Penguins Open Conference Play at Home Against South Dakota

David Rivers
David Rivers

    The No. 15 Youngstown State football team opens Missouri Valley Football Conference play on Saturday afternoon against South Dakota at Stambaugh Stadium. Kickoff for the contest is set for 4 p.m. The game is available on WKBN 570 AM, iHeartRadio and ESPN3/WatchESPN App.
    YSU (2-1) was off last Saturday after closing out the non-conference portion of its slate with a 38-6 win over Robert Morris on Sept. 17. Backup QB Trent Hosick helped engineer the victory as TB Martin Ruiz scored three touchdowns and the defense put the clamps on RMU for most of the day. Ruiz caught a 21-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter before scoring on runs of 14 yards and 80 yards. Hosick had a pair of touchdown passes in the game, the first to Ruiz and a 27-yard toss to Kevin Rader. The defense stepped up holding RMU to zero yards on 24 plays in the first half.
    South Dakota (1-2) was also off last weekend following a tough 47-44 double-overtime defeat at North Dakota. The Coyotes led by 20 points in the second half, only to come up short in the contest. Both teams scored in the first overtime period before the Coyotes were forced to settle for a field goal in the second extra period. UND won the game when QB Keaton Studsrud scored on a one-yard run. After falling behind 14-6, the Coyotes scored 28 unanswered point to take a 34-14 lead in the third quarter. But the Fighting Hawks tied the game with 3:28 left in the game on an interception return for a touchdown by Deion Harris.
    The Penguins have won the previous four meetings against South Dakota, including a 31-3 triumph last year at the DakotaDome. YSU took a 7-0 lead on its first possession of the game when Martin Ruiz capped an impressive 16-play, 80-yard drive with a one-yard scoring run. YSU increased its advantage to 10-0 on a 33-yard field goal by Zak Kennedy later in the quarter. Early in the second, Hunter Wells found Andrew Williams for a 51-yard scoring toss to extend the lead to 17-0.
    In the fourth, USD fumbled a punt at its own two-yard line, and Ruiz punched it in on the next play to make the contest 24-0. Two plays following a Kenneth Durden interception, Wells found TE Shane Kuhn down the middle for a 13-yard scoring play.
    YSU has won seven straight MVFC openers, the longest current streak among Valley schools.


Quick Notes
• Youngstown State (seven) and North Dakota State (five) have the longest active win streaks in MVFC season-opening games.
• The Penguins have won the previous four meetings with the Coyotes, including both at Stambaugh Stadium.
• QB Trent Hosick made his first career start in the contest against RMU. He also threw the first touchdown pass of his career in the game.
• TE Kevin Rader caught the first touchdown pass of his career vs. the Colonials.
• TB Martin Ruiz scored the 32nd and 33rd rushing touchdowns of his Penguins career in the contest. The 33 rushing scores move him into sixth place in YSU history.
• YSU was credited with 11 TFLs, including seven sacks against RMU. Amazingly, seven different players were each credited with a sack. It was the most sacks recorded in a game by YSU since a seven-sack effort against Western Illinois on Oct. 15, 2005. YSU had 12 TFLs against WIU as well in that contest.
• The Guins have had more than 400 yards of total offense in each of the first three games. The last time YSU opened a season with three straight 400-yard performances was in 1983 - 413 vs. EKU, 455 vs. TTU and 500 vs. WIU. YSU had four straight to start out the '83 campaign.
• With 1:52 left in the first quarter, inclement weather forced a 66-minute delay in the action. It was the first delay for the Penguins since the 2012 season when a pair of games started late because of pre-game storms.
• PK Zak Kennedy has made a field goal in 13 of his 14 career contests.
• TB Martin Ruiz has scored five rushing touchdowns against USD in his career. TB Jody Webb has three rushing and a receiving score. DE Derek Rivers has five sacks in two games vs. the Coyotes.
• Rivers has had at least one sack in 13 of his last 19 games. He had the 28th of his career - adding to his school mark - against RMU.

Last Time Out: YSU 38, RMU 6
    The Penguins built a 24-0 lead and went on to earn an impressive 38-6 win over Robert Morris at Stambaugh Stadium.
    Backup QB Trent Hosick helped engineer the victory as TB Martin Ruiz scored three touchdowns and the defense put the clamps on RMU for most of the contest despite a 66-minute weather delay in the first quarter.
    Ruiz caught a 21-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter before scoring on runs of 14 yards and 80 yards in the game. Hosick had a pair of touchdown passes in the game, the first to Ruiz and a 27-yard toss to Kevin Rader.
    The defense stepped up holding RMU to zero yards on 24 plays in the first half. For the game, YSU allowed just 103 total offensive yards.

Last Meeting: YSU 31, USD 3
    YSU scored 17 points early and rode a strong defensive effort to a 31-3 victory at South Dakota in the 2015 conference opener for the both teams.
    The Penguins took a 7-0 lead on their first possession of the game when Martin Ruiz capped an impressive 16-play, 80-yard drive with a one-yard scoring run.
    YSU increased its advantage to 10-0 on a 33-yard field goal by Zak Kennedy later in the quarter. Early in the second, Hunter Wells found Andrew Williams for a 51-yard scoring toss to extend the lead to 17-0.
    In the fourth, USD fumbled a punt at its own two-yard line, and Ruiz punched it in on the next play to make the contest 24-0.
    Kenneth Durden returned an interception 25 yards to the USD 15-yard late in the game to set up on last Penguins score. Two plays following Durden's pick, Wells found TE Shane Kuhn down the middle for a 13-yard scoring play.

MVFC Openers
    The Guins are 16-3 in Missouri Valley Football Conference openers since joining the league in 1997. YSU has won seven consecutive conference openers since a 40-7 loss at South Dakota State in 2008.
    Of the 19 league openers, the Guins are a perfect 9-0 at home while going 7-3 on the road, including a 31-3 win at South Dakota last year. In first road games of the MVFC slate, the Guins are 10-9 all-time.
    In MVFC openers YSU is 5-0 against Missouri State, 3-0 vs. Indiana State, 2-0 against Western Illinois, 2-0 against Illinois State, 2-0 against Southern Illinois, 1-0 against UNI, 1-0 vs. South Dakota, 0-1 vs. South Dakota State and 0-2 vs. Western Kentucky.

Defensive Effort Impressive
    The Penguins had one of the best all-around defensive halves in school history against Robert Morris.
    YSU held the Colonials to 0 yards on 24 plays in the opening half. RMU had 14 rushes for two yards while completing 4-of-10 passes for minus-2 yards. The Guins did not allow a first down until 6:07 of the second quarter, and that was the lone first down surrendered in the first half.
    RMU finished with minus-13 yards rushing, which was the sixth-best performance defensively in school history and lowest total allowed in a game since 1994.
    The Guins were impressive in the first quarter allowing minus-five yards on 12 snaps. Thirty-five plays into the game, RMU had 20 yards of total offense with 3:27 left in the third quarter.  Of the 103 yards gained, 82 came on two plays (52 and 30 yard passes) in the third quarter.
YSU Likes Weather Delays
    The Penguins experienced a 66-minute weather delay against Robert Morris last Saturday in the first quarter. The Penguins have had success recently in games that were delayed or forced to start later than the scheduled time because of Mother Nature. In 2012, the Penguins beat Pittsburgh (27 minutes) and UNI (40 minutes) after the starts of the games were pushed back. In 2003, YSU had a game delayed at Liberty for 83 minutes; in 1990, YSU had a 71-minute delay vs. Akron; in 1983, the Penguins and Zips endured a 44-minute stoppage because of a weather-related power outage; and in 1978, a contest against Saginaw Valley State was held up 40 minutes. In in-game delays, YSU is 4-1 all-time.

Penguins' Sack Attack
    The Penguins were credited with seven sacks against RMU, the most by the program since 2005 vs. Western Illinois. In addition to the sacks, YSU had eight quarterback hurries on 17 incompletions.
    Seven players were credited with sacks as Armand Dellovade, Savon Smith, Derek Rivers, Cody Squiric, Donald Mesier, Avery Moss and Curst Parks all had one.
    While Rivers, Moss and Dellovade are old hat at sacks, it was the first in the careers of Smith, Squiric, Mesier and Parks.

Ruiz Moves Into Sixth
    Senior TB Martin Ruiz scored two rushing touchdowns in the win over RMU. Ruiz scored on a 14-yard carry before adding a career-long 80-yard scoring rush in the third quarter to cap off his night. Ruiz has 33 rushing TDs in his YSU career which ranks him sixth in school history.
    The pair of scores moved him past Marcus Mason and Marschell Brumfield on the all-time list. His 689 carries are the fifth most in school history while his 3,455 yards are sixth.

Offensive Output
    For the first time since 1983, the Penguins have eclipsed the 400-yard mark in total offense in each of the first three games. YSU opened the year with a 610-yard performance against Duquesne, totaled 405 yards at West Virginia and had 431 against Robert Morris.
    Last year YSU went over 400 yards on five occasions in 11 games.
    Under Offensive Coordinator Shane Montgomery the Penguins have amassed more than 400 yards in 38 contests since the start of the 2010 season.
    That 610 yards against Duquesne were the seventh most in a game in school history. YSU has gone over 600 yards of total offense nine times in school history and five of those have come since 2011.

Davis Strong as Starter
    Junior QB Ricky Davis started the first two games for the Penguins before sitting out the RMU contest. Davis has 136 yards rushing on 23 attempts while completing 23-of-42 passes for 376 yards. He has thrown four touchdown passes and no interceptions this season.
    At WVU, he completed 11-of-26 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown was a perfect 74-yard strike to WR Alvin Bailey in the second quarter. He led the Penguins in rushing with 62 yards on 13 carries, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
    In three quarters and two fourth-quarter handoffs of play against Duquesne, he rushed for 74 yards on 10 carries while competing 12-of-16 passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns.
    Davis had eight completions for 142 yards and one touchdown in his career before taking the reigns of the offense in the opener.

First TD Receptions
    So far this season, TE Kevin Rader and WRs Darien Townsend, Alvin Bailey and Stefan Derrick have all caught the first touchdowns of their YSU careers.
    Townsend had two touchdowns and Derrick had his first in the opener against Duquesne. Bailey scored on a 74-yard grab at West Virginia. Against Robert Morris, Rader hauled in the first touchdown of his YSU career.

No Rushing TDs
    The Penguins have not allowed a rushing touchdown through three games.
    YSU allowed 20 rushing touchdowns, including six in the non-conference portion of the schedule, last year.

Ruiz Ties 2015 TD Mark
    Martin Ruiz has scored four rushing touchdowns in three games. That number matches his total from the 2015 season in which he had four rushing scores.
    Ruiz caught two touchdown passes in 2015 giving him six scores. He caught at TD pass against RMU and has five for the season already.

Schuler Steps Up
    Redshirt freshman P Mark Schuler has had strong start to the season. Schuler has punted 15 times in the past two games and placed six punts inside the opposition's 20-yard line.
    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 one-yard line.

O-Line Off to Solid Start
    The offensive line, which has had the same lineup the first three games, has helped pave the way to three straight 400-yard plus offensive performances. YSU has had 100-yard rushers in two of the first three games (TB Tevin McCaster vs. Duquesne and TB Martin Ruiz vs. RMU).
    The Penguins are averaging 294 yards rushing and 482 yards total offense per game. YSU ranks fourth in the FCS in rushing, 11th in total offense, 11th in time of possession and 12th in team pass efficiency.  
    The starting group the first three games has been Justin Spencer, Gavin Wiggins, Vitas Hrynkiwicz, Cameron Fraser and Dylan Colucci.

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 38 games and has rushed for 3,455 yards on 689 carries and scored 33 touchdowns. Webb has played in 34 contests, rushing for 2,013 yards on 284 attempts while scoring 24 touchdowns. Both runners rank in the top 11 in the FCS in active career yardage.
    Ruiz ranks fifth in YSU history in career attempts and he's sixth in school history in career rushing yards and rushing TDs. Webb has averaged an impressive 7.1 yards a run, which is the best in YSU history. His yardage total ranks 19th in YSU history while his 24 touchdowns are 14th. He has missed the past two games.

McCaster Also Involved
    Sophomore TB Tevin McCaster has seen increased playing time because of Jody Webb's injury and a solid fall camp performance.
    Through three games, McCaster ranks second on the team with 235 rushing yards on 34 carries. He has scored two touchdowns and is averaging 78.3 yards a game in a reserve role.
    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.

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 three games, Rivers has two sacks and six quarterback hurries while Moss has a pair of sacks as well and four QB hurries. Moss has 10 total tackles, nine of which are solos, while Rivers has seven tackles on the year, all of which are solos. Moss had an impressive game at WVU being credited with six solo stops.

Rivers Owns Sack Mark
    Senior DE Derek Rivers is the school's all-time sack leader with 28.
    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 two sacks in three games this year to go along with six QB hurries.

Dellovade a Key Stopper
    Sophomore LB Armand Dellovade has continued to be a key figure in the Penguins' defense.
    He ranks tied for second on the squad through three games with 14 tackles, seven of which came 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.
    His 54 tackles were the most by a true freshman since Teven Williams had 67 stops in 2011. He also had four sacks in 2015, the most by a YSU freshman since OLB Mike Stanec had four in 1995. He has one sack in 2016.

Rivers Garners Accolades
    Senior DE Derek Rivers was named to numerous preseason All-America teams at the outset of the 2016 campaign.
    Rivers, a two-time first-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference honoree, has been named to the preseason All-America first teams by STATS Inc., and HERO Sports. He was also tabbed a preseason first-team All-MVFC selection. He is one of 22 players on the STATS Top Defensive Player Watch List. Rivers was in the running for the award as well in 2015.

Kennedy Set FG Mark
    Sophomore PK Zak Kennedy 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 became the first freshman placekicker since UNI's Scott Obermeier in 1992 to be tabbed first-team all-league.
    In his career, he has made field goals in 12 games and attempted kicks in 13 of 14 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.
    Also, the 19 field goals were a team record for a season, eclipsing the mark of 18 set in 2007.

18 Guins Hail from Florida
    The Penguins once again have a solid number of Florida natives on their roster. YSU boasts 18 players who hail from the Sunshine State on the 2016 team.
    The list of players from Florida include: Alvin Bailey, Kenny Bishop, Robert Byrd, Nate Dortch, I'Tavious Harvin, Chrispin Lee, Johnson Louigene, Donald Mesier, Damoun Patterson, Nathan Pittman, Jonathan Pollock, David Rivers, Martin Ruiz, Jamal Smith, Jameel Smith, Samuel St. Surin, Eric Thompson and Lasander Washington.

Alexander The Great
    Senior FS LeRoy Alexander is off to a strong start to the season after an outstanding first year with the Penguins in 2015 and was named first-team All-MVFC in his first year with the program after transferring from Nebraska.
    In 2016, Alexander has 11 total tackles, including 10 solo stops.
    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.
    Against Illinois State he had a career-high 11 tackles, including seven solo stops.

Ruiz Model of Consistency
    Senior TB Martin Ruiz has rushed for at least 74 yards in a game on 29 occasions in 38 career games played.
    On 15 occasions he has rushed for more than 100 yards, including a career-high eight times as a sophomore in 2014. He had 165 yards in the win over RMU. That total was his third-highest rushing performance as a Penguin and most in a game since Nov. 1, 2014.
    Additionally he has scored a touchdown in 23 games, with nine multi-TD performances.

Rivers The Past 26 Games
    Senior DE Derek Rivers has had a solid last two-plus years at YSU.
    In his career, Rivers has 122 total tackles, 82 of which are solos. He has an impressive 40 TFLs.
    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. So in the last 26 games, he has 109 total tackles, 35.5 TFLs and 25 sacks. He is averaging 4.2 stops, 1.4 TFLs and almost sack a game.

Ruiz High On Lists
    Senior TB Martin Ruiz ranks fifth in school history with 673 careers and is sixth in school history with 3,290 yards rushing.
    He is one of seven players in school history to rush for more than 3,000 yards in a career.
    With 33 rushing touchdowns, he is now in sixth place all-time at YSU. Ruiz ranks fifth in all-purpose yards with 4,281 while senior TB Jody Webb is 17th with 3,130.
    Ruiz is just 60 yards shy of Archie Herring for fourth place and 96 back of Robby Robson for third in all-purpose career yards.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 124-32 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 21-60.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 151-19-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 124-16 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 147-25 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 78-9-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 178-15 when leading entering the fourth.
• 80-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.
More recently:
• YSU has scored points in 94 straight games.

Up Next: at Illinois State
    The Penguins are back on the road on Oct. 8 when they visit Illinois State. Kickoff at Hancock Stadium is set for 3 p.m. Eastern time.