Penguins Play Host to Jackrabbits in Top-Five Tilt on Saturday Night

Johnson Louigene
Johnson Louigene

    The fifth-ranked Youngstown State football team opens Missouri Valley Football Conference play against No. 4 South Dakota State on Saturday. Kickoff for the top-five clash at Stambaugh Stadium is set for 7:04 p.m. The game is available on Watch ESPN, WKBN 570 AM and iHeartRadio.
    The game is the first at Stambaugh Stadium to feature both teams ranked in the top 10 since the No. 4 Penguins played host to second-ranked Western Illinois in the 1997 regular-season finale.
    YSU (2-1) closed out the non-conference portion of the season with an impressive 59-9 win over Central Connecticut State on Sept. 16. QBs Nathan Mays and Ricky Davis each had a pair of rushing touchdowns as the Penguins scored eight times via the run. Tevin McCaster, Christian Turner, Shane Kuhn and Joe Alessi also added rushing touchdowns in the contest.
    YSU scored 14 points in the first quarter and added 17 more in the second to take a 31-0 lead at halftime. Mays' second touchdown of the contest gave the Guins 38 unanswered points before CCSU had its lone touchdown of the game. Leading 38-6, YSU tacked on three touchdowns before a Blue Devils field goal wrapped up the game's scoring.
    South Dakota State (3-0) has scored more than 31 points in each of its first three games following a 51-10 victory over Drake on Sept. 16. SDSU jumped out to 34-0 lead before the Bulldogs kicked a field goal. The Jackrabbits scored 29 points in the second quarter to blow the game open before scoring 10 in the second half. So far this season, SDSU has outscored its opponents 42-0 in the first quarter and 92-17 in the first half.
    The Penguins, who boast the FCS's third-longest home winning streak at 10, will be looking to snap a four-game home losing skid to the Jackrabbits. The Guins' last win at Stambaugh Stadium in the series was a 23-17 victory in September 2007.
    Last year, the Penguins dropped a tough 24-10 decision at SDSU. The Jacks scored 14 points in the first four minutes of the contest before both teams battled the rest of the game.
    YSU heads on the road for just the second time this season next Saturday when it visits South Dakota.




Quick Notes
• YSU has won 10 straight home games, which is the fourth-longest streak in school history. The Penguins were 8-0 at home last year and added wins over RMU and CCSU to open this season. YSU last won 11 straight at Stambaugh from 2004-06.
• YSU has won 20 consecutive home games in the month of September dating back to 2009.
• This will be the first game between two top-five ranked teams at Stambaugh Stadium in nearly 20 years. YSU, which was ranked fourth, lost a 24-21 decision to No. 2 Western Illinois on Nov. 22, 1997, at Stambaugh Stadium.
• Since Warren-Tribune reporter Joe Simon's wedding prior to the RMU contest, the Penguins have outscored opponents 89-9.
• In the past 17 games, YSU has had four different starting quarterbacks and all four are still with the program - Hunter Wells (11), Ricky Davis (4), Nathan Mays (1) and Trent Hosick (1). Even more impressive, each has engineered a win in that span.
• QB Nathan Mays and Ricky Davis had rushing scores in the win over CCSU. The last time two quarterbacks scored in the same game was on Sept. 22, 2001 (Jerry Ryan and Colby Street vs. Western Illinois).
• YSU did not punt in a game for the second consecutive contest. It was the fifth time in school history the Penguins did not punt in a game, three of which have come since 2011.
• YSU's last punt was 12:43 left in the fourth quarter at Pittsburgh. At Pitt, the Guins punted four times in their seven drives. Since then, YSU has had 22 drives without a punt.
• OT Justin Spencer has started 42 straight games on the offensive line. Spencer, Gavin Wiggins and Vitas Hrynkiewicz have started the past 19 games together on the line.
• YSU has 20 seniors on the roster with 12 on the offensive side and eight on defense. Four positions have the bulk of the group - four wide receivers, three tight ends, three offensive lineman and three in the secondary.
• LB Armand Dellovade, P Mark Schuler, OT Justin Spencer and C Vitas Hrynkiewicz were named first-team preseason All-MVFC in 2017.

Last Time Out: YSU 59, CCSU 9
    YSU tied a school record with eight rushing touchdowns in a 59-9 win over Central Connecticut State on Sept. 16 at Stambaugh Stadium.
    QBs Nathan Mays and Ricky Davis each had a pair of rushing touchdowns as the Penguins scored eight times via the run. Tevin McCaster, Christian Turner, Shane Kuhn and Joe Alessi also added rushing touchdowns in the contest.
    YSU scored 14 points in the first quarter and added 17 more in the second to take a 31-0 lead at halftime. Mays' second touchdown of the contest gave the Guins 38 unanswered points before CCSU had its lone touchdown of the game. Leading 38-6, YSU tacked on three touchdowns before a Blue Devils field goal wrapped up the game's scoring.
    The Penguins finished with 630 yards of total offense, including 496 yards rushing against the Blue Devils.

Last Meeting: SDSU 24, YSU 10
    YSU lost 24-10 to South Dakota State at new-look Dana J. Dykehouse Stadium last October. 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 deep in its own territory, 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 and took advantage of another Penguins giveaway.
    Late in the contest, Tevin McCaster scored for the Penguins on a two-yard run for the final margin.

September Home Win Streak
    The Penguins have won 20 straight home games in the month of September dating back to the start of the 2009 season.
    Since losing to Florida International in overtime on Sept. 11, 2004, YSU is 30-1 in September at Stambaugh Stadium. The lone loss was a final-play defeat to Liberty in 2008 (31-28). The Penguins own MVFC victories over UNI (2012), Illinois State (2011), Southern Illinois (2010) and Missouri State (2007) during that stretch.

MVFC Games in September
    This is the 18th conference game the Penguins have played in the month of September since joining the league in 1997. YSU is 13-4 in September MVFC conference tilts and has won six of its last seven. Impressively, YSU is 9-0 at home in September in MVFC games.

10 For the Fourth Time
    The Penguins have won 10 straight home games, which is the fourth longest winning streak in school history.
    Last year, YSU was a perfect 8-0 at home and has wins over Robert Morris and Central Connecticut in 2017. Six of last year's eight wins came in the regular season.
    The longest home winning streak is 13 games, which encompassed the 1992 and 1993 campaigns. It's the longest home winning streak for the program since winning 11 straight from 2004-06.

Longest YSU Home Winning Streaks
13 - 1992-93
12 - 1946-48
11 - 2004-06
10 - 2016-17
*YSU had a 23-game unbeaten streak from 1992-94 at Stambaugh Stadium (tie in 1994)

McCaster TD A Good Sign
    Junior TB Tevin McCaster has started the past three games at tailback for the Penguins. McCaster has rushed for more than 73 yards in all three games and had a season-high 101 yards on just eight carries vs. CCSU. He scored on a 60-yard touchdown run against the Blue Devils.
    McCaster has scored touchdowns in each of the first three games this season. In his career, YSU is 10-2 when he scores a touchdown, including an 8-1 record a year ago.
    Last season, McCaster was second on the team in touchdowns with 11 while rushing for 652 yards on 129 carries in 2016. His best performance was at EWU, where he had a career-high 154 yards on 29 carries and scored three touchdowns in the FCS semifinals.
    He was the only running back to play in all 16 games in 2016.

Turner Turns Heads
    All fall camp a freshman wearing No. 20 was turning heads, and so far he has been a key contributor through three games.
    TB Christian Turner has had more than 100 all-purpose yards in each of his first three games of his YSU career. At Pittsburgh, he had 189 all-purpose yards, he added 107 more against Robert Morris and had 123 vs. CCSU.
    Replacing a key player who wore No. 20 for the past four seasons – Jody Webb – Turner showed some Webb-like qualities in his first career game. Turner caught five passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns vs. Pitt. Turner caught fourth-quarter scores of 25 and 42 as YSU rallied to tie the game and force overtime.
    Against RMU, he had 89 yards rushing on 17 carries and caught two passes for 18 yards. Versus CCSU he had 91 yards rushing and 32 receiving.

Sack Attack Continues
    The Penguins had a tall task following up last year's 49-sack effort. So far, so good on the pressure front as YSU has 10 sacks through the first three games.
    YSU has had at least three sacks in each of the first three games this season. The Penguins had a high of four against Robert Morris and had three each vs. Pittsburgh and Central Connecticut State.
    Six different players have a sack this year while DEs Fazson Chapman and Justus Reed have each had sacks in the first three games this year. Reed had two in the win over RMU on Sept. 9.

Defense Flips Switch
    The Penguins allowed 21 points in the first half at Pittsburgh, and, since that time YSU has surrendered just 16 points in 10 quarters.
    YSU blanked the Panthers in the second half of the season opener before Pitt scored a touchdown in overtime. The Penguins shut out Robert Morris on Sept. 9 for their first shutout since 2012. YSU held CCSU scoreless in the first half before allowing a touchdown and field goal in the second half.

Justus Is Served
    Newcomer DE Justus Reed has made a big impact so far for the Penguins. Reed has four sacks this season, including at least one in each of the first three games. He had a high of two sacks vs. Robert Morris.
    Reed also had three QB hurries against RMU, two vs. CCSU and one at Pitt.
    In the three games he has 12 total tackles with seven solo stops and five assists.

Mays Steps In
    Sophomore QB Nathan Mays earned some key playing time in wins over Robert Morris and Central Connecticut.
    In the victories, he had 11 rushes for 159 yards and three touchdowns while completing 21-of-29 passes for 260 yards and a score.
    Mays completed 13-of-17 passes for 149 yards while rushing for 63 yards on seven carries vs. RMU. He had the first passing and first rushing TDs of his career against RMU. Against CCSU he had 96 yards rushing on four carries while completing 8-of-12 passes for 112 yards.
    Last season, Mays had 35 carries for 126 yards while completing 11-of-18 passes for 133 yards.

Spencer A Mainstay
    Senior OT Justin Spencer, a preseason third-team All-America pick, has been a mainstay on the offensive line for the Guins since 2014.
    A preseason All-MVFC first-team selection, Spencer has started all 42 games in his YSU career. After playing right tackle his first two years with the program, Spencer moved to left tackle in 2016 where he started all 16 games.
    He was a second-team All-MVFC pick in 2016 and an honorable-mention selection in 2015.

True Freshmen See Action
    Last year YSU played two true freshmen; one was kickoff specialist and the other a special teams/reserve linebacker. After three games in 2017, YSU has played three.
    TB Christian Turner has a team-high 419 all-purpose yards. He finished with 189 all-purpose yards at Pitt. CB Bryce Gibson has started all three games at cornerback. Jake Coates is YSU's punt returner and one of the kickoff returners used during the game.

Four Starting QBs on Roster
    The Penguins have four players on their roster who have started at quarterback at one point or another during their YSU careers.
    What's impressive is they have all won a game as a starter, and they have started in a span of 17 games. The Penguins are 13-4 in those contests.
    Sophomore QB Nathan Mays made his first career start against Central Connecticut and earned the win. YSU had three different starters a year ago and all won games - Hunter Wells, Ricky Davis and Trent Hosick. Wells started the final nine games last year and first two in 2017. Hosick started against Robert Morris in 2016, and Davis started a four-game stretch - as well as the first two games - last year.

Dellovade a Key Stopper
    Junior LB Armand Dellovade, a 2016 second-team all-league selection, has continued his strong play at the outset of the 2017 campaign.
    In three games, Dellovade has 15 tackles, including a nine-tackle performance at Pitt. Last season he led the Penguins with 105 tackles, including 70 solo stops in 16 games. He was third with 11.5 TFLs, which included a pair of sacks.
    In conference play, he had 60 total tackles, highlighted by a career-high 11 stops against South Dakota State on Oct. 22. Dellovade had five-or-more tackles in 13 of the last 14 games. Against JMU in the national title game he had seven tackles, including five solos. In total he had 31 tackles in the five playoff games.

The Wright Stuff
    Senior LB Lee Wright, a 2015 second-team All-MVFC honoree, is off to a fast start this year. In three games, Wright has 21 total tackles, 10 of which are solo stops.
    Last season, he started three of the final four playoff games for the Penguins and was credited with 29  tackles (21 solos) in the postseason.
    In the National Championship Game against JMU, he had eight total tackles, five of which were solo stops. At EWU he had seven tackles (four solos), three TFLs, two QB hurries and a pass breakup. Against Wofford he had seven tackles, including six solo stops. In his first start of the year at Jacksonville State, he had six tackles, including five solos, and a pass breakup.
    In 2015, Wright started all 11 games and led the Penguins with 78 total tackles, including 48 solo stops. He also had six sacks and 9.5 TFLs.

Kennedy Back on Track
    Junior PK Zak Kennedy has made four of his last five field goals for the Penguins. His lone miss in the past two games came on a 56-yard attempt.
    Against CCSU, Kennedy made a 36-yard field goal and eight extra-point tries for 11 points. He kicked three field goals in the win over RMU. Kennedy made kicks of 23, 27 and 30 yards in the win. It was the sixth time in his career that he made three field goals in a game.
    His only miss of the game was a 56-yard try right before halftime. Kennedy had the distance, but the kick went just wide.
    Kennedy was 19-of-29 last season despite missing two games with an injury. He was 11-of-17 before his injury and since returning to the lineup went 8-of-12. At Jacksonville State he had one of the best games of his career making 4-of-5 attempts. On a freezing cold day at EWU he was 2-of-2, making a 42-yarder in the contest.
    In 2015, he had an outstanding first year making 19-of-23 attempts to earn first-team All-MVFC honors.
    In his two seasons as YSU's placekicker, Kennedy is 42-of-58 in field-goal tries.

Offensive Line A Key
    A big key to YSU's success last year was the offensive line. Four Penguins started all 16 games while the same unit was in the starting lineup for the final 13 contests.
    Three of those Penguins have started all three games this season in C Vitas Hrynkiewicz, OG Gavin Wiggins and OT Justin Spencer.
    Cameron Fraser, who started the first three games at guard last year, has started at right tackle so far this year. Jacob Zinni, a third-year sophomore, made his first career start at right guard vs. Pitt. He has started the first three games of the 2017 campaign.

100-Yard Receivers
    For the first time since 2009, YSU had two players with 100-or-more yards receiving in the same game.
    Against Pitt, TB Christian Turner (124) and TE Kevin Rader (100) each had more than 100 yards receiving. It was the first time YSU had two 100-yard receivers in a game since  WRs Donald Jones and Dominique Barnes had more than 100 yards against Illinois State.
    The last running back with 100-plus yards receiving was Lorenzo Davis on Dec. 2, 1989, at Furman while the last tight end with more than 100 yards was Will Shaw (120) at South Dakota State in 2012.

Wells Over 300 For Second Time
    At Pittsburgh, QB Hunter Wells passed for 311 yards completing 18-of-32 passes. It marked the second time in his career that Wells has thrown for more than 300 yards. The first time was at Southern Illinois in 2015 when he passed for 324 yards completing 20-of-31 attempts.
    Wells is the sixth quarterback in school history to throw for more than 300 yards in a game twice, joining Trenton Lykes, Denny Klembara, Ron Jaworski, Brandon Summers and Kurt Hess.
    A veteran with 29 career starts, he has thrown for 5,812 yards and 40 touchdowns while completing 435-of-743 passes. In nine games last year he threw for 1,724 yards completing 136-of-217 passes. In 2015, he completed 159-of-291 passes for 1,975 yards and 13 touchdowns.

First Time Sackers
    Against Pittsburgh, the Penguins had three players record their first career sacks.
    DE Fazson Chapman, DE Justus Reed and DT Wesley Thompson all had the first sacks of their YSU careers. It was the first YSU appearances for Reed and Thompson and the first career YSU start for Chapman.
    Reed had a sack-fumble that set up the game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. Thompson's sack came on a third-and-goal and forced Pitt to try a field goal, which it missed.

20 Seniors Breakdown
    The roster features 20 seniors who have come to YSU through a variety of ways. Eight of the 20 have spent their entire college careers at YSU.
    Five players are fifth-year seniors - Ricky Davis, Cole Newsome, Anthony Parente, Kevin Rader and Justin Spencer. Davis has moved to wide receiver after serving as a quarterback his first four years. Rader was a originally a defensive end for two seasons before moving to tight end.
    DE Fazson Chapman came to YSU in 2013, then spent the 2014 season at Rochester Community College, before returning in 2015.
    Three seniors on the roster joined the program in 2014 and never redshirted - TE Shane Kuhn, DB DJ Thomas and QB Hunter Wells. LB Lee Wright transferred to YSU from Appalachian State while OT Cameron Fraser joined the team from Louisville in 2014.
    Those who have been with the program for three seasons include Big Ten transfers Jalyn Powell (Michigan State) and Soloman Warfield (Iowa) and juco transfer Lasander Washington.
    Five junior college transfers and an FBS transfer are in their second seasons at YSU. Alvin Bailey joined the program in the spring of 2016 from Florida. Junior college transfers who came to YSU last summer are Stefan Derrick, Donald Mesier, Trent Hosick, Billy Nicoe Hurst and Damoun Patterson. Hosick came to YSU as a quarterback.

Florida Duo at WR
    YSU's top two returning receivers are Florida natives Alvin Bailey and Damoun Patterson. Last season Bailey caught a team-high 47 passes for 511 yards and five touchdowns while Patterson had 20 receptions for 484 yards and two TDs.
    Patterson averaged a school record 24.2 yards per catch, breaking the mark of 23.4 set in 1969 by Dave DelSignore.
    This season, Bailey has 12 catches for 144 yards while Patterson has four for 58 yards.

TE's Play Big Role
    YSU has three senior tight ends in Kevin Rader, Shane Kuhn and Anthony Parente in addition to Chris Durkin, a fourth-year junior in transfer.
    To open the season, Rader caught a career-high six passes for 100 yards against Pittsburgh.
    Rader had a career year last year with 17 receptions. Kuhn tied a career-high with six catches and has 12 in his career. Kuhn also has 33 rushes for 98 yards and six touchdowns.
    In total, the group has combined to play 92 games the past three years. In fact all three seniors have played in every game since the start of the 2015 season. Kuhn has missed one game since 2014 while Parente has not played in two. Rader played defensive end in 2014.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 132-33 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 25-65.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 159-19-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 134-16 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 156-25 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 84-9-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 185-15 when leading entering the fourth.
• 85-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.
More recently:
• YSU has scored points in 111 straight games.