Penguins Set to Host Western Illinois on Homecoming

Penguins Set to Host Western Illinois on Homecoming

    The 15th-ranked Youngstown State football team entertains Western Illinois in the annual Homecoming game this Saturday. Kickoff for the contest at Stambaugh Stadium is set for 4 p.m. The game is available on WKBN 570 AM, iHeartRadio, and MyYTV (tape delay).
    YSU (6-1 overall and 3-0 in the MVFC) won its fourth straight contest with an emphatic 59-21 win over Illinois State last Saturday night at Stambaugh Stadium. Senior quarterback Kurt Hess had the best performance of his career in his 40th consecutive start. Hess completed 17-of-21 passes for a career-best 311 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for a score. Eight Penguins scored a touchdown in the contest as they set a school record for most points scored in a Missouri Valley Football Conference tilt. YSU had 569 yards of total offense in the game.
    Western Illinois (3-4 and 1-2) suffered a 38-14 loss to South Dakota State last time out in Macomb. The Leathernecks had four turnovers in the contest that led to three Jackrabbits touchdowns. SDSU jumped out to a 17-0 lead, and WIU pulled back to within 24-14 on J.C. Baker's second touchdown run of the game with 35 seconds left in the third quarter. However on South Dakota State's next play from scrimmage, Zach Zenner scored on an 80-yard touchdown run to pad the lead.
    The Penguins have won a school-best six straight Missouri Valley Football Conference games. YSU won its final three league games last season and first three of this year. The Guins are also off to their first 3-0 conference start and have opened a season by winning six of its first seven games for the first time since 2006.
    The Penguins have had the upper hand against the Leathernecks of late winning eight of the past nine contests to take a 17-11 lead in the all-time series. Last year at WIU, the Guins won 31-7. At Stambaugh Stadium in 2011, they won 56-14, which was also a Homecoming contest.
    In Homecoming games, YSU owns an all-time mark of 49-21-1. At Stambaugh Stadium, YSU is 21-10 and has won its Homecoming contest each of the past two years.
    YSU is idle next week before playing at South Dakota on Nov. 2.

Illinois State Notes
• The Penguins set a school record for points scored in a Missouri Valley Football Conference game. The Guins had 59 against Illinois State, the previous best was 56 vs. Western Illinois in 2011.
• The 38-point margin of victory was the third most in an MVFC game and biggest in the series against the Redbirds.
• In four home games this year, the Penguins have outscored the opposition 213-61.
• The 311 yards passing by Kurt Hess were the 13th-most by a quarterback in a single game in school history and most since Brandon Summers' 346 against Illinois State in 2009.
• Hess, Martin Ruiz, Jody Webb and Demond Hymes had rushing touchdowns, while Jelani Berassa, Marcel Caver, Carson Sharbaugh and Andrew Williams had receiving scores.
• Berassa's touchdown catch was his first since Nov. 19, 2011, which came against Missouri State.
• Senior CB Dale Peterman had the first interception of his career in the contest.
• The Penguins scored 31 points in the second quarter and 38 in the first half.
• YSU scored on each of its first eight drives - seven touchdowns and a field goal. For the game, the Guins scored on nine of 11 drives.
• Hess made his 40th consecutive start at quarterback.
• Hess had four passing touchdowns for the sixth time in his career. Prior to the 2008 season, YSU had eight four-touchdown passing games. Summers and Hess have combined for eight since November 2008.

Illinois State Recap
    Quarterback Kurt Hess had the best performance of his stellar career, throwing four touchdown passes and rushing for another, as the Penguins defeated Illinois State 59-21 last Saturday night at Stambaugh Stadium.
    YSU trailed 7-0 before scoring four unanswered touchdowns to grab a 28-7 cushion. After the Redbirds cut the deficit to 28-14 on a 73-yard touchdown pass, the Guins went on another impressive run scoring 24 consecutive points.
    Eight different Penguins scored touchdowns - four rushing and four receiving - to highlight an impressive offensive performance. The Guins had 569 yards of total offense, 311 through the air and 258 via the ground.
    The defense had a solid night forcing three turnovers, which led to 21 points. Donald D'Alesio and Dale Peterman had interceptions while Travis Williams forced a fumble that Julius Childs recovered.
    The game was tied at seven after the first quarter before YSU stormed to the win.

Last Meeting vs. WIU
    Youngstown State scored the final 24 points of the contest to earn a 31-7 win over Western Illinois at Hanson Field last year.
    TB Jamaine Cook rushed for 113 yards and scored two touchdowns while the defense had a solid all-around performance allowing just 142 total offensive yards.
    YSU jumped out to a 7-0 lead on its first possession of the game. Cook capped an impressive 13-play, 75-yard drive with a two-yard score at the 8:54 mark. The Leathernecks tied the game late in the first when Hayden Northern scored on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line with 1:39 left.
    The Penguins went back on top late in the second quarter when QB Kurt Hess found paydirt with just 39 seconds left before halftime.
    In the second half, YSU put the clamps on Western's offense while the Penguins scored 17 points on a David Brown field goal and touchdowns by Cook and Torrian Pace. WIU had just 33 yards of total offense and did not pick up a first down in the second half.

Series History
    The Penguins have taken a 17-11 lead in the all-time series after winning eight of the last nine meetings in the series. At Stambaugh Stadium, the Guins have won four straight and six of seven meetings since 1999.
    This is the 29th meeting between the programs and the Penguins have played only one foe more often then Western Illinois - Akron (35 times). Since losing for the first four meetings, YSU is 17-7 against WIU.
    When scoring at least 22 points, the Penguins are 16-2 (losses were a 35-28 decision in 1969 and 40-38 in 2010). YSU has scored 30-or-more points in the past seven games.
    Last year, YSU won 31-7 at Macomb in November. In 2011, it defeated the Leathernecks 56-14 at Stambaugh Stadium.

Homecoming this Saturday
    The Penguins are playing their 73rd Homecoming contest this Saturday against Western Illinois. YSU has won two straight Homecoming contests and will be looking to win its third straight, the most since winning 11 straight from 1992-2002.
    Last season, the Guins held on for a 13-10 victory over South Dakota in a rare November Homecoming tilt. In 2011, YSU dispatched of Western Illinois 56-14.
    The Penguins own an all-time mark of 49-22-1 in Homecoming contests. WIU has been the Guins' Homecoming opponent on three occasions - 1971, 1979 and 2011.
    At Stambaugh Stadium, YSU is 21-10.
    Senior TB Torrian Pace and women's basketball player Liz Hornberger are members of this year's Homecoming Court.

Making Tracks
    After the first three weeks of the league season, six teams already have two losses. Only North Dakota State and Youngstown State remain unbeaten so far after both teams picked up home wins last Saturday. Southern Illinois and South Dakota each have just one loss while UNI and Indiana State are still looking for their first MVFC wins.

4-0 League Start
    The last time the Penguins started MVFC play 4-0 was in 2005. A win on Saturday against Western Illinois would equal that start. The only other 4-0 conference start came in 1999 when the Guins finished 5-1 and were second to Illinois State. In 2005, YSU was 5-2 and finished in a three-way tie for first place with Southern Illinois and UNI.
    Besides those years, the other 3-0 Valley Football starts were in 2006 and 2000. The Penguins went a combined 20-6 in league play in seasons they started MVFC action 3-0.

School-Best Win Streak
    The Penguins are on a school-best six-game MVFC winning streak. YSU closed out the 2012 campaign winning its last three league games and has won its first three this season.
    Until the recent run, the Guins' longest conference win streak was five. That spanned the final game of the 1998 season and the first four of 1999.
    The last time YSU won four straight conference games in the same season was in 2005. The only other season in which it won four straight conference games was 1999.

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 55 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.

More Turnovers
    In just three conference games, the Penguins have forced six turnovers so far. YSU has intercepted three passes and recovered three fumbles.
    Last year in eight conference games, the defense created seven turnovers. Two of those came in each of the final two games - Western Illinois and Indiana State.
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.

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.
    Last Saturday 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.

Another Record in Sight
    Senior quarterback Kurt Hess is just five completions shy of tying Tom Zetts' mark for career completions. Zetts had 654 completions in his career and Hess enters the game against Western Illinois with 649.
    Hess broke Zetts' career mark for passing yards earlier this year on a 16-yard completion to Christian Bryan at Indiana State. Hess now has 8,198 yards passing.
    Zetts owns the career attempts mark with 1,094 while Hess sits second at 1,041.
    With his 311-yard passing performance in the win over Illinois State, Hess joins 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 68 career touchdown passes, 22 200-yard passing games, 204.9 passing yards per game, a passer rating of 145.45 and TDs responsible for with 77.

Berassa Back in End Zone
    Senior WR Jelani Berrasa'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.
Ruiz Making Big Impact
    Freshman TB Martin Ruiz has scored 12 touchdowns - 11 rushing and one receiving - this season.
    Ruiz has started the last two weeks and gained 226 yards on 31 carries and scored four touchdowns. In his first career start at Indiana State two weeks ago he had 141 yards on 23 carries and scored three touchdowns. Against Illinois State he had 85 yards on eight carries.
    In six of seven games this season, Ruiz has scored a touchdown (did not score against Southern Illinois).
    In the opener he had 45 yards on 11 attempts against Dayton. Against Morehead State he had 117 yards on just six carries and had two scores. At Michigan State he caught and rushed for a touchdown. Against Duquesne he rushed for 65 yards on 17 carries and scored three times. At Southern Illinois, he had 87 yards on 20 carries and caught three passes for 50 yards.
    He has 576 yards rushing on 96 carries so far this year.

Home-Field Advantage
    The Penguins have been doing a good job of making the "Ice Castle" a fortress once again. This season the Guins are 4-0 at home and, combined with last year's 5-1 mark, have won nine of their last 10 at Stambaugh Stadium. YSU has won four straight at home against Western Illinois since a 2003 defeat.

Nine-Game FCS Win Streak
    YSU owns an nine-game winning streak against FCS foes entering the Western Illinois tilt this Saturday.
    In its last nine contests at the FCS level, YSU is averaging 38.6 points per game, 231.6 yards rushing per game, 224.6 yards passing per game and 456.1 yards of total offense per game while scoring 47 TDs. Its opponents are averaging 15 points, 94.6 rushing yards, 232.5 passing yards and 327.1 total yards and have scored 17 touchdowns.
    The most points allowed in that stretch is 27, which was by Southern Illinois on Sept. 28.

>400 Yards/27 Points
    The Penguins have had more than 400 yards of total offense in 22 of the 40 games under Head Coach Eric Wolford. YSU has eclipsed the mark in four games this season. Of his 40 contests, YSU has had more than 300 yards in 35 of them.
    Additionally, the Guins have scored 27-or-more points in 30 of Wolford's 40 games at the helm.

Kickers Have Been Strong
    Senior P Nick Liste and junior PK Joey Cejudo are off to strong starts this year. Both have already been honored as MVFC Specialists of the Week (Cejudo vs. Morehead State and Liste vs. Michigan State).
    Liste is averaging 44.5 yards per punt on 31 attempts. As the kickoff specialist, he has 28 touchbacks in 51 kicks. Against Michigan State, Liste had punts of 55, 62, 52, 53 46, 50 and 48 for an average of 52.3 in the contest for his best performance of the year.
    Cejudo has been solid converting all 39 PAT tries and making field goals from 34, 37, 38 and 40 yards. He made a season-long 40-yarder in the first quarter vs. Duquesne.

Hess Back in Rhythm
    Senior QB Kurt Hess has had solid outings the past six contests.
    In his last six games, Hess is 98-of-152 for 1,428 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has a passing efficiency of a whopping 175.96. He was 17-of-21 for 311 yards vs. Illinois State.
    Playing just the first half in the win over Morehead State, he completed 16-of-19 passes for 282 yards and three touchdowns.
    At Michigan State he was 11-of-27 for 121 yards and a touchdown. In two career games at MSU he completed 28 passes, including two touchdowns.
    In the win over Duquesne, he was 15-of-25 for 292 yards and two touchdowns. At SIU he completed 25-of-37 passes for 258 yards and four scores and was named the MVFC Offensive Player of the Week.
    At Indiana State he was 14-of-23 for 164 yards and a touchdown.

Numbers Under Wolf
    After 40 games, Head Coach Eric Wolford is now 22-18. YSU has won 17 of its last 24 games under Wolford since the mid-point of the 2011 season. A couple of good notes have come from his first 40 games regarding wins and losses:
• YSU is 11-0 when allowing 20 points or fewer
• YSU is 20-1 when allowing 27 points or fewer
• YSU is 21-2 when allowing 33 points or fewer

Picks On the Rise
    The Penguins have intercepted seven passes through seven games, which is three more than they had in 11 games last year.
    YSU has been opportunistic returning two of those interceptions for touchdowns this season. Against Illinois State, both of the Penguins' picks were followed up by offensive touchdowns.
    So far this season, the Guins had two interceptions against Dayton and Illinois State and one each against Morehead State, Duquesne and Indiana State.
    Including the final game of the season last year against Indiana State, YSU has nine interceptions in the last eight games. The Guins had two picks in the first 10 games a year ago.
    Senior CB Dale Peterman intercepted the first pass of his career against the Redbirds.

Red-Zone Success
    YSU has converted at a high success rate in the red zone under Head Coach Eric Wolford.
    This year, YSU is 30-of-32 (93.8 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 and 5-of-5 vs. Illinois State. YSU has scored touchdowns on 27 of those 32 red-zone visits.
    In his 40 games as coach, the Penguins are an amazing 148-for-168 (88.1 percent) inside the red zone.
    The Penguins were 35-of-43 inside the red-zone in 2012 (81.7 percent). YSU scored 31 touchdowns and made four field goals.
    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 for a conversion percentage of 91.1 percent.

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.

New Chefs in the Kitchen
    The Penguins have had three different 100-yard rushers this year.
    Against Morehead State, freshman Jody Webb rushed for 122 yards while freshman Martin Ruiz had 117 yards. The duo combined to score five touchdowns. At Indiana State, Ruiz rushed for a career-best 141 yards on 22 attempts.
    Against Illinois State, Ruiz had 85, Webb had 76 and Demond Hymes finished with 65.
    Senior TB Torrian Pace has 196 yards this year. Adaris Bellamy opened the season with a 203-yard performance against Dayton.
    In their careers, Bellamy has 1,221 yards on 217 carries, Pace has 719 yards on 152 rushes. Ruiz has 576 on 96 attempts so far this season. Hymes has 165 yards on 29 attempts. Webb has 236 on 26 carries.

Providing Protection
    In 40 games under Head Coach Eric Wolford, YSU has allowed just 43 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 27 sacks in the last 30 games as well.
    Only nine times under Wolford and assistant coach Carmen Bricillo have the Guins allowed more than one sack, and four of those came in 2010. In the four contests against BCS foes, the Penguins have allowed a total of two sacks.

Three is Still Important
    Under Coach Eric Wolford, YSU is a combined 25-of-30 on field-goal attempts (83.3 percent) since 2010.
    First-year PK Joey Cejudo has made the first four attempts of his career this year, including a 40-yard field goal 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.

Road Warriors
    The Penguins have won three straight Missouri Valley Football Conference road games with wins at Western Illinois (2012) and this year at Southern Illinois and Indiana State.
    YSU last won two road conference games in the same season in 2011 - at Southern Illinois and at North Dakota State.
    The last time YSU knocked off Indiana State and Southern Illinois on the road in the same year was 2001.

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 41.3 yards per punt in his career on 162 kicks. His average ranks first in school history by 0.4 yards ahead of Nick Xides' 40.9 set back in 1982-85.
    This season, Liste has 11 punts of 50 yards or longer. His previous high for a year was eight in 2011.
    Handling kickoff duties, last year he had 18 touchbacks after having just three in 2011. Liste has 28 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 19 receptions, 17 kickoff returns, six rushes and three punt returns showing his versatility.
    In his career, Stubbs has 49 kickoff returns, 40 receptions, 20 rushes and 13 punt returns. He has amassed a team-high 2,026 all-purpose yards so far in just 19 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 a year ago.

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.

Youthful Defense
    The Guins have just five seniors on defense this year - DE Kyle Sirl, CB Dale Peterman, DT D.J. Moss, LB Dom Rich and LB Ali Cheaib. And all five have not been on the field together this season.
    Peterman, Moss and Rich have missed a game because of injury at some point this year. Rich did not play against Western Illinois.
    Sirl is the lone senior to start all seven games this year while Cheaib is the only other senior to play in every game.
    Peterman has started the past four games,  Rich has started three times and Moss started twice this year. Cheaib has been in the starting lineup twice.
    Peterman has 15 career starts (11 in 2012 and four this year) Rich has 14 (three in 2013, eight in 2012 and three in 2010), Sirl has 13 (seven in 2013 and six in 2012), Moss has five (two this year, two in 2012 and one in 2010),  and Cheaib has four (one each in 2011, 2012 and two in 2013). So in total, the five seniors on defense have started 51 games in their careers.

Lefties Few & Far Between
    Preseason All-American senior C Chris Elkins has made a successful debut at the position. Elkins has started the past 31 games, including a stretch of 26 consecutive at right guard, before assuming duties as starting center in 2013.
    Elkins is just one of two FCS centers who are left-handed. The other is Wagner's David Fredrickson, who has started 29 straight games. Note courtesy of Wagner's John Beisser.

Five Serve as Captains
    The Penguins will have five captains for the 2013 campaign. Senior quarterback Kurt Hess, senior wide receiver Jelani Berassa, senior center Chris Elkins, junior strong safety Donald D'Alesio and senior linebacker Dom Rich are serving as team captains.
    With his selection, Hess becomes the first three-time captain in school history after serving in 2011 and 2012. Rich is a repeat pick from the 2012 campaign. D'Alesio is the lone non-senior in the group.

Perfect Pumpkin
    The Penguins are going for their first perfect record in October since 1996. That year YSU beat Buffalo, Ashland and Northwestern State. Last year the Guins had a rough road in October going 0-4. This year they have defeated Indiana State and Illinois State.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 113-24 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 16-53.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 141-18-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 114-12 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 136-22 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: Bye Week/South Dakota
   The Penguins will be off next Saturday before resuming the season on Nov. 2 at South Dakota.