straight points.
    The Penguins scored the last 10 points in the win over Western Illinois.

Providing Protection
    Under Coach Eric Wolford, YSU has allowed just 47 sacks. Senior quarterback Kurt Hess has started all of those contests. Last season, YSU allowed a school-record low eight sacks.
    The YSU offensive line has surrendered just 31 sacks in the last 32 games as well.
    Only 10 times under Wolford and assistant coach Carmen Bricillo have the Guins allowed more than one sack, and four of came in 2010.

Adams TD Is A Good Thing
    Junior TE Nate Adams made an incredible diving catch with 2:34 left in the fourth quarter to help the Penguins beat Western Illinois. For Adams it was the fifth touchdown catch of his career and the fifth game of his career in which he had a receiving touchdown.
    The Penguins are a perfect 5-0 when Adams catches a scoring toss. This year he has scoring grabs against Western Illinois, Southern Illinois and Duquesne. In 2012 he had scoring grabs against UNI and South Dakota.

50-Plus Point Games
    The Penguins have tied a school record with three 50-plus point games in a season. This year, YSU has scored 67 vs. Morehead State and 59 twice (Illinois State and Duquesne).
    The only other campaign the Guins scored 50-or-more points three times during a season was in 1994. YSU had 63 in the playoffs against Alcorn State and had two 52-point contests (Buffalo and Slippery Rock).
    Since Coach Eric Wolford took over, YSU has scored more than 50 points seven times.

Four-TD Passing Games
    Since Nov. 1, 2008, YSU quarterbacks Kurt Hess (six) and Brandon Summers (two) have combined to throw at least four touchdowns in a game eight times. That is a span of 57 games. Hess threw a school-record five touchdown passes vs. Missouri State in 2011. Also in 2011, Hess had four and Marc Kanetsky had one for a total of five against Western Illinois.
    In school history before November 2008, a group of six quarterbacks combined for eight four-passing touchdown games. YSU had played 702 games up to that point in school history.

Picks On the Rise
    The Penguins have intercepted eight passes, which is four more than they had in 11 games last year.
    So far this season, the Guins had two interceptions against Dayton and Illinois State and one each against Western Illinois, Morehead State, Duquesne and Indiana State.
    Including the final game of the season last year against Indiana State, YSU has 10 interceptions in the last nine games. The Guins had two picks in the first 10 games a year ago.

Berassa Back in End Zone
    Senior WR Jelani Berassa's 10-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter against Illinois State was his first since Nov. 19, 2011 (vs. Missouri State).
    Berassa missed the 2012 season with a knee injury after catching 37 passes for 552 yards and eight TDs in 2011.
Four-Takeaway win Streak
    YSU has won 19 straight games when it forces at least four turnovers after forcing four in the win over Duquesne. The last loss was against UNI in 2006.
    Since 2006, the Guins are 21-1 when they have at least four takeaways in a game. Last year, the single-game high was two turnovers forced, which came on four occasions. YSU caused three turnovers vs. Illinois State.

Three is Still Important
    Under Coach Eric Wolford, YSU is a combined 26-of-31 on field-goal attempts (83.8 percent) since 2010.
    First-year PK Joey Cejudo has made the first five attempts of his career this year, including a long of 40 yards against Duquesne.
    Last season, PK David Brown converted from 47 (Indiana State), 31 (Western Illinois), 27 (Valparaiso), 25 (Pittsburgh, Albany) and 20 (ISU) yards. 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.
    YSU was 12-of-14 in 2010.

Top of the Liste
    Senior punter Nick Liste continues to be a key contributor as punter and kickoff specialist.
    Twice this year he has averaged more than 50 yards in a game - 51.0 vs. Dayton and 50.9 at Michigan State.
    He is averaging 41.4 yards per punt in his career on 169 kicks. His average ranks first in school history by 0.5 yards ahead of Nick Xides' 40.9 set back in 1982-85.
    This season, Liste has 13 punts of 50 yards or longer. His previous high for a year was eight in 2011. His average of 44.3 this season is two-and-a-half yards ahead of Xides' school mark of 41.8 set in 1985.
    Handling kickoff duties, last year he had 18 touchbacks after having just three in 2011. Liste has 33 so far in this campaign.
    As a junior, he averaged 40.7 yards per punt last season. As a sophomore, he averaged 39.8 yards per punt. As a freshman, he averaged 41.1 yards per kick in 2010.

Stubbs All-Around Player
    Sophomore WR Andre Stubbs has 21 receptions, 22 kickoff returns, 12 rushes and three punt returns showing his versatility.
    In his career, Stubbs has 54 kickoff returns, 43 receptions, 36 rushes and 13 punt returns. He has amassed a team-high 2,168 all-purpose yards so far in just 21 games.
    At Michigan State, Stubbs had a game-high 193 all-purpose yards, including 138 on kickoff returns. He had a career-long 54-yard kickoff return against the Spartans.
    He had a personal-best 206 all-purpose yards last year against Southern Illinois. His 172 all-purpose yards helped lead the Penguins to a 31-17 win at Pittsburgh in 2012.

In the Squeakers
    The Penguins' 28-27 win over Southern Illinois was their first one-point victory against a conference opponent since joining the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 1997. YSU had dropped two one-point decisions to UNI  (2007 and 2008) and a one-point contest to the Salukis (2000). The last one-point win was a 23-22 triumph over Southern Utah (Oct. 13, 2007). The Guins are 24-9 all-time in one-point contests.

Lefties Few & Far Between
    Preseason All-American senior C Chris Elkins has made a successful debut at the position. Elkins has started the past 35 games, including a stretch of 26 consecutive at right guard, before assuming duties as starting center in 2013.
    Elkins, who has started all eight games at center this season, and Wagner's David Fredrickson are the only two known left-handed starting centers at the FCS level.

    The Penguins completed a perfect October by going 3-0 last month. It was the first time the program posted a perfect month of October since 1996. That year YSU beat Buffalo, Ashland and Northwestern State.
    YSU won all three of its November games a year ago. The Penguins had an odd 2012 posting four wins in September and three in November. YSU lost all four of its October contests.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 114-24 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 17-53.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 142-18-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 116-12 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 137-22 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 73-8-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 166-11 when leading entering the fourth.
• 74-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.

Up Next: North Dakota State
    YSU returns home to play top-ranked North Dakota State on Nov. 16. The Penguins will play host to the Bison for the first time since 2010 after playing two straight games in Fargo.