The 15th-ranked Youngstown State football team wraps up a three-game non-conference homestand on Saturday against Saint Francis. Kickoff against the Red Flash is set for 7 p.m. The game is available on WKBN 570 AM as well as iHeartRadio and is on tape-delay on MyYTV.
YSU (2-1) has won two straight following an impressive 44-13 win over Butler last Saturday. The Penguins trailed 10-3 in the contest, but they scored 41 of the final 44 points in the contest to win going away. Freshman quarterback Hunter Wells tossed four touchdown passes while completing 16-of-22 passes for 297 yards in his starting debut. Three of those scores went to senior Jelani Berassa. Berassa became the first Penguin in YSU's FCS era - and since 1979 - to haul in three scoring tosses in a game. He had scoring receptions of 25, 26 and 72 yards against the Bulldogs. Martin Ruiz had his third straight 100-yard rushing effort with 108 yards on 21 attempts and added a one-yard score. Ruiz has scored in all three games for YSU this year. Senior PK Joey Cejudo drilled three field goals in the game and leads the FCS with eight field goals made this year.
Saint Francis (1-2) dropped a 38-22 contest at James Madison last Saturday. The Red Flash took a 15-7 lead and trailed 24-22 late in the third period. But four turnovers offset an impressive 39-carry, 216-yard performance by running back Khairi Dickson. After three games, Dickson leads the FCS averaging 202.7 yards rushing per game. This will be Saint Francis' third road game out of four to open the season.
YSU has won all five prior meetings in the series, including a 49-23 victory over Saint Francis at Stambaugh Stadium on Oct. 20, 2011. Prior to that, the most recent meeting between the programs had been in 1953 at Rayen Stadium. In the 2011 tilt, the Guins built a 42-3 lead by halftime, but the Red Flash outscored them 20-7 in the second half. Jamaine Cook had four rushing touchdowns in the first half and six, of the YSU's seven touchdowns came via running scores.
After concluding a three-game homestand, the Penguins are idle next Saturday before they open Missouri Valley Football Conference play at Missouri State on Oct. 4.
• QB Hunter Wells had one of the most impressive starting debuts in school history. Wells threw four touchdown passes and completed 16-of-22 attempts (72.7 percent) in the contest. He was the first true freshman to start at quarterback since Dailyn Campbell in 2008, but first true frosh to win his debut since Jeff Ryan in 1998.
• TB Martin Ruiz posted his third straight 100-plus yard rushing game finishing with 108 yards on 21 carries. It was the seventh 100-yard rushing game of his 15-game YSU career.
• PK Joey Cejudo converted three field goals in a game for the second time this season. Cejudo made boots of 20, 21 and 27 in the win over the Bulldogs.
• WR Jelani Berassa caught three touchdown passes (25, 26 and 72 yards) becoming the first Penguin to do so in a game since Jim Ferranti in 1979. Berassa is the first player in YSU's FCS history to accomplish the feat.
• For the second straight game, CB Julius Childs had double figures in tackles. Childs recorded 11 total tackles, including 10 solo stops, in the win. He had 13 tackles (nine solos) the contest prior.
• YSU scored 41 of the final 44 points in the contest after trailing 10-3 at the end of the first quarter. The Guins erupted for 28 second-quarter points and outscored Butler 13-0 in the second half.
• The defense had a solid final three quarters in the game. Butler opened the contest with 153 yards in the first quarter, but had 193 the rest of the game, including just 106 in the second half.
• TE Nate Adams caught a touchdown pass in his second straight game. YSU is 7-1 in contests where he has a score.
YSU scored 41 of the contest's last 44 points as freshman QB Hunter Wells and senior WR Jelani Berassa dazzled in a 44-13 win over Butler at Stambaugh Stadium.
The Penguins trailed 10-3 at the end of the first quarter but scored 28 second-quarter points to seize control of the game. In the second half, YSU outscored the Bulldogs 13-0 and allowed just 106 total offensive yards.
In his first career start, Wells threw four touchdown passes while completing 16-of-22 attempts for 297 yards. His favorite target was Berassa, who had three touchdowns, the most by a YSU wide receiver since 1979. He finished the contest with six receptions for a career-high 167 yards.
TB Martin Ruiz rushed for 108 yards and a score while PK Joey Cejudo converted all three of his field-goal attempts against Butler. TE Nate Adams added a fourth-quarter score.
Last Meeting in 2011
Jamaine Cook rushed for four first-half scores as Youngstown State built a 42-3 halftime lead before going on to beat Saint Francis (Pa.) 49-23 in October 2011 at Stambaugh Stadium.
Cook had scoring runs of one and four yards in the first quarter and eight and 26 in the second quarter while Adaris Bellamy had a five-yard score and Kurt Hess connected on a 19-yard toss Christian Bryan for YSU's six first-half touchdowns.
In the third quarter, Saint Francis scored two touchdowns to get within 42-16, but Jordan Thompson's school-record-tying 95-yard touchdown run put the game away.
The Penguins amassed 646 yards of total offense, including 450 yards rushing on 49 attempts. Cook finished with 162 yards on 19 carries while Thompson had 135 and Torrian Pace finished with 81 on 15 attempts.
Non-Conference Home Success
YSU has won 23 of its last 24 non-conference regular-season home games since September 2004. The lone loss was a final-play 31-28 setback to Liberty in 2008.
Coach Eric Wolford is 11-0 at home against non-conference foes with wins over Albany, Butler (twice), Dayton, Duquesne (twice), Morehead State, Valparaiso (twice), Central Connecticut State and Saint Francis (Pa.).
In the 11 games, the Guins have outscored the opposition 502-167 (an average of 45.6-15.2).
September Home Streak
The Penguins are 12-0 at home in September since Head Coach Eric Wolford took over the program in 2010 and have won 13 straight overall since the 2009 campaign. One of those wins came over Saint Francis back in 2011.
Since losing to Florida International in overtime on Sept. 11, 2004, YSU is 25-1 in September at Stambaugh Stadium. The lone loss was a final-play defeat to Liberty in 2008 (31-28).
The Penguins have had a tremendous amount of success against visitors from the Keystone State.
The last time YSU lost a home game to a team from Pennsylvania was to Villanova on Oct. 28, 1978 (22-17).
Since that time, the Guins have won 29 straight home games against teams from Pennsylvania.
Most of those contests have come against members of the Division II PSAC. Two of the wins have come against Villanova while one came earlier this year against Duquesne. Another came against Saint Francis back in 2011 (44-23).
Berassa Rare Game
Senior Jelani Berassa had a rare game in multitude of ways against Butler.
First, Berassa became just the fourth player in school history to catch three touchdown passes in the same game. It marked the first time since 1979 that a Penguin caught three touchdown passes in the same contest. Impressively, all three of his scores came in the same quarter.
Only five times in school history has a receiver caught three touchdown passes and had more than 100 yards in the same game.
Additionally, he followed up a 114-yard performance against Duquesne with a career-high 167-yard game against Butler. It was the first time since Dominique Barnes had consecutive 100-yard receiving games to end the 2010 slate that a Guin recorded back-to-back 100-yard plus contests. Berassa is one of just nine players in Penguin history to accomplish that feat.
Big Plays In Pass Game
The Penguins have made some big plays in the passing game early in the season.
In the first three games, the Guins have five pass plays of 54 yards or more. Last year, the Penguins had just four completions of longer than 50 yards in 12 games played. YSU did not complete a pass of over 50 yards in 2012.
QB Hunter Wells completed a 72-yard touchdown pass to Jelani Berassa in the win over Butler.
Against Duquesne, QB Dante Nania completed a 66-yard toss to Berassa while Andrew Williams caught a 54-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.
At Illinois in the season opener, Nania found Williams for a 61-yard gain and connected with Jody Webb on a 54-yard toss.
Ruiz Trifecta First Since 1960
Sophomore TB Martin Ruiz has opened the campaign rushing for more than 100 yards in each of YSU's first three games.
The last Penguin (and only other time it happened) to open a season rushing for 100-plus yards in three straight games was Frank Horvath in 1960.
Horvath opened the 1960 season with 124 yards against Toledo. He followed that contest with a 123-yard contest against Eastern Michigan and 136-yard performance vs. Northern Michigan. He had a total of 383 yards following those games.
Horvath eclipsed the 100-yard mark six times in an eight-game slate that year and finished with 1,010 yards on 150 carries for the season.
After three games in 2014, Ruiz has 372 yards on 76 attempts and has scored all four rushing touchdowns by the Penguins so far this year.
Ruiz Has Strong Start
Sophomore TB Martin Ruiz has picked up the 2014 season right where he left off last year. Ruiz has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the first three games this season.
Against a strong Butler rush defense, he had 108 yards on 21 attempts and scored a touchdown.
In the win over Duquesne, he had 148 yards on 23 carries and scored two touchdowns. At Illinois, he had a career-high 32 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown.
Ruiz has now rushed for more than 100 yards seven times in his 15-game YSU career. He has scored a touchdown in 12 games as well.
As a freshman, Ruiz, who was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference Newcomer and Freshman of the Year, set school marks for attempts (192), yards (1,094) and touchdowns by a freshman in 2013.
Ruiz started seven of the eight MVFC games and rushed for 831 yards on 147 attempts while scoring eight touchdowns in league play.
Adams With More TDs
Senior TE Nate Adams has caught touchdown passes in consecutive games for the second time in his career.
Against Butler he caught a two-yard pass for a score after hauling in a 31-yard touchdown catch against Duquesne.
Last year, Adams caught TD passes in consecutive games against Duquesne and Southern Illinois.
It's usually good news for the Guins when Adams scores at TD. The Penguins are 7-1 in contests when he hauls in a TD pass.
Freshman QB Hunter Wells had an impressive starting debut throwing four touchdown passes while completing 16-of-22 attempts for 297 yards against Butler.
His 297 yards passing were the most in a game by a YSU freshman since Denny Klembara had three 300-yard efforts in 1968.
The last time a freshman quarterback had more than 200 yards in a first career start was Tom Zetts (207) against Slippery Rock in 2004.
Two Over 200 Yards
In just three games, the Penguins have had two different quarterback throw for more than 200 yards in a game.
The last time two different quarterbacks passed for more than 200 yards in a game in the same season was in 1985. Bob Courtney threw for more than 200 yards in three games. Trenton Lykes had a season-high 231 yards in the season finale against Morehead State.
Junior QB Dante Nania had 288 against Duquesne while freshman QB Hunter Wells had 297 vs. Butler.
Berassa Making Impact
Senior WR Jelani Berassa has become a go-to target so far this season. In three games, he has 16 receptions for 320 yards, averaging 20.0 yards per catch.
He is coming off a career-best effort in the win over Butler. Berassa had six catches for a career-best 167 yards and three touchdowns, which was one shy of a school record.
Against Duquesne, he had six receptions for 114 yards after opening the year with four receptions.
Last year, Berassa caught just six passes for 74 yards. He missed the 2012 season with a knee injury. In 2011, he had at least four catches in a game on five occasions, including a career-best seven in the season finale against Missouri State. That year he caught 37 passes.
Childs Stepping Up
Senior CB Julius Childs has been a tackling machine in each of the past two games for the Penguins.
Against Butler, Childs had 11 total tackles and was credited with an impressive 10 solo stops. In the contest prior vs. Duquesne, he had a career-high 13 tackles, nine of which were solos.
In three games this year, Childs, has 30 stops, including 24 solo tackles. He also has a pair of pass breakups.
Bam has Been All Over
Junior LB Dubem Nwadiogbu, aka "Bam", has been a key difference maker on defense so far this year. Nwadiogbu has 25 tackles in the first three games, including 18 solo stops.
In each contest this year, he has set a new career high in tackles.
Against Butler, Nwadiogbu had a career-high 11 stops, including seven solos. He also had a fumble recovery in the contest.
He had a eight total tackles and six solo stops in the win over Duquesne after tying his previous career standard with six at Illinois.
Of his 52 career tackles, 42 have come in the month of September.
He also has a pass breakup in each of the first three contests.
YSU has had four scoring drives of under 30 seconds this season. Three came against Duquesne and one came vs. Butler.
Against Duquesne, YSU had a one-play and a pair of two-play scoring drives. In the win over Butler, the Guins had another one-play scoring drive.
Versus the Bulldogs, Hunter Wells found Jelani Berassa on a quick one-play, 72-yard scoring strike in just 12 seconds.
Against the Dukes, Dante Nania found Andrew Williams for a 54-yard score in a seven-second drive. A two-play, 46-yard drive that featured a 46-yard touchdown run by Martin Ruiz following an incomplete pass took just 19 seconds. A two-play 60-yard drive took just 26 seconds in the second quarter. The drive opened with a 14-yard run by Andre Stubbs followed by a face mask penalty. Nania then found Nate Adams on a 31-yard scoring toss on the next play.
Solid Start for Cejudo
PK/P Joey Cejudo has done a good job managing all of the kicking roles for the Penguins this season.
Through three games, he has made all eight of his field goals after converting three kicks against Butler. He averaged 42.5 yards per punt on two kicks and three of his nine kickoffs were for touchbacks.
Cejudo leads the FCS with eight made field goals after three games and ranks second in field goals per contest.
He was named the MVFC's Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance at Illinois. Against the Illini, Cejudo made three field goals.
As a punter, he is averaging 38.2 yards per kick with five of his 15 tries inside the opposition's 20-yard line. Of his 20 kickoffs, eight have been touchbacks.
Nania was Making Strides
Junior QB Dante Nania looked good as the Penguins' starting quarterback for the first two games. However, Nania left the contest against Duquesne with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter and did not play last week.
He completed 16-of-23 passes for 288 yards and the first two touchdown passes of his career up until that point. Even on the play he went down on, he found time and tossed a would-be first-down pass to Nate Adams that was nullified by a YSU penalty.
At Illinois, he rushed for 46 yards on 12 carries while completing 11-of-24 passes for 177 yards.
Prior to his starting debut, he had 12 career completions and just 21 attempts.
His 46 yards rushing against the Illini were the most by a QB in a game since Brandon Summers had 73 at Northeastern on Sept. 19, 2009. However that final total was helped by a 73-yard TD run.
Receivers Grow Up
The group of Jelani Berassa, Christian Bryan, Andrew Williams and Andre Stubbs have combined for 282 receptions in their YSU careers.
Berassa is in his sixth year with the program while Bryan, Williams and Stubbs all came in together as part of the 2011 recruiting class.
Bryan never redshirted and has caught 105 passes in a solid career. He ranks 10th in school history in career receptions. Williams has caught 57 passes and Stubbs has 57 as injuries forced redshirt campaigns for both players in their Penguin careers.
Berassa missed the 2010 and 2012 seasons with knee injuries. When healthy in 2011, he had 37 of his 63 career catches and eight of his 12 career TD hauls.
Fifth-year tight end Nate Adams has 27 catches, including eight touchdowns, as well.
YSU has converted at a high success rate in the red zone under Head Coach Eric Wolford.
The Guins are 12-of-14 so far this season (eight field goals and four touchdowns - three rush and one pass).
Last year, YSU was 43-of-47 (91.5 percent) in its red-zone opportunities. It marked the second season in his four-year tenure that the Guins converted more than 90 percent of their red-zone opportunities. YSU scored touchdowns on 38 of those red-zone visits.
In 48 games under Coach Wolford, the Penguins are 173-for-196 (88.2 percent) inside the red zone. YSU has scored 142 touchdowns (97 rushing and 45 passing) while making 31-of-32 field-goal attempts. Of the 10 turnovers committed, eight have been interceptions.
The Penguins were 35-of-43 inside the red-zone in 2012 (81.7 percent). YSU went 42-of-47 in 2011 (89.4 percent), and, in 2010, the Guins converted 41-of-45 chances (91.1 percent).
Overall, the program has a red-zone score in 54 consecutive games. Under Wolford they have seven red-zone scores in three games.
Cejudo Pulls Double Duty
PK/P Joey Cejudo is handling both the placekicking and punting duties for YSU this year. He is one of just three Penguins to handle both punting and kicking in the same year since 1970.
The last Penguin to handle both roles as punter and placekicker was Jeff Wilkins in 1992-93. Wilkins was the placekicker in each season throughout his YSU career. Wilkins shared punting duties in 1992 before assuming both placekicker and punting roles in 1993. He turned out to be pretty good playing 14 years in the NFL and winning a Super Bowl title with the St. Louis Rams.
The only other kicker since 1970 to handle both chores was Chuck Haynali, who did both in three straight seasons - 1976, 1977 and 1978.
Numbers Under Wolf
After 48 games, Head Coach Eric Wolford is now 26-22. YSU has won 21 of its last 32 games under Wolford since the mid-point of the 2011 season. A couple of good notes have come from his 48 games regarding wins and losses. Both losses when allowing 27 or fewer points have come at UNI (21-17 in 2011 and 22-20 in 2013).
• YSU is 13-0 when allowing 20 points or fewer
• YSU is 23-2 when allowing 27 points or fewer
• YSU is 24-4 when allowing 33 points or fewer
Bryan Eclipses 100
Senior WR Christian Bryan has 105 career receptions in 37 career games played.
Bryan is just one of 14 players in school history to eclipse the 100-reception mark in a career.
He ranks 10th in school history with his 105 career grabs and is five from eighth place.
Bryan is tied for 13th in school history for career touchdown receptions with his 11 TDs. He is one of 15 players in YSU history with 11-or-more TD grabs in a career. He's tied with Ray Ellington and Kyle Smith with 11 career touchdown receptions. Teammate Jelani Berassa moved ahead of him against Butler.
Three is Still Important
Under Coach Eric Wolford, YSU is a combined 35-of-42 on field-goal attempts (83.3 percent).
PK Joey Cejudo has started the season off on a good note making all eight of his attempts. He made six-of-eight attempts last season, including a long of 40 yards against Duquesne.
In 2012, PK David Brown converted six-of-seven attempts. In 2011, the Penguins did not make a field goal in the first eight games before converting three field goals.
YSU was 12-of-14 in 2010, all of which came by the foot of Stephen Blose.
>400 Yards/27 Points
The Penguins have had more than 400 yards of total offense in 25 games under Head Coach Eric Wolford. YSU has eclipsed the mark in two straight games entering the Saint Francis tilt.
In his 48 contests, YSU has had more than 300 yards in 41 of them. Additionally, the Guins have scored 27-or-more points in 33 of Wolford's 48 games at the helm.
Four-TD Passing Games
Since Nov. 1, 2008, quarterbacks Kurt Hess (six), Brandon Summers (two) and Hunter Wells (one) combined to throw at least four touchdowns in a game nine times in a span of 63 games.
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.
Six Captains in 2014
The Penguins have six seniors serving as team captains. Sixth-year senior WR Jelani Berassa, fifth-year seniors FS Donald D'Alesio and TE Nate Adams, fourth-year senior WR Christian Bryan, third-year senior CB Julius Childs and second-year senior DT Octatvius Brown were selected to assume that role this year.
First Time QB Starters
Dante Nania and Hunter Wells became the 14th and 15th different quarterbacks to start for the Penguins since five games into the 1998 season when Jeff Ryan took over as the starter. YSU has had 15 different starters in a span of 16 seasons. In 1998, YSU started three different QBs in the first five games before Ryan started all but one game the next three-plus years.
Former Penguin Kurt Hess started 45 straight games from 2010-13 while Tom Zetts started every game from 2004-07.
Since 1998, YSU has had multiple first-time starters in 2014, 2009, 2008, 2003 and 2002.
The Guins are 8-7 in games in which a quarterback makes his first start since Ryan's appearance against Southern Illinois in 1998. At the FCS level (since 1981), the Penguins are 16-12 when a quarterback starts for the first time in his career.
New Look Offensive Line
YSU has had three first-time offensive starters in the first three contests. In the opener at Illinois, Dylan Colucci and Justin Spencer made their first YSU starts while against Duquesne, Cameron Fraser was in the starting lineup.
The same five that started at Illinois started against Butler. The line has played well together so far as the Penguins had 201 yards rushing at Illinois, 199 against Duquesne and 163 against Butler. The Guins are averaging 444.3 yards of total offense through three contests. After allowing three sacks in the opener at Illinois, the unit regrouped and has allowed just one sack in the past two games.
The line does have some veterans in Trevor Strickland, Brock Eisenhuth and its lone senior in Stephen Page. Strickland has started all three games this year after starting five contests a year ago. Eisenhuth started nine times last season. Prior to this year, Page's last start was in 2012 at South Dakota State.
Experienced Front D-Line
The defensive line has drawn rave reviews for its early season performances in the first three games.
DT Emmanuel Kromah and DE Terrell Williams have started the last 15 games on the front line. NT Octavius Brown has started the first three games this year and made an impact. DE Derek Rivers made his first career start against Duquesne. He has had a sack in the first two games and just missed numerous times against Butler. Last year, Rivers had three sacks in just 10 games played. He has five sacks in 13 career games as a Penguin.
Also contributing up front are DT Steve Zaborsky and DE Desmond Williams.
Three Over 100 Tackles
Senior FS Donald D'Alesio leads the program with 199 career tackles, including 106 solo stops. Senior LB Travis Williams has 170 career tackles, 99 of which are solos. Senior CB Julius Childs has 151 tackles, 110 of which are solos.
Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 115-27 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 18-54.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 143-18-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 116-13 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 139-22 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 73-9-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 168-13 when leading entering the fourth.
• 74-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.
• YSU has scored points in 63 consecutive games.
• YSU has scored in double figures in 21 straight contests.
• The Guins last played an overtime game on Sept. 11, 2004 against Florida International. YSU has not played an OT contest in a span of 116 games dating back to that contest.