Penguins Face Another Strong Challenge at Sixth-Ranked South Dakota

Fazson Chapman
Fazson Chapman

    The third-ranked Youngstown State football team faces another tough Missouri Valley Football Conference challenge as it visits No. 6 South Dakota on Saturday. Kickoff for the top-six clash at the DakotaDome in Vermillion, S. D. is set for 3 p.m. Eastern Time/2 p.m. Central Time. The game is available on Watch ESPN, WBCB TV, WKBN 570 AM and iHeartRadio.
    YSU (3-1 overall, 1-0 in the MVFC) picked up a big win in its conference opener last Saturday night over South Dakota State. The Penguins beat the fourth-ranked Jackrabbits 19-7 behind an impressive all-around performance. The Guins never trailed in the contest while amassing 448 yards of total offense. YSU maintained possession for 45:14 of the game while running 86 offensive plays to SDSU's 37.
    YSU took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when Nathan Mays scored on a four-yard keeper. After SDSU tied the contest 7-7 following a 10-yard pass from Taryn Christion to Jake Wieneke early in the second, the Penguins had the upper-hand. TB Tevin McCaster scored on a one-yard run with 10:02 left in the second quarter to put the Guins ahead 14-7.
    In the second half, YSU played keep away scoring five points on a safety and a 24-yard Zak Kennedy field goal. YSU had the ball for nearly 26 minutes of the second half. It was the first win over SDSU at Stambaugh Stadium since 2007.
    South Dakota (4-0, 1-0) has been one of the most impressive FCS teams through the first five weeks of the season. The Coyotes are coming off a 38-33 win at Western Illinois last Saturday. South Dakota jumped out to a 38-6 lead over the Leathernecks before WIU rallied with 27 late points. The Coyotes have been starting games quickly to say the least. South Dakota has outscored teams 73-3 in the first quarter and 132-22 in the first half. The Coyotes own an impressive win at Bowling Green.
    This will be the sixth meeting in the all-time series and third at the DakotaDome. YSU has won all five previous contests, including a 31-3 win in a 2015 trip to South Dakota. The Penguins won last year's meeting 30-20 at Stambaugh Stadium.





Quick Notes
• YSU dominated the statistics in the 12-point win over South Dakota State. The Penguins had 49 more plays, 228 more yards of total offense, 19 more first downs, and 47 more rushing plays. They dominated time of possession by 30:28.
• The Penguins have allowed just 16 points in the last 12 quarters. Since the halftime mark against Pittsburgh, YSU has allowed 23 points in 14 periods.
• YSU has gone three straight games without allowing an opponent to score in double figures. It marks the first time since the start of the 2001 campaign that YSU has accomplished the feat.
• The 44 points allowed in the first four games are also the fewest in a four-game span to open the season since 2001. YSU played two Division II foes to start that campaign.
• Since Warren-Tribune reporter Joe Simon's wedding prior to the RMU contest, the Penguins have outscored opponents 108-16.
• TB Tevin McCaster has scored a touchdown in each of the past four games. QB Nathan Mays has scored a touchdown in the past three games.
• LB Armand Dellovade was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference's Defensive Player of the Week for his performance vs. SDSU. Dellovade had a key interception and tackled SDSU running back Mikey Daniel in the end zone for a safety.
• YSU's offensive line was named the MVFC Offensive Linemen of the Week. The Penguins had six linemen see action against the Jackrabbits, four of which played the entire game.
• OT Justin Spencer has started 43 straight games on the offensive line. Spencer, Gavin Wiggins and Vitas Hrynkiewicz have started the past 20 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 19, SDSU 7
    The Penguins beat the fourth-ranked Jackrabbits 19-7 behind an impressive all-around performance last Saturday night at Stambaugh Stadium.
    The Guins never trailed in the contest while amassing 448 yards of total offense. YSU maintained possession for 45:14 of the game while running 86 offensive plays to SDSU's 37.
    YSU took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when QB Nathan Mays scored on a four-yard keeper. After SDSU tied the contest 7-7 following a 10-yard pass from Taryn Christion to Jake Wieneke early in the second, the Penguins had the upper-hand. TB Tevin McCaster scored on a one-yard run with 10:02 left in the second quarter to put the Guins ahead 14-7.
    In the second half, YSU played keep away scoring five points on a safety and a 24-yard Zak Kennedy field goal. YSU had the ball for nearly 26 minutes of the second half. It was the first win over SDSU at Stambaugh Stadium since 2007.

Last Meeting: YSU 30, USD 20
    YSU opened MVFC play with a 30-20 victory over South Dakota at Stambaugh Stadium.
    The Penguins scored on their opening possession and never led by fewer than double digits after Martin Ruiz's second rushing touchdown of the game 49 seconds into the second quarter.
    PK Zak Kennedy kicked three field goals in the win while Jalyn Powell's fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown helped seal the victory.
    YSU held South Dakota to just two field goals in the first 54:36 before the Coyotes had two touchdown passes late in the contest. QB Ricky Davis threw for a career-high 281 yards completing 15-of-23 passes in the game. Davis was 10-of-12 in the first half for 232 yards.
    DE Derek Rivers added a pair of sacks as the defense stopped the Coyotes on 13 of 17 third-down conversion tries.

Penguins Set TOP Mark
    YSU maintained possession of the football for a school-record 45:14 against South Dakota State on Saturday night. The Penguins' previous high in possession time was against Samford in the FCS Playoffs in 1991.
    Against the Bulldogs, YSU held on to the ball for 42:52 in a semifinal victory. Ironically in both games, YSU ran 86 total offensive plays (63 rushes, 23 passes vs. SDSU / 81 rushes, 5 passes vs. Samford).

McCaster Has Career Game
    Junior TB Tevin McCaster was the workhorse for the Penguins in the 19-7 win over South Dakota State. McCaster had a career-high 35 rushes for a career-best 183 yards. McCaster scored on a one-yard run in the second quarter to give the Penguins a 14-7 lead in the second quarter. YSU is 11-2 during his career when McCaster scores a rushing touchdown.

Few With Tackles
    The Penguins held South Dakota State to just 37 plays last Saturday. That was the fewest number of plays from scrimmage against the Penguins in school history. The previous low was 38 by Indiana State on Oct. 4, 1997.
    With the low amount of plays, YSU only had nine players register tackles on a play by SDSU's offense.
March of the Penguins
    Against South Dakota State, the Penguins offense had six drives that lasted nine or more plays. In the first half, YSU had a 16-play, 94-yard drive (8:54), a nine-play, 75-yard drive (4:13) and a 14-play, 78-yard drive (3:34). In the second half, YSU had a nine-play, 38-yard drive (4:33), a 15-play, 60-yard drive (9:07) and a 15-play, 80-yard march (8:38) that ended the game. YSU had non-scoring drives end at the SDSU two-yard line and two at the one-yard line.

Another Ranked Foe
    The Penguins will face a highly-ranked squad once again in sixth-ranked South Dakota.
    The Coyotes are the fifth top-10 ranked team
that YSU will play in its last eight games against FCS competition. In last year's playoffs, the Penguins faced third-ranked Jacksonville State, second-ranked Eastern Washington and fourth-ranked James Madison in three of their final four games.
    In the past calendar year (since Oct. 8, 2016) YSU has played eight of the nine teams currently ranked in this week's FCS top 10 (including South Dakota State twice). Impressively, the Guins have beaten six of the eight teams.
    After Saturday, the schedule doesn't get any easier with second-ranked North Dakota State set to visit YSU on Oct. 14.

McCaster TD A Good Sign
    Junior TB Tevin McCaster has started the past four games for the Penguins. McCaster has rushed for more than 73 yards in all four games and had a career-high 183 yards on a personal-best 35 carries vs. South Dakota State.
    Through four games, he has rushed for 446 yards on 85 carries and has four touchdowns. McCaster has two 100-yard efforts so far this year, the other being a 101-yard performance vs. Central Connecticut.
    He has scored touchdowns in each of the first four games this season. In his career, YSU is 11-2 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. 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.

Secondary Growing Together
    YSU lost five members of last year's secondary, but through four games the group hasn't skipped a beat.
    Opposing QBs have completed just 52.2 percent of their passing attempts for a total of 490 yards - 122.5 yards per game average.
    Billy Nicoe Hurst, Bryce Gibson and Jalyn Powell have started all four games while Kyle Hegedus has stepped in to start the last three games. Hegedus and Powell are tied for the team lead with 27 tackles.
    Through four games, the Guins have allowed just two passing touchdowns. Last year they allowed 26 in 16 games.
    As a defensive unit, YSU has 17 pass breakups and two interceptions this year.

Defense Becomes Stout
    The Penguins allowed 21 points in the first half at Pittsburgh, and, since that time YSU has surrendered just 23 points in 14 quarters.
    YSU blanked the Panthers in the second half 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.    SDSU's lone score came in the second quarter.
    YSU has shut out three of its four opponents in the second half this year.

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 four games.
    YSU 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.
    SDSU had just 21 pass attempts and ran 36 offensive plays last Saturday.

Mays Steps In
    Sophomore QB Nathan Mays has stepped in and played well over the past three games. In two of the contests, Mays was not the starter, but came on during the first drive of the game when starting QB Hunter Wells left with an injury.
    In the past three games, Mays has rushed for 224 yards on 22 carries and scored five touchdowns. He has completed 35-of-48 passes for 373 yards with a touchdown.
    Against SDSU, Mays had 11 carries for 65 yards and a touchdown. He completed 14-of-19 passes for 113 yards.
    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.

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 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.
    Against South Dakota State, he had 62 yards rushing and 19 receiving for 81 yards.
    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.

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 four games, Dellovade has 19 tackles, including a nine-tackle performance at Pitt. Dellovade had a tackle-for-loss which resulted in a safety and an interception that stopped the Jackrabbits' final drive of the game.
    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.

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 43 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.

Justus Is Served
    Newcomer DE Justus Reed has made a big impact so far for the Penguins. Reed has four sacks this season, which leads the team. 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 four games he has 12 total tackles with seven solo stops and five assists.

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 500 all-purpose yards. CB Bryce Gibson has started all four games at cornerback. Jake Coates is YSU's punt returner and a kick returner.

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 18 games. The Penguins are 14-4 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.

The Wright Stuff
    Senior LB Lee Wright, a 2015 second-team All-MVFC honoree, is off to a fast start this year. In four games, Wright has 23 total tackles, 11 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 five of his last six field goals for the Penguins. His lone miss in the past three games came on a 56-yard attempt.
    Against SDSU, he made a 27-yard field goal. 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 year making 19-of-23 attempts to earn first-team All-MVFC honors.
    In his two seasons as YSU's placekicker, Kennedy is 43-of-59 in field-goal tries.

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.
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.

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.
    In total, the group has combined to play 96 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 133-33 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 25-65.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 160-19-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 135-16 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 156-25 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 85-9-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 186-15 when leading entering the fourth.
• 86-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.
More recently:
• YSU has scored points in 112 straight games.