Penguins Venture to Southern Illinois For Final Road Test

The Penguins play at Southern Illinois on Saturday.
The Penguins play at Southern Illinois on Saturday.

    The Youngstown State football team plays its final road game of the season at Southern Illinois on Saturday afternoon. Kickoff for the contest at Saluki Stadium is set for 2 p.m. Eastern/1 p.m. Central time. The game is available on WBCB TV, Watch ESPN, WKBN 570 AM and iHeartRadio.
    YSU (4-5 overall, 2-4 in the MVFC) picked up an impressive 66-24 win at Indiana State last Saturday. Quarterback Ricky Davis, who was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference's Offensive Player of the Week, had four passing scores and a pair of rushing touchdowns in the victory.
    The Penguins jumped out to a 28-0 first quarter lead against the Sycamores. Davis opened the scoring with a 57-yard quarterback keeper on YSU's second offensive snap before adding a one-yard run. The Penguins then scored on a two-yard fumble return by Alvin Bailey and a 39-yard strike from Davis to Jermiah Braswell.
    The Sycamores scored 24 points between the final play of the first quarter and halftime while the Guins had 10 on a Zak Kennedy field goal and Tevin McCaster TD run. In the second half, YSU outscored Indiana State 28-0. In the third quarter, Davis had a pair of long touchdown passes to Samuel St. Surin (61 and 64 yards) while Joe Alessi added a pair of scoring runs in the fourth quarter. The 66-point outburst set a school record for most points scored in a conference game and were the third-most in school history.
    Davis passed for a career-high 349 yards and rushed for a career-best 98. He completed just 10-of-12 passes in the first three quarters of play.
    Southern Illinois (4-5, 2-4) suffered a 36-28 loss to Missouri State last Saturday at Saluki Stadium. The Bears jumped out to a 24-7 lead before the Salukis rallied to take a 28-27 lead early in the fourth quarter on a 47-yard touchdown pass from Tanner Hearn to D.J. Davis. But the Bears scored the final nine points of the contest to earn the victory. Hearn and Matt DeSomer combined to complete 22-of-34 passes for 257 yards and SIU had 496 yards of total offense in the contest.
    The Penguins own a 15-12-1 all-time series edge, including a 21-14 win last November at Stambaugh Stadium. The Salukis rallied for a 38-31 overtime win in Carbondale in 2015.


Quick Notes
• YSU set a school record for points in a conference game with 66 against Indiana State. It was the third-highest point total in a game in school history.
• The Penguins had 638 yards of total offense, the sixth-highest effort in school history.
• QB Ricky Davis had a career-high 349 yards passing and 98 yards rushing in just over three quarters of action.
• YSU played three quarterbacks in the game - Davis, Hunter Wells and Chris Durkin. It was Durkin's first career appearance at QB and Wells' first since the contest against South Dakota State.
• The Penguins intercepted three passes against the Sycamores. It was the most YSU interceptions in a game since Sept. 26, 2009 - at Indiana State.
• YSU has outscored opponents 134-50 in the second half and 73-20 in the fourth quarter.
• TB Tevin McCaster has scored a touchdown in seven games this season.
• WR Alvin Bailey has caught a pass in all 24 games of his Penguins career. He has 30 catches for 397 yards this year.
• OT Justin Spencer has started 48 straight games on the offensive line. Spencer, Gavin Wiggins and Vitas Hrynkiewicz have started the past 25 games together on the line.
• The Penguins have had advantages of more than five minutes in time of possession in four of the last six contests.
• WR Damoun Patterson had his third 100-yard receiving effort of his career with 143 yards on five catches vs. Indiana State.
• WR Samuel St. Surin had two touchdown receptions in the third quarter - 61 and 64 yards. They were the first receiving touchdowns of his career.

Last Time Out: YSU 66, ISU 24
    YSU picked up an impressive 66-24 win at Indiana State last Saturday.
    The Penguins jumped out to a 28-0 first quarter lead against the Sycamores. Davis opened the scoring with a 57-yard scoring run on YSU's second offensive snap before adding a one-yard run. The Penguins then scored on a two-yard fumble return by Alvin Bailey and a 39-yard strike from Davis to Jermiah Braswell.
    The Sycamores scored 24 points between the final play of the first quarter and halftime while the Guins had 10 on a Zak Kennedy field goal and Tevin McCaster TD run. In the second half, YSU outscored Indiana State 28-0. In the third quarter, Davis had a pair of long touchdown passes to Samuel St. Surin (61 and 64 yards) while Joe Alessi added a pair of scoring runs in the fourth quarter.
    Davis passed for a career-high 349 yards and rushed for a career-best 98. He completed just 10-of-12 passes in just three quarters.

Last Meeting: YSU 21, SIU 14
    The Penguins took an early lead then had to score the winning touchdown and play solid defense to beat Southern Illinois 21-14 last year at Stambaugh Stadium.
    YSU jumped out to a 14-0 lead only to see the Salukis tie the contest in the fourth quarter. But a resilient YSU team found another way to win at home when QB Hunter Wells threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Darien Townsend with 4:59 remaining. From there the defense had to stop two late drives by SIU to seal the win.
    Tevin McCaster gave the Penguins a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter when he scored on a one-yard run. On its next offensive possession, YSU extended the lead to 14-0 with 11:56 left in the second quarter on a 10-yard pass from Wells to Alvin Bailey.
    SIU tied the game with touchdowns in the third and fourth quarter before Wells found Townsend with 4:59 left. SIU had a first-and-goal at the YSU 10-yard line, but did not score, and a final play Hail Mary pass completion ended the game at the Penguins' five.

Game to Remember For Davis
    Senior Ricky Davis had one of the best performances by a starting quarterback in school history at Indiana State.
    Davis accounted for six touchdowns and had career highs in passing yards and rushing yards in the Penguins' 66-24 win at Indiana State.
    He completed 10-of-12 passes for 349 yards and four scores. His yardage total was the fourth-most in school history and the most by a YSU QB since 1983 (Jamie DeVore vs. Eastern Kentucky). Davis averaged an impressive 34.9 yards per completion. He is the first YSU quarterback with four touchdown passes in a game since Hunter Wells against Butler in 2014.
    Davis had completions of 6, 10, 18, 19, 23, 39, 52, 53, 61 and 64 yards in the game. He also completed 10 of his final 11 attempts. YSU did not attempt a pass in the fourth quarter.
    He also added 98 yards rushing and two scores on 14 attempts. He had scoring runs of one and 57 yards in the first quarter. His 57-yard run came on YSU's second offensive snap of the contest. His previous rushing high was 97 yards at Illinois State in 2016. His previous best passing performance was a 281-yard effort against South Dakota, also in 2016.

Secondary Growing Together
    YSU's secondary has been a strength of the team this season.
    Against Indiana State, the Penguins intercepted a season-high three passes.
    Opposing QBs have completed just 51.7 percent of their passing attempts for a total of 1,421 yards - 157.9 yards per game average.
    Billy Nicoe Hurst, Bryce Gibson and Jalyn Powell have started all nine games while Kyle Hegedus has started the last eight contests.
    Hegedus is tied for the team lead with 66 total tackles while Powell ranks fourth with 63. Powell leads the team with 41 solo stops while Hegedus is second with 39.
    Through nine games, the Guins have allowed just eight passing touchdowns. Last year they allowed 26 in 16 games. As a unit, YSU has 38 pass breakups and five interceptions.

Spencer Shows Durability
    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 48 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.

Dellovade Playing Tough
    YSU junior LB Armand Dellovade has led the Penguins in tackles in each of the past three games. Dellovade had a career-best 15 tackles in the 19-14 loss at UNI. Against the Panthers he had four solo stops and 11 assists.
    Last time out he had eight tackles, three of which were solos. He had 11 total tackles, including an impressive 10 solo stops vs. Illinois State.
    In 36 career games played, Dellovade has 225 career tackles, 136 of which are solo stops.

Not In A Giving Mood
    YSU has committed just five turnovers through nine games. The Penguins lead the FCS in fewest giveaways this season. Grambling ranks second with six while San Diego and Norfolk State are third with two.
    YSU has thrown three interceptions - which is tied for the third fewest - and lost two fumbles - which is also third fewest.
    The Guins have had five turnover-free games this season, including last Saturday at Indiana State.
    Impressively, the Penguins have just one turnover on the road this year - a Hunter Wells interception on the final play of overtime at Pittsburgh.

Kennedy In Top Four
    With an 11-point effort at Indiana State, junior PK Zak Kennedy now ranks fourth in school history in points by a placekicker. Against the Sycamores, Kennedy had a field goal and eight extra points.
    Against ISU, Kennedy moved past John Dowling (237) and Paul McFadden (240) and now has 242 points in a YSU uniform. He has made 45 field goals in his career and 107 extra points.
    This season, Kennedy has 55 points. As a sophomore he scored 96 points and as a freshman had 91.

Guins Strike Fast, Often
    The Penguins scored points on six of seven drives at the outset of the game at Indiana State, including five touchdowns.
    Three of the seven drives were five plays or fewer and two were just two plays. In the second half, YSU had four touchdown drives, including a one-play, 67-yard score.

Turnover Lead to Points
    YSU has forced eight turnovers this season, and it has turned seven of them into points (six touchdowns and a field goal).
    At Indiana State, the Penguins intercepted three passes and converted all three turnovers into touchdowns.
    Against South Dakota State, YSU recovered a first-quarter fumble that led to a touchdown and intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter which enabled them to run out the clock.
    YSU turned a third-quarter interception into a score vs. Central Connecticut State. Against Robert Morris, YSU turned a fumble recovery into a field goal. At Pittsburgh, the Guins took advantage of a fourth-quarter fumble with a TD.

Losing Some Close Ones
    Four of YSU's five losses this season have come by a total of 18 points. Three of those defeats have come on the road by a total of 15 points. YSU dropped its opener at Pittsburgh 28-21 in overtime, lost a 31-28 contest at South Dakota on a late field goal and dropped a 19-14 decision at UNI. YSU had its 11-game home winning streak snapped by North Dakota State with a 27-24 overtime defeat.

March of the Penguins
    This season the Penguins have 29 drives of at least eight-or-more plays this year.
    YSU had four scoring drives vs. NDSU and all four were more than eight plays. The Penguins tied the game up with 1:23 remaining with a nine-play, 90-yard drive that took 5:01. Most recently at UNI, YSU had three eight-play drives, including a 14-play sequence that ended with a missed field goal.
    At South Dakota, YSU had four drives for eight plays, and three of those ended in touchdowns. Against South Dakota State, YSU had six drives of nine plays or longer.
    Against SDSU, the Guins' offense had six drives that lasted nine or more plays. YSU had drives of nine (twice), 14, 15 (twice) and 16 against the Jackrabbits. YSU had a school record 45:14 time of possession in the contest.

Working Overtime
    Twice this season the Penguins have played an overtime game. YSU battled North Dakota State to OT after the contest was tied at 24 at the end of regulation. The Penguins, however, suffered a 27-24 setback to the Bison.
    YSU opened the season with an overtime contest at Pittsburgh. The Penguins came up short in that contest as the Panthers scored a TD and the defense held YSU in a 28-21 contest.
    YSU is now 8-7 all-time in overtime games and has played six since November 2014 after last playing an overtime game in September 2004. At home, the Penguins are 5-3 with their last win coming against Wofford in 2016.

The Wright Stuff
    Senior LB Lee Wright, a 2015 second-team All-MVFC honoree, has 172 career tackles in 25 games played. Wright has been a starter for the Penguins on 23 occasions during his career.
    This year he has 65 total tackles, 32 solos and 33 assists. He has five-or-more tackles in seven contests, highlighted by 10 at Pittsburgh and 10 at UNI.
    He ranks third on the squad with his 65 total tackles.
    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 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.

McCaster Making Moves
    Junior TB Tevin McCaster has scored a touchdown in seven of YSU's nine games.
    At Indiana State, McCaster had 22 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown.
    McCaster, who had four scores at South Dakota on Oct. 7, scored on a one-yard run with 1:23 left in regulation to help the Penguins force overtime vs. NDSU.
    At South Dakota, McCaster scored a career-high four touchdowns. He rushed for 90 yards on 22 carries against the Coyotes. Against South Dakota State, McCaster had a career-high 35 rushes for a career-best 183 yards.
    This season, McCaster has 727 yards on 168 carries and 10 touchdowns.

Chapman Providing Pressure
    Senior DE Fazson Chapman has performed well in his first year as a starter for the Penguins.
    Through nine games, Chapman has 33 tackles, which includes 6.5 TFLs and four sacks. In the past four games, he has performed well with 21 total tackles.
    At UNI, Chapman had five total tackles, which included a pair of TFLs. Against North Dakota State, he had five tackles, including four solo stops. At South Dakota, Chapman had five tackles, including a sack and a forced fumble.
    In his career prior to this season, he had one assisted tackle and two quarterback hurries. Last season, he was a backup to third-round NFL Draft pick Derek Rivers.

True Freshmen See Action
    Last year YSU played two true freshmen; one was a kickoff specialist and the other was a special teams/reserve linebacker. After nine games in 2017, YSU has played four.
    TB Christian Turner has 741 all-purpose yards. CB Bryce Gibson has started each game at cornerback. Jake Coates is YSU's punt returner and a kick returner and LB Terray Bryant has played on special teams.

Patterson Plays Big Role
    Senior WR Damoun Patterson has stepped up in the past four games with 14 catches for 314 yards and two touchdowns.
    Last Saturday at Indiana State, he had five catches for 143 yards. He caught five passes for 100 yards and a touchdown against UNI.
    In the first five games of the season he had nine catches for 126 yards and no touchdowns.

Schuler Has Been Solid
    Sophomore punter Mark Schuler has had strong efforts the past two games. Against Illinois State, Schuler tied his career high for punts with eight and averaged 40.5 yards per attempt against the Redbirds.
    At Indiana State, he had three punts for an average of 44 yards per punt and placed two inside the opposition's 20-yard line.
    This season he has played in seven games – did not punt against Robert Morris and Central Connecticut – and has 34 punts for an average of 42.3 yards per boot.
    He has placed 11 kicks inside the opponents' 20-yard line and has five kicks of more than 50 yards on the campaign. Last season he averaged 42.5 yards per punt.

Mays Performs Admirably
    Sophomore QB Nathan Mays continued his strong play with starter Hunter Wells out of the lineup. Mays, who has started five games and come on during the first series in two others, has played well for the Penguins.
    Against North Dakota State, he rushed 21 times for 81 yards, including a long run of 36 yards on YSU's final drive of the game. He completed 11-of-15 pass attempts for a career-best 188 yards in the game and had two touchdowns.
    This year Mays has rushed for 317 yards on 77 carries and completed 75-of-113 passes for 905 yards.

Rugged Ranked Stretch
    The Penguins endured a daunting stretch facing then fourth-ranked South Dakota State, then-sixth-ranked South Dakota and second-ranked North Dakota State. YSU also played then 16th-ranked Illinois State.
    YSU came within six points of sweeping the top five teams (USD and NDSU), but came up just short on two occasions.
     The Guins opened MVFC play with an impressive 19-7 win over South Dakota State. YSU then dropped a 31-28 decision at South Dakota as the Coyotes kicked a field goal with seven seconds left. Against NDSU, YSU lost in overtime after missing a field goal while the Bison converted a 36-yarder for the win.

McCaster Carries the Load
    Junior TB Tevin McCaster has rushed for more than 62 yards in seven games this year. McCaster also has at least 19 carries in six contests.
    This year, he has rushed for 727 yards on 168 carries and has 10 touchdowns. McCaster has two 100-yard efforts so far this year - 183 vs. South Dakota State and 101 vs. Central Connecticut. Against the Jackrabbits he had a career-high 35 carries.
    He has touchdowns in seven games this season. In his career, YSU is 12-4 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. His best performance was at EWU, where he had 154 yards on 29 carries and scored three touchdowns.
    He was the only running back to play in all 16 games in 2016.

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.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 134-35 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 25-66.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 160-20-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 136-16 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 157-26 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 85-9-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 187-15 when leading entering the fourth.
• 86-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.

Up Next:
    The Penguins close out the season next Saturday against Missouri State. Kickoff for the Senior Day contest against the Bears is set for noon at Stambaugh Stadium.