Penguins Set to Visit Top-Ranked North Dakota State

Nathan Mays
Nathan Mays

    The Youngstown State football team opens November with a road tilt at No. 1 North Dakota State this Saturday at the Fargodome. Kickoff for the contest between the Penguins and the Bison is set for 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time/2:30 p.m. Central time. The game is available on WBCB TV in Youngstown, ESPN+, WKBN 570 AM and iHeartRadio.
    YSU (3-5, 2-3) is coming off a 43-17 defeat to Indiana State last Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium. The Penguins took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Montgomery VanGorder to Jermiah Braswell which capped off an impressive eight-play, 97-yard drive. YSU answered an Indiana State field goal with a 33-yard field goal by Grant Gonya to lead 10-3. However, the Sycamores scored the next 20 points to go in front 23-10 in the third quarter. The Guins pulled within 23-17 on a two-yard scoring run by Tevin McCaster late in the third quarter. Indiana State erupted for 20 points in the fourth quarter to pull away for the win.
    A pair of Penguins had milestones in the defeat. Senior linebacker Armand Dellovade recorded his 300th career tackle in the third quarter. McCaster moved into 10th place in school history in career rushing yardage with 2,671 yards on 550 carries.
    North Dakota State (8-0 and 5-0) continued its impressive play this season with a 59-14 win at South Dakota. The Bison scored 21 first-quarter points and the first 28 in the game. Midway through the third quarter, NDSU was in front 42-7. NDSU amassed 560 yards of total offense, including 384 yards rushing on just 40 attempts. QB Easton Stick threw three touchdown passes and ran for two more as the Bison won their 14th consecutive game.
    In the all-time series, North Dakota State holds an 8-4 lead has won the last six meetings, including an overtime thriller last October at Stambaugh Stadium. YSU had leads of 10-0 and 17-10 in the contest before falling behind 24-17 in the fourth quarter. The Penguins tied the game to force OT with 1:23 remaining. YSU missed a field goal on its lone possession while Cam Pederson's 36-yard field goal was the game winner.
    YSU's last win at the Fargodome was on Nov. 12, 2011 (27-24). The Penguins have lost their last three in Fargo.


Quick Notes
• TB Tevin McCaster is closing in on consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons. McCaster has 936 yards on 193 carries. Last year, McCaster had 1,066 yards on 220 attempts.
• McCaster had 165 yards on 22 attempts against Indiana State. It was his fifth 100-yard game of the season.
• Through the first eight games, Montgomery VanGorder has thrown 13 touchdown passes and has 1,617 yards passing.
• McCaster scored the 32nd rushing touchdown of his career against Indiana State. He has 33 total touchdowns in his career.
• LB Armand Dellovade has a team-high 66 total tackles. He also has a team-best 38 solo stops. Against Indiana State he eclipsed the 300 tackles mark for his YSU career. He has 301 entering the contest vs. NDSU.
• DE Shereif Bynum has a team-high nine tackles for losses. DT Savon Smith has a team-best five sacks.
• Freshman PK Grant Gonya has made the first two field goals of his YSU career.
• Ten different Penguins have caught touchdown passes, and for seven of those it was their first career touchdown catch. WR Natavious Payne and TE Miles Joiner went one better; their first career catch went for a touchdown.  The other four who have hauled in their first TD catches are Tevin McCaster, Zach Farrar, Kendric Mallory, London Pearson and Darius Shackleford.
• Six players have started each of the last 19 games - TB Tevin McCaster, C Vitas Hrynkiewicz, OG Gavin Wiggins, LB Armand Dellovade, DE Johnson Louigene and CB Bryce Gibson.
• The Penguins have had success in November as of late with six consecutive wins. Last year, the Guins beat Southern Illinois, Indiana State and Missouri State. In 2016, YSU won its final three games beating SIU, MSU and Samford (in the opening round of the playoffs).

Last Game: ISU 43, YSU 17
    YSU suffered a disappointing 43-17 defeat to Indiana State last Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium.
    The Penguins took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Montgomery VanGorder to Jermiah Braswell which capped off an impressive eight-play, 97-yard drive. YSU answered an Indiana State field goal with a 33-yard field goal by Grant Gonya to lead 10-3. However, the Sycamores scored the next 20 points to go in front 23-10 in the third quarter.
    The Guins pulled within 23-17 on a two-yard scoring run by Tevin McCaster late in the third quarter. Indiana State erupted for 20 points in the fourth quarter to pull away for the win.

Last Meeting: NDSU 27, YSU 24
     In a heavyweight slugfest, the Penguins and Bison needed more than 60 minutes to settle the outcome. However, YSU came up just short losing 27-24 in overtime to North Dakota State at Stambaugh Stadium last October.
    YSU had the upper hand early taking a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Zak Kennedy gave the Guins a 3-0 lead with a 34-yard field goal, and Damoun Patterson caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Nathan Mays. The Bison tied the game at halftime as Easton Stick found RJ Urzendowski on a 16-yard score and Cam Pedersen made a 19-yard field goal.
    In the third, YSU went ahead 17-10 on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Mays to Kevin Rader. The Bison had the next two scores as Stick threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Nate Jenson and opened the fourth quarter with an 80-yard scoring run. But the Guins rallied to force overtime when Tevin McCaster scored on a one-yard run with 1:23 remaining. In OT, Kennedy missed a 39-yard attempt while Pedersen connected from 36 yards with the game-winner.

Savon Applying Pressure
    Senior DT Savon Smith has been playing some of the best football of his career as of late.
    In the past three games, he has 14 tackles, 6.5 TFLs and four sacks.
    He had the best game of his YSU career in the Penguins' 29-17 win over South Dakota.
    Smith was credited with a career-high seven total tackles and had a career-best six solo stops. He had a career-best three tackles for losses, two sacks and a pair of quarterback hurries against the Coyotes.
    This past week, he had two sacks against Indiana State. Smith also had a pair of sacks in 2016 against UNI.   

McCaster Likes Home Cooking
    Senior TB Tevin McCaster picked up his fifth 100-yard rushing performance of the season with a 165-yard effort against Indiana State.
    McCaster has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the Penguins' five home games this season. He had 166 against Butler, 141 vs. Valparaiso, 116 vs. Southern Illinois and 176 vs. South Dakota besides his 165-yard performance last Saturday vs. Indiana State.
    In YSU's five home games, he has 764 yards on 140 carries and has scored five touchdowns.

Dellovade Reaches 300
    Senior LB Armand Dellovade recorded the 300th tackle of his career in the third quarter of Saturday's game against Indiana State.
    Dellovade entered the game against Indiana State just eight tackles shy of 300 before finishing with nine stops against the Sycamores.
    He is just the 13th player to be credited with 300 tackles as a Penguin and the first since Jeremiah Wright finished with 308 from 2003-07. Dellovade is just seven tackles back of Wright for 12th place in YSU history.

Mays Back In the Fold
    After being sidelined for the first six games, QB Nathan Mays made his season debut in the fourth quarter vs. South Dakota.
    Mays came in and rushed for 76 yards on six carries and had a career-long carry of 50 yards with YSU facing a third-and-10 from their 25-yard line with 3:44 remaining. The play helped the Guins all but ice the victory.
    Against Indiana State, Mays had his first pass attempts of the season completing 6-of-11 attempts for 85 yards.

VanGorder Throwing TDS
    QB Montgomery VanGorder has 13 touchdown passes in his first year with the program. What is most impressive is that he's found 10 different receivers.
    Through eight games, he has completed 125-of-231 passes for 1,617 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is averaging 202.1 yards per contest.
    Last year, the most touchdown passes by any YSU quarterback was five, and four of those came in one game. His 125 completions are more than last year's high of 75 set by Nate Mays.
    On three occasions, VanGorder has thrown for three touchdowns. VanGorder has had three TD tosses against Butler, Valparaiso and at Western Illinois.
    It is the first time since Kurt Hess in 2013 that a YSU quarterback has thrown for three TDs on three occasions during a year. It has happened three other times since 1999 - Jeff Ryan (four in 1999), Brandon Summers (three in 2008) and Hess again in 2011 (three).

McCaster A 2,600/30 Player
    Senior TB Tevin McCaster has rushed for more than 2,600 yards and scored 32 rushing touchdowns in his impressive YSU career.
    In 39 games played, McCaster has rushed for 2,671 yards on 550 carries. He scored the 32nd touchdown of his career last Saturday in the third quarter against Indiana State. McCaster also caught the first touchdown pass of his stellar career vs. South Dakota on Oct. 20.
    In his 19 games as a starter, he has rushed for 2,002 yards on 414 carries and scored 21 of his 32 career TDs.
    With a 141-yard rushing performance against Valparaiso on Sept. 15, McCaster eclipsed the 2,000-yard rushing mark in his YSU career.
    He ranks tied for seventh in school history for rushing touchdowns with 32 with Marschell Brumfield. He is ninth in attempts with 550 moving ahead of Dave Garden (549 - 1972-75), and he jumped up to 10th in rushing yards ahead of Jake Andreadis.

Gonya Makes Strong Debut
    The Penguins made a switch at placekicker against South Dakota with freshman Grant Gonya getting the call.
    After a tough start missing two PAT kicks, which came against a wind gusting up to 30 mph, Gonya settled down to make his third and fourth attempts.
    In the second quarter, he calmly kicked a 27-yard field goal to put the Penguins ahead of the Coyotes, 22-0.
    Against Indiana State he made two extra-point tries and kicked a 33-yard field goal.

Braswell Becomes Go-To Guy
    Junior WR Jermiah Braswell has become a go-to receiver for the Penguins. He caught a career-high six passes for 93 yards and a touchdown against Indiana State.
    Against South Dakota he caught three passes for 66 yards, including a season-long 33-yard reception. Braswell had a 27-yard catch at South Dakota State. He also had a five-catch, 63-yard performance at West Virginia.
    He is the team's active leader with four touchdown receptions. He has 23 receptions for 405 yards, an average of 17.6 per catch.

Plenty of Newcomers
    YSU has had plenty of new faces see action this season.
    A total of 34 players have made their Penguins debut while 22 players, including 13 on offense, have made their first career starts.
    The Guins who have made their first career starts are QB Montgomery VanGorder, OTs Devon Robinson and Charles Baldwin; TEs Miles Joiner, Kierre Hawkins, Chris Durkin and Josh Burgett; WRs Darius Shackleford, Kendric Mallory, Zack Torbert, Ryan Emans, Zach Farrar and Samuel St. Surin; PK Grant Gonya; SS Terray Bryant, SS Chrispin Lee; FS Devanere Crenshaw, NB Will Latham, LB Christiaan Randall-Posey, LB Ray Anderson, DE Shereif Bynum and DT Wes Thompson.
    Nine true freshmen have played this year: WR Natavious Payne, PK Grant Gonya, LB Myles McHaney, DB Paul French, DB Alec Burzynski, LB Griffin Hoak, DT DeMarko Craig, DT Dontae Cilenti and TE Jake Benio. Through eight games, only Payne will not be able to redshirt.

Lee Getting Playing Time
    Senior SS Chrispin Lee has made a big impact in the secondary this season. After seeing limited playing time his entire career, Lee has started the past seven games at strong safety.
    Against Southern Illinois he had 11 total tackles, nine of which were solo stops. He had his first career sack in the contest against the Salukis. At West Virginia earlier in the year he had a career-high 15 stops. At SDSU he was credited with five stops.
    This season, Lee has 50 total tackles, including 30 solo stops, in eight games. In his previous 19 games played, mostly on special teams, he had 13 stops.

Bynum Having Big Year
    Junior DE Shereif Bynum has had a breakout year in his first season as a starter.
    Bynum has 29 total tackles, 19 of which are solo stops. He leads the team with nine TFLs and ranks second with four sacks.
    In three contests this season he has five tackles - West Virginia, Western Illinois and Southern Illinois. Against the Salukis he had a pair of sacks. He also had sacks against Butler and Valparaiso.
    Entering the season, he had four total tackles in his career.

Dellovade Always Plays Tough
    YSU senior LB Armand Dellovade has been a mainstay on the Penguins' defense throughout his career.
    In 46 career games played, Dellovade has  301 career tackles, 180 of which are solo stops. Impressively, Dellovade has made 44 starts in his 46 games played. The only non starts by Dellovade were his first career game at Pittsburgh 2015 and later in the season vs. Missouri State when the Penguins started a six defensive-back package on the contest's opening snap.
    He has had a strong campaign recording at least seven tackles in seven of the eight games. He had a season-best 15 stops vs. Western Illinois on Sept. 29. He leads the team with 66 tackles, including 38 solos. Dellovade intercepted a pass against Valparaiso.
    He had the 300th tackle of his career in the third quarter against Indiana State last Saturday.
    Last season, he was second on the team with 76 total stops, 40 of which were solos. He also had three sacks.
    As a sophomore he had 105 tackles in 16 games. As a true freshman in 2015, he was credited with 54 total tackles.

Kennedy Now Stands Second
    Senior PK Zak Kennedy sits in second place in school history in points by a placekicker.
    With 32 points this season - 17 PATs and five field goals - he now has 286 points which moved him into second. Jeff Wilkins set the school career mark of 373 from 1990-93 before moving on to having a successful NFL career.
    Kennedy has made 51 field goals in his career and 132 extra points in his four years with the program. He has made his last 67 PAT kicks dating back to December 2016.
    Against South Dakota State, he had the first punts of his YSU career. He punted four times for an average of 41.0 yards per kick with a long of 57 yards.

McCaster Up For Payton
    Tevin McCaster is one of 32 FCS offensive standouts who have been named to the Walter Payton Award Watch List by STATS FCS.
    McCaster is one of five Missouri Valley Football Conference representatives on the Watch List. Other MVFC standouts on the list include Illinois State running back James Robinson, North Dakota State running back Bruce Anderson, NDSU quarterback Easton Stick and South Dakota State quarterback Taryn Christion.
    This year he has 936 yards on 193 carries and eight touchdowns. He is averaging 117 yards per contest.
    McCaster has rushed for more than 100 yards in five of eight games this year.

Spreading the Ball Around
    The Penguins have had an impressive 16 different players catch passes this year.
    Overall, nine wide receivers, four tight ends and three tailbacks have caught passes from QB Montgomery VanGorder.
    Wide receivers with receptions are Zach Farrar, Samuel St. Surin, Kendric Mallory, Darius Shackleford, Natavious Payne, Jermiah Braswell, Ryan Emans, Zack Torbert and Jake Cummings.
    TBs Christian Turner, Tevin McCaster and London Pearson have catches as do TEs Miles Joiner, Chris Durkin, Josh Burgett and Kierre Hawkins.
    Ten different players have a touchdown reception while Mallory, Braswell and Joiner are tied for the team lead with two each.
    An impressive 12 players caught passes in the game at Western Illinois on Sept. 29.

Strong Down The Middle
    YSU's offensive line features experienced players in center Vitas Hrynkiewicz, guard Gavin Wiggins and guard Connor Sharp.
    The Penguins feature new tackles this year as they replace four-year starter Justin Spencer and last year's starter Cameron Fraser.
    Redshirt freshman left tackle Dan Becker has started the first seven games while Kansas transfer right tackle Charles Baldwin has started five at right tackle and junior college transfer Devon Robinson has started twice.
    Wiggins has started 39 straight games, Hrynkiewicz has started the past 35 while Sharp made his 12th career start vs. South Dakota.

Pick Six For Smalls
    With lottery fever gripping the U.S., DJ Smalls joined the fun two weeks ago returning an interception 65 yards for a touchdown against South Dakota. After the game, his grandmother thought his "pick six" had something to do with the lottery numbers for the evening. In some ways she was right, but the Penguins were happy to get an interception return to be a winner.
    Smalls' return for a TD was the first by the Guins since Jayln Powell also had an interception return in the fourth quarter against USD at Stambaugh Stadium in 2016.

VanGorder's Record Breaker
    QB Montgomery VanGorder set three school single-game passing records at Western Illinois.
    VanGorder finished the game with 418 yards passing completing 33-of-57 passes. In the first half, he was a modest 7-of-15 for 83 yards.
    In the third quarter he was 11-of-18 for 140 yards, and in the fourth period he was 15-of-24 for 191 yards. In total, he was 26-of-42 for 331 yards and three touchdowns in the second half.

Gibson Leads Secondary
    Sophomore CB Bryce Gibson has been the leader of a secondary that's improved the past four games after some shuffling to start the year.
    Eight different players have started a game in the secondary with Gibson and DJ Smalls being the only two to have started all eight games.
    Chrispin Lee has started seven games, Devanere Crenshaw has started the last five games,
Will Latham has started four games while Avery Larkin has started three. Melvin Jackson and Terray Bryant have each started once as well. Jackson made his first career start vs. SIU.
    Against SIU, the unit allowed just 105 yards passing and 12 completions.
    At SDSU, the Guins held the Jackrabbits' passing offense in check allowing just 78 yards.
    YSU held South Dakota to just 158 yards passing. USD entered the game averaging 320.7 yards a contest.
    Last year, Gibson started all 11 games as a true freshman. The Guins started a pair of seniors in Jalyn Powell and Billy Nicoe Hurst along with sophomore Kyle Hegedus last year. Hegedus tore the ACL in his right knee and was lost for the season leaving YSU without three starters from 2017. YSU's unit led the FCS in fewest passing yards allowed in 2017.

Tough In November
    The Penguins have won six straight games in November dating back to a 24-3 loss at North Dakota State in 2016. YSU was 3-0 in November last year and won its last three games in 2016 to run its win streak to six.
    In 2017, YSU won at Southern Illinois and Indiana State before knocking off Missouri State to end the season. In 2016, the Guins beat Southern Illinois at home before winning at Missouri State. In the opening round of the playoffs, the Guins beat Samford.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 136-36 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 27-71.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 165-20-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 140-18 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 161-27 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 87-10-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 191-16 when leading entering the fourth.
• 88-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.

Up Next:
    YSU plays its final home game of the season against UNI. Kickoff at Stambaugh Stadium is set for Noon.