No. 14 Penguins Get Set To Host Indiana State on Homecoming

Jamar Pinnock
Jamar Pinnock

    The 14th-ranked Youngstown State football team plays host to Indiana State on Saturday in the annual Homecoming contest. Kickoff for the game at Stambaugh Stadium is set for 4 p.m. The game is available on WKBN 570 AM, iHeartRadio and ESPN3/WatchESPN App.
    YSU (5-2 overall and 3-1 in the MVFC) suffered its first Missouri Valley Football Conference defeat of the season at South Dakota State last Saturday. The Penguins lost 24-10 to the Jackrabbits and were never really able to get on track after allowing two touchdowns in the first four minutes. Brady Mengarelli's two-yard scoring run 2:48 into the contest gave SDSU a 7-0 lead. And just 70 seconds following a YSU turnover, the Jackrabbits went in front 14-0 after a four-yard pass from Taryn Christion to Connor Landberg. The team's exhanged field goals as YSU trailed 17-3 at halftime. SDSU extended its lead to 24-3 on a three-yard touchdown reception by Jake Wieneke. Late in the contest, Tevin McCaster scored for the Penguins on a two-yard run for the final margin.
    Indiana State (4-4 and 2-3) picked up a 22-14 victory at Southern Illinois last Saturday. The Sycamores trailed 7-0 before scoring 22 unanswered points in the victory. Isaac Harker threw three touchdown passes in the win, two of which went to Robert Tonyan. Early in the fourth, Harker connected with Miles Thompson on an 85-yard scoring pass. SIU cut the deficit to 22-14 with 10:11 left in the contest but could not get any closer. Harker was impressive completing 23-of-39 passes for 336 yards.
    This is the 26th all-time meeting between the Penguins and Sycamores. YSU has a commanding 20-5 lead in a series that has featured its share of close games. Indiana State has won the last two contests by identical 27-24 scores on final-play field goals.
    Last year's season finale in Terre Haute was played in an unexpected snowstorm. Jody Webb returned a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns and the Penguins led 24-21 with just under six minutes left in the contest. However, Eric Heidorn made a 25-yard field goal to tie the contest and added the game winner from 38 yards out as time expired. In 2014, the Penguins trailed 24-10 in the fourth quarter before scoring two touchdowns in the last five minutes to force overtime. However, the Guins turned the ball over in OT and Heidorn made a 28-yard field goal to win that contest.


Quick Notes
• YSU surrendered its first rushing touchdown of the season early in the contest. The Penguins were the last Division I program in the nation to allow a rushing TD in 2016. In 28 quarters they still have allowed just one rushing score, the fewest in the FCS.
• TB Tevin McCaster scored a fourth-quarter touchdown for the third consecutive game. McCaster scored in the fourth at South Dakota State, against UNI and at Illinois State. All five of his rushing TDs this season have come in the last quarter.
• YSU's last five offensive touchdowns and last six TDs overall have all been scored in the fourth quarter.
• Also, 48 of YSU's last 54 points - since the third quarter of the South Dakota game - have come in the fourth quarter - 10 vs. USD; 17 of 20 at Illinois State; all 14 vs. UNI; and 7 of 10 at South Dakota State.
• YSU had two sacks against South Dakota State and has been credited with 26 in seven games. The Guins' defense has also produced 28 QB hurries. Last year in 11 games, YSU was credited with 27 sacks for the season.
• Saturday's contest is the annual Homecoming game for the Penguins. The Guins own an all-time mark of 51-23-1 in Homecoming contests having won four of their last five.
• DE Derek Rivers ranks third in the FCS with 1.16 sacks per game. UNI's Karter Schult leads the country with 1.36 sacks a contest while Alcorn's Darien Anderson is second at 1.33.
• Rivers has had at least one sack in 16 of his last 23 games. He is the school's record-holder with 34 in his career.
• PK Zak Kennedy has made a field goal in 16 of his 18 career contests. He is now 8-of-11 in field-goal attempts this season and 19-of-23 (82.6 percent) in his career against MVFC foes. In his career he is 27-of-34 (79.4 percent).

Last Time Out: SDSU 24, YSU 10
    The Penguins lost 24-10 to the Jackrabbits last Saturday at new-look Dana J. Dykehouse Stadium. YSU was never really able to get on track after allowing two touchdowns in the first four minutes of the game.
    Brady Mengarelli's two-yard scoring run 2:48 into the contest gave SDSU a 7-0 lead. Following a YSU turnover, and just 70 seconds  later, the Jackrabbits went in front 14-0 after a four-yard pass from Taryn Christion to Connor Landberg.
    The teams exchanged field goals as YSU trailed 17-3 at halftime. SDSU extended its lead to 24-3 on a three-yard touchdown reception by Jake Wieneke.
    Late in the contest, Tevin McCaster scored for the Penguins on a two-yard run for the final margin.
    SDSU had 14 points off two YSU turnovers.

Last Meeting: ISU 27, YSU 24
    Indiana State's Eric Heidorn kicked a game-winning 38-yard field goal as time expired as the Penguins dropped their season finale 27-24 at Indiana State on a snowy, chilly day at Memorial Stadium.
    The Penguins took the lead when Jody Webb returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. Later in the quarter, Alex Stowers returned a fumbled YSU handoff 37 yards for a touchdown to tie the contest.
    Webb scored on a 26-yard run later in the period to put YSU back in front 14-7.
    In the second quarter, the teams scored three touchdowns in 2:04. ISU QB Matt Adam scored on a 14-yard scamper to tie the game at 14. However, Webb returned the ensuing kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown to put YSU back in the lead. Three plays later, Adam took a keeper 74 yards to tie the game at 21.
    In the fourth, YSU went ahead 24-21 on a 25-yard field goal by Zak Kennedy. ISU tied the game with 5:04 left on a 25-yard field goal by Heidorn. Heidorn then beat the Guins on the final play of the game for the second straight season with his 38-yard kick.

Homecoming Happiness
    The Penguins are playing their 76th Homecoming contest this Saturday against Indiana State.
    YSU had a streak of four consecutive Homecoming victories snapped last year by South Dakota State.
    The Penguins own an all-time mark of 51-23-1 in Homecoming contests. Indiana State has been YSU's Homecoming opponent on just one occasion. The Penguins picked up a 42-7 win at Stambaugh Stadium on Oct. 28, 2000.
    At Stambaugh Stadium, YSU 23-11 in Homecoming games with eight defeats coming after 2003.

McCaster Has TD Streak
    TB Tevin McCaster has scored touchdowns in three straight games and four of the last five. McCaster had rushing TDs, all of which came in the fourth quarter, against Illinois State, UNI and South Dakota State.
    McCaster has had the best year of his YSU career in 2016. He is second on the team with 372 yards and five touchdowns. He has scored touchdowns in five of the seven games this season.
No Drive Time
    The YSU defense has allowed one drive of 70-or-more yards in the past five contests (first quarter at SDSU). In the last 61 drives, the opposition has had just eight drives that have marched 50-or-more yards. In the last three games, a span of 33 drives, YSU has allowed just four drives to go for 50-plus yards.
Still Leading the Nation
    Despite giving up their first rushing touchdown of the season against SDSU, the Penguins still lead the FCS in fewest rushing TDs allowed. In seven games, YSU has allowed just one rushing score. The Penguins rank ahead of Central Arkansas and Colgate (three each) in that category. UCA has played in seven games like YSU while Colgate has played six contests.
    Last year, YSU allowed 20 rushing touchdowns, including 14 in the conference portion of the schedule.

YSU Defense Ranks Highly
    The Penguins' defensive unit ranks highly in the FCS in numerous categories entering the Indiana State contest.
    YSU ranks second  in sacks per game (3.71), fourth in scoring defense (16.3 points per game), seventh in total defense (283.1 yards per game), eighth in first downs defense (103), 14th in rushing defense (106.3 yards per game) and 14th in third down percentage defense (29.8 percent).
    YSU's defense has allowed just five touchdowns in the last 16 quarters. The Guins did not allow an offensive touchdown against Illinois State and UNI.
    On third down, the defense has been extremely tough. In the five wins, opponents are 13-of-68 (19.1 percent). In the four MVFC games, only 13 conversions have been successful in 52 tries (25 percent).

Smith Playing Big Role
    Senior FS Jameel Smith has played a key role in the defensive unit's improvement the past two years.
    Smith has 19 total tackles the last two weeks following an 11-tackle effort at South Dakota State. It was the second time this season that he had double figures in tackles, the other time being a 12-tackle effort at West Virginia. In the game prior to the SDSU contest he had eight stops against UNI.
    Five times in his career he has been credited with double figures in tackles - the other three being 10 at North Dakota State in 2013, 13 at Southern Illinois in 2015 and a career-best 14 at Indiana State last year.
    In his last 17 games he has 108 tackles, averaging just over six tackles a game. He is second on the team this year with 44 total tackles.
Dellovade a Key Stopper
    Sophomore LB Armand Dellovade has continued to be a key figure for the Penguins.
    He leads the squad with 45 tackles after posting a career-high 10 at South Dakota State. He was credited with six solos and four assists in the game. He also had two TFLs in the contest.
    Dellovade has had five-or-more tackles in each of the last six games. In the four conference games he has 31 tackles, 20 of which are solo stops.
    In the previous game he tied his then-career best with eight total tackles against UNI - five solos and three assists.
    Dellovade tied for team-high honors with six tackles, including five solos, at Illinois State. He had seven tackles in the win over South Dakota, with four solos and three assists. Dellovade also had seven stops at West Virginia.
    Dellovade came on strong as a true freshman finishing with 54 total tackles, including 32 solo stops. The honorable-mention all-league recipient started nine games and was fourth on the team in tackles.

Moss Having Best Campaign
    DE Avery Moss has eclipsed his 2015 numbers just seven contests into his senior campaign.
    In seven games, Moss has 31 total tackles, 20 of which are solo stops. He is third on the team in total tackles. Moss also ranks second in sacks and TFLs and leads the squad with two forced fumbles.
    At South Dakota State he had four tackles, a TFL, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.
    He had a career-best seven tackles in the victory over South Dakota. Moss was credited with four solos and had three assists in the contest. He had six tackles in a strong outing at West Virginia.
    In the win over UNI he had five tackles and a sack. At Illinois State he had five total tackles and two sacks.
    He has sacks in five of the seven games this year.  Last year, Moss had 25 total tackles and 14 solo stops for the season. He had three sacks for the entire 2015 campaign.

Penguins' Sack Attack
    The Penguins have registered 24 sacks in the past five contests. YSU had two sacks at South Dakota State, five against UNI, six at Illinois State, four against South Dakota and seven, the most in a game since 2005, vs. Robert Morris.
    YSU is tied for second in the FCS in sacks per game averaging 3.71 a game. Saint Francis (Pa.) leads the country averaging 3.75 while Prairie View and North Carolina A&T are tied with YSU.
    Those four teams are the only ones to register at least 26 sacks this season. In four league games, YSU has 17 sacks. The Penguins also have 28 QB hurries for the season.

Ruiz Ranks Fourth in Rushing
    Senior TB Martin Ruiz is fourth in school history in career rushing yards with 3,697.
    Ruiz also has 16 100-yard rushing games and is just the fourth player in school history to do so. He joins Tamron Smith (22), Jamaine Cook (20) and Adrian Brown (16) to reach the 100-yard mark in 16 games during a career.

Rivers The Past 30 Games
    Senior DE Derek Rivers has had an impressive YSU career, but since the start of the 2014 season, Rivers has been one of the top defensive players in the FCS.
    Overall in his career, Rivers has 134 total tackles, 94 of which are solos. He has an impressive 46 TFLs, which rank him fourth in school history. This year he has 19 tackles, all solos, with nine TFLs and eight sacks.
    As a junior, he had 52 tackles, including an impressive 37 solo stops. He had 15.5 TFLs and nine sacks on the campaign as well. As a sophomore, Rivers was credited with 50 total tackles, including 17 TFLs and 14 sacks.
    In his last 30 games, he has 121 total tackles, 41.5 TFLs and 31 sacks. He is averaging 4.1 stops, 1.2 TFLs and more than one sack a game.

Experienced Tailback Duo
    The Penguins boast one of the most experienced backfield tandems in the FCS in seniors Martin Ruiz and Jody Webb.
    Ruiz has played in 42 games and has rushed for 3,697 yards on 750 carries and scored 36 touchdowns. Webb has played in 38 contests, rushing for 2,182 yards on 330 attempts while scoring 24 touchdowns. Both runners rank in the top 11 in the FCS in active career yardage.
     Ruiz has rushed for at least 74 yards in a game on 30 occasions in 42 career games played.

McCaster Also Involved
    Sophomore TB Tevin McCaster has been a key part in the Penguins' rotation. McCaster is YSU's second-leading rusher this season with 374 yards.
    In the win over UNI he had 29 hard-earned yards on 12 carries. He scored YSU's first touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter. At South Dakota State he had YSU's lone touchdown of the contest.
    At Illinois State he finished with 81 yards on 10 carries. He had six yards on three attempts in the first half before rushing for 75 on seven carries in the second half. His performance was bolstered by a 56-yard run in the fourth quarter.
    Against Duquesne, he carried the ball seven times for 107 yards and a touchdown. Impressively all seven carries came in the fourth quarter. Against Robert Morris he had a career-high 15 carries for 87 yards and a TD. At West Virginia he had 12 carries for 41 yards to go along with two receptions - the first of his career.
    He is second on the team with five rushing touchdowns.

Rivers Owns Sack Mark
    Senior DE Derek Rivers is the school's all-time sack leader with 34.
    On Oct. 17, 2015, following a two-sack performance against South Dakota State, Rivers eclipsed the school mark of 22 which had been held by Jermaine Hopkins since 1995. Hopkins played for the Penguins from 1992-95, and his career sack totals include postseason contests.
    Impressively, it took Rivers just 28 games to break the 20-year-old record.
    Last season, Rivers had nine sacks after registering 14 sacks in 2014. During his first campaign in 2013 he had three.
    He has eight sacks in six games this year to go along with 11 QB hurries. His career high in sacks is 14, which he set in 2014.

Late-Game Surges
    YSU's offense has put up most of its totals in the final third of the game in recent weeks.
    In the final 20 minutes against Illinois State, YSU had 190 total yards after producing 175 the first 40. In the fourth quarter YSU had 139 yards, 119 through the air of which came on the ground while the lone 20 was on a touchdown pass from Ricky Davis to Alvin Bailey. YSU's nine-play 87-yard scoring drive was all running by Davis, Jody Webb and Tevin McCaster.
    In the final 23:27 against UNI, YSU had 163 yards. Entering the 8:27 mark of the third period, the Penguins had 91 total offensive yards. In the fourth quarter, McCaster and Martin Ruiz each had one-yard scoring runs.
    YSU had 41 plays in its last three drives and 35 on its first nine drives of the game.
    At South Dakota State, the Penguins' offense was fairly balanced in terms of yards for the entire game. YSU had 158 in the second half compared to 138 in the first. The Guins' lone touchdown was in the fourth quarter.

Call 9-11
    The Penguins' defensive-end combo of Avery Moss (No. 9) and Derek Rivers (No. 11) is one of the top ones in the nation.
    WVU Head Coach Dana Holgorsen was quoted as saying following the contest "These two cats that we played against from Youngstown State were as good of pass rushers as I've seen" (h/t @mitchsherman).
    Through seven games, Rivers has eight sacks and 11 quarterback hurries while Moss has six sacks and six QB hurries. Moss has 31 total tackles, 20 of which are solos, while Rivers has 19 tackles on the year, all of which are solos.

Schuler Shows Big Leg
    Redshirt freshman P Mark Schuler has had  a strong start to his career. Schuler leads all freshman FCS punters averaging 41.8 yards per kick. He has seven punts of 50 yards or longer and has placed 14 inside the 20-yard line.
    Against UNI he had four punts and averaged 46.5 yards a boot. At Illinois State he averaged 45.7 yards per punt on six kicks, with a long of 55. He had a 54-yard punt vs. South Dakota in his lone attempt.
    Against Robert Morris he punted seven times and placed two at the 10-yard line and another at the 11. Schuler punted eight times for an average of 44.5 yards a kick at West Virginia. Schuler had kicks of 51, 59, 50, 47, 44, 41 and 32 (twice) in the game. He had a pair of punts downed at the 14-yard line and one at the one-yard line.

Offensive Output
    For the first time since 1983, the Penguins eclipsed the 400-yard mark in total offense in each of the first four games of a season. YSU opened the year with a 610-yard performance against Duquesne, totaled 405 yards at West Virginia, had 431 against Robert Morris and finished with 450 in the victory against South Dakota.

Kennedy Keeps Excelling
    Sophomore PK Zak Kennedy is having another solid year so far for the Penguins.
    This season, Kennedy is 8-of-11 on field-goal attempts and 22-of-22 on PAT tries. He has excelled at kickoffs with 19 touchbacks in 32 attempts. Last year he had four touchbacks in 29 kickoffs. As a squad last year, YSU kickoff specialists had just nine touchbacks in 11 games.
    He set the school record with 19 field goals in 2015. Kennedy was a first-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference honoree in his first year. He was the first freshman PK since UNI's Scott Obermeier in 1992 to be tabbed first team.
    In his career, he has made field goals in 16 games and attempted kicks in 17 of 18 contests.
     Kennedy was just the fifth kicker in school history to make at least 17 field goals in the same season joining Mark Griffith, Jeff Wilkins (twice), Robert Fozkos and Paul McFadden.

Alexander The Great
    Senior FS LeRoy Alexander is having another great year after an outstanding 2015. Last year he was a first-team All-MVFC selection in his first season with the program after transferring from Nebraska.
    In 2016, Alexander has 25 total tackles, including 19 solo stops, and been the leader of a veteran secondary.
    He was second on the team a year ago with 67 total tackles, 38 of which were solo stops.
    He showed his versatility in the YSU defensive scheme registering a pair of sacks to go along with a team-high four interceptions. He was also credited with 3.5 TFLs.

Ruiz High On Lists
    Senior TB Martin Ruiz ranks in the top six in school history in five statistical categories.
    Ruiz is third in school history with 4,592 all-purpose yards; third in school history with 16 100-yard rushing games; fourth in rushing yards; fifth in carries and sixth in rushing touchdowns.
    He is one of six players in school history to rush for more than 3,500 yards in a career.

Longest Drive Since 1985
    The 22-play drive against UNI was the longest for the Penguins since 1985.
    On Nov. 2, 1985, YSU marched 73 yards in 22 plays against Middle Tennessee State in Murfreesboro, Tenn. That drive, led by QB Trenton Lykes, was extended by a roughing-the-kicker penalty on a 4th-and-22 from the YSU 29-yard line. Also a pass interference foul on 3rd-and-10 kept the drive alive. Lykes connected with Robert Thompson on a seven-yard pass to end the drive.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 125-33 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 23-60.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 154-19-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 126-16 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 148-25 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 79-9-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 179-15 when leading entering the fourth.
• 82-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.
More recently:
• YSU has scored points in 98 straight games.

Up Next: at North Dakota St.
    The Penguins start the month of November at North Dakota State on Nov. 5. Kickoff for the contest between YSU and the Bison at the Fargodome is set for 3:30 p.m.