Penguins Get Set to Host Southern Illinois on Homecoming

Steven Wethli (Photo by Ron Stevens)
Steven Wethli (Photo by Ron Stevens)

    The Youngstown State football team returns to Stambaugh Stadium on Saturday to take on Southern Illinois. The annual Homecoming contest will kick off at 6 p.m. The game is available on ESPN+, WKBN 570 AM and iHeartRadio.
    YSU (1-3, 0-1) suffered a 45-38 defeat against Western Illinois last Saturday at Hanson Field in Macomb, Ill. The Penguins had a brief first-quarter lead before facing second-half deficits of 30-10 and 45-24. However, the Penguins kept battling pulling within 30-24 and 45-38 in the fourth quarter.
    Highlighting the contest was the performance of senior quarterback Montgomery VanGorder. VanGorder set school single-game records for pass completions, attempts and yards while throwing three touchdown passes against the Leathernecks. He completed 33-of-57 attempts for 418 yards against WIU with most of the yards coming in the second half.
    After falling behind 6-0, a Tevin McCaster three-yard scoring run gave the Penguins a 7-6 lead. WIU scored the final 10 points of the first half, and a 75-yard run by Steve McShane extended the advantage to 23-7 early in the third. Trailing 30-10, VanGorder connected with Zach Farrar on 21-yard touchdown and McCaster scored on a two-yard carry to make it a 30-24 contest. But two WIU touchdowns in a span of 58 seconds pushed the lead out to 45-24. In the final five minutes, VanGorder threw touchdown passes to Jeremiah Braswell and London Pearson for the final margin.
    Southern Illinois (1-3, 0-1) dropped its MVFC opener at home last Saturday to South Dakota by a 31-24 score. The Salukis led 17-10 at halftime before the Coyotes scored 21 third-quarter points on three Austin Simmons touchdown passes, the last of which was an 89-yard score to Dakarai Allen. The Salukis pulled within a touchdown with a minute left in the game, but could not complete the comeback. QB Sam Straub threw for 320 yards completing 32-of-59 passes against USD.
    The Penguins lead the all-time series against the Salukis by a 16-12-1 margin. YSU won 28-20 last year in Carbondale, and it has won four the past five in the series, including the past two at Stambaugh Stadium. In Youngstown, the Guins have won three of the last four contests.



Quick Notes
• Through the first four games Montgomery VanGorder has thrown 10 touchdown passes. He has completed 75 passes for 1,011 yards and is averaging 252.8 yards per game.
• VanGorder broke three YSU single-game records vs. Western Illinois that had stood for an impressive amount of time. Two had lasted nearly 50 years - passing yards, passing attempts (1968) - and another more than 10 (2008) - pass completions.
• After four games, Tevin McCaster has 419 yards rushing and five touchdowns. He is averaging 104.8 yards per game. He had a pair of touchdowns against WIU.
• WR Zach Farrar has a team-high 16 catches for 256 yards. He caught his first career touchdown pass against Western Illinois.
• LB Armand Dellovade tied his career-high with 15 tackles at Western Illinois. He had seven solos and eight assists at WIU. He had 15 tackles at UNI last year.
• So far this year, eight Penguins have caught touchdown passes, and for six 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 Farrar, Kendric Mallory, London Pearson and Darius Shackleford.
• Six players have started each of the last 15 games - TB Tevin McCaster, C Vitas Hrynkiewicz, OG Gavin Wiggins, LB Armand Dellovade, DE Johnson Louigene and CB Bryce Gibson.
• PK Zak Kennedy has made his last 67 PATs entering the game vs. Southern Illinois. His last miss came in the second quarter of YSU's playoff win over Wofford in 2016.

Last Game: WIU 45, YSU 38
    YSU suffered a 45-38 defeat against Western Illinois last Saturday at Hanson Field in Macomb, Ill. The Penguins had a brief first-quarter lead before facing second-half deficits of 30-10 and 45-24. However, the Penguins kept battling pulling within 30-24 and 45-38 in the fourth quarter.
    After falling behind 6-0, a Tevin McCaster three-yard scoring run gave the Penguins a 7-6 lead. WIU scored the final 10 points of the first half, and a 75-yard run by Steve McShane extended the advantage to 23-7 early in the third.
    Trailing 30-10, Montgomery VanGorder connected with Zach Farrar on 21-yard touchdown and McCaster scored on a two-yard carry to make it a 30-24 contest. But two WIU touchdowns in a span of 58 seconds pushed the lead out to 45-24. In the final five minutes, VanGorder threw touchdown passes to Jeremiah Braswell and London Pearson for the final score.

Last Meeting: YSU 28, SIU 20
    Youngstown State overcame four turnovers, and the defense came up with a big fourth-quarter TD to seal a 28-20 victory over Southern Illinois on Nov. 11, 2017, at Saluki Stadium.
    After falling behind 7-0, Hunter Wells and Damoun Patterson combined for a pair of touchdown passes. The first was from 48 yards on a deep ball while the second was from 14 yards in the final minute before halftime. Following an SIU field goal, Tevin McCaster scored on fourth-and-goal from the one as YSU went ahead 21-10.
    The Salukis fought back to pull within 21-20 scoring the next 10 points. With just under two minutes remaining, DE Justus Reed forced a sack-fumble from Matt DeSomer and scooped up the ball at the SIU 21. Reed scored from there to take a 28-20 lead with 1:44 left. The YSU defense stopped a final Salukis drive for the win.

Homecoming Happiness
    The Penguins are playing their 78th Homecoming contest this Saturday against Southern Illinois. YSU has won five of its last seven Homecoming contests.
    The Penguins own an all-time mark of 52-24-1 in Homecoming contests. SIU has been YSU's Homecoming opponent on four occasions. The Penguins are 4-0 against the Salukis with wins in 2014, 2002, 1998 and 1968.
    At Stambaugh Stadium, YSU 24-12 in Homecoming games.

VanGorder Off to Hot Start
    QB Montgomery VanGorder is off to a hot start in his first year with the Penguins. Through four games he has completed 75-of-129 passes for 1,011 yards and 10 touchdowns with one interception.
    Last year, the most touchdown passes by any YSU quarterback was five and four of those came in one game. He has already tied last year's high for completions (75 by Nathan Mays).
    In three of the four games this season VanGorder has thrown for three touchdowns. VanGorder has had three TD tosses against Butler, Valparaiso and 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 Eclipses 2,000 yards
    Senior TB Tevin McCaster has rushed for 2,154 yards in 35 career games for the Penguins. This season he has 419 yards on 85 attempts and five touchdowns.
    With a 141-yard rushing performance against Valparaiso, McCaster eclipsed the 2,000-yard rushing mark in his YSU career.
    He ranks tied for 10th in school history for rushing touchdowns with 29. He is 18th in career rushing yardage and attempts.

Dellovade Nearing Top 15
    Senior LB Armand Dellovade ranks 17th in school history in career tackles. Dellovade has 273 stops in his YSU career, including 166 solo stops. He tied his career high with 15 tackles at Western Illinois last Saturday.
    He is just one tackle behind current YSU co-defensive coordinator Donald D'Alesio, who finished with 274 stops between 2010-14. Dellovade is just three from entering the top 15 in school history.
    Only one player since 2000 has been credited with more than 300 tackles, linebacker Jeremiah Wright (2003-07).

Kennedy Almost Second
    Senior PK Zak Kennedy ranks third in school history in points by a placekicker.
    With 22 points this season - 16 PATs and two field goals - he now has 276 points and ranks third all-time in YSU history.
    Kennedy trails Mark Griffith (1996-99) by six points for second place in school history. Jeff Wilkins set the school career mark of 373 from 1990-93 before moving on to having a successful NFL career.
    Last season, Kennedy had 67 points. As a sophomore he scored 96 points, and as a freshman he had 91.
    Kennedy has made 48 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.

McCaster Up For Payton
    Tevin McCaster is one of 25 FCS offensive standouts who have been named to the Walter Payton Award Watch List by STATS FCS.
    McCaster is one of four Missouri Valley Football Conference representatives on the Watch List. Other MVFC standouts on the list include North Dakota State running back Bruce Anderson, NDSU quarterback Easton Stick and South Dakota State quarterback Taryn Christion.
    This year he has 419 yards on 85 carries and five touchdowns. He had a season-high 141 yards rushing against Valparaiso.
    In his first year as starter in 2017, McCaster rushed for 1,066 yards on 221 carries and scored 13 touchdowns. In conference play he rushed for 803 yards on 171 attempts and scored 10 touchdowns.

Newcomers Step Up at WR
    With little experience returning in terms of pass catchers, the Penguins were looking for someone to step up and lead the way. So far through four games, its been an impressive group effort by everyone.
    Newcomer Zach Farrar leads the group with 16 receptions for 256 yards. At Western Illinois he had five catches for 83 yards and his first career touchdown. He had a breakout performance against West Virginia catching six passes for 135 yards against the Mountaineers.
    Four other wide receivers have at least six catches through four games. Samuel St. Surin has nine, Kendric Mallory has eight, Darius Shackleford has seven and Jermiah Braswell has six. Six different wide receivers have touchdown receptions so far.

TE See New Faces As Well
    YSU's tight ends have performed well in the early portion of the 2018 campaign. The Penguins have played five players at the position so far - Miles Joiner, Chris Durkin, Kierre Hawkins, Josh Burgett and Charles Reeves. Joiner, Hawkins and Burgett have all been starters for the Penguins.
    Joiner has three catches for 12 yards and had touchdown catches against Butler and West Virginia. Hawkins had his first career catch at Western Illinois last Saturday.
    Additionally, true freshman Jake Benio has played on special teams. Gone from a year ago are highly-experienced players Kevin Rader, Shane Kuhn and Anthony Parente.

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 four games while Kansas transfer right tackle Charles Baldwin started three at right tackle and junior college transfer Devon Robinson started against Valpo.
    Wiggins has started 35 straight games, Hrynkiewicz has started the past 31 while Sharp made his eighth career start at WIU.

VanGorder Catches Fire
    QB Montgomery VanGorder was 7-of-15 for 83 yards in the first half at Western Illinois before catching fire in the second half en route to breaking three YSU single-game records.
    VanGorder finished the game with 418 yards passing completing 33-of-57 passes. 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.

Dellovade Always Plays Tough
    YSU senior LB Armand Dellovade has been a mainstay on the Penguins' defense throughout his career.
     In 42 career games played, Dellovade has  273 career tackles, 166 of which are solo stops. Impressively, Dellovade has made 40 starts in his 42 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 started the 2018 campaign strong recording at least seven tackles in each of the first four games. He had 15 stops vs. WIU, he had eight at West Virginia and vs. Valparaiso and seven against Butler. He leads the team with 38 tackles, including 24 solos.
    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 and as a true freshman in 2015, he was credited with 54 total tackles.

Plenty of Newcomers
    YSU has had plenty of new faces see action so far this season.
    A total of 31 players have made their Penguins debut in the first four contests while 17 players have made their first career starts.
    The Guins who have made their first career starts are QB Montgomery VanGorder, OT Devon Robinson, OT Charles Baldwin, TE Miles Joiner, WR Darius Shackleford, WR Kendric Mallory, WR Zach Farrar, WR Samuel St. Surin, TE Kierre Hawkins, TE Josh Burgett, SS Terray Bryant, FS Chrispin Lee, NB Will Latham, LB Christiaan Randall-Posey, FS Devanere Crenshaw, DE Shereif Bynum and DT Wes Thompson.
    Six true freshmen have played this year: WR Natavious Payne, DB Paul French, LB Griffin Hoak, DT DeMarko Craig, DT Dontae Cilenti and TE Jake Benio.

Defensive Player Updates
    Chrispin Lee: Has started the past three games after not starting previously in his career. At WVU, had a career-high 15 total tackles, including nine solos. He is second on the team with 25 total tackles.
    Wes Thompson: Had a sack in the contest at WVU. It marked the second straight year that Thompson had a sack vs. an FBS opponent. He had a sack at Pittsburgh in 2017.
    Ma'lik Richmond: Has been credited with two sacks and helped force an interception with pressure (WVU). He has had four tackles twice this year.
    Shereif Bynum: Has 17 total tackles this year after entering the season with four. He had five solos at WVU and had sacks against Valpo and Butler.
    Will Latham: Has started all three games at the nickel position. He has 15 total tackles, highlighted by eight at WVU. He also had his first career interception against the Mountaineers.

Spreading the Ball Around
    In the first four games of the year, the Penguins have had 14 different players catch passes.
    Leading the way is Zach Farrar, who has 16 catches for 256 yards, highlighted by  a six-catch effort at West Virginia. TB Christian Turner has 11 receptions following a career-high eight at Western Illinois. WR Samuel St. Surin has nine, Kendric Mallory has eight, Darius Shackleford has seven and Jeremiah Braswell has six.
    TBs Tevin McCaster and London Pearson have catches as do TEs Miles Joiner and Kierre Hawkins. Other wide receivers with receptions are Natavious Payne, Ryan Emans, Jake Cummings and Zack Torbert.
    An impressive 12 players caught passes in the game at Western Illinois.

McCaster Moving Up Charts
    Senior TB Tevin McCaster has 2,154 yards rushing in his career to rank 18th in school history. He ranks 10th in school history with 29 rushing touchdowns and 18th with 442 carries.
    He scored a touchdown in nine games last year to lead the Penguins' offense. The only two contests McCaster didn't score in were against UNI and Illinois State. In 2016 he had touchdowns in nine of the Guins' 16 games. In five of the seven games he didn't score in 2016, he had four or fewer carries.
    At South Dakota in 2017, McCaster scored a career-high four touchdowns. Against South Dakota State in 2017, McCaster had a career-high 35 rushes for a career-best 183 yards.
    In 2016 he had 129 totes in the 16 contests (8 per game) and followed that with a 229-carry effort (20.8) in 11 games in 2017. Eight times he had more than 19 carries a year ago.

Preseason Accolades
    Five seniors on the team earned their fair share of preseason hype being recognized as All-Missouri Valley Football Conference or All-American.
    LB Armand Dellovade, TB Tevin McCaster, C Vitas Hrynkiewicz, OG Gavin Wiggins and LS Steven Wethli were named to the Missouri Valley Football Conference's preseason all-league first team. Sophomore CB Bryce Gibson was a second-team preseason all-league pick.
    On the STATS FCS Preseason All-America squad, McCaster was a second-team preseason selection while Wiggins, Wethli and Dellovade were third team picks.

Mays Showed Grit in 2017
    Junior QB Nathan Mays started a team-best five games last season and entered two others on the game's first series following an injury to starter Hunter Wells.
    For the year, he completed 75-of-113 passes for 905 yards and four touchdowns. On the ground, he rushed for 317 yards on 77 carries and added four scores.
    In 2017, Mays started against Central Connecticut, South Dakota, North Dakota State, UNI and Illinois State.
    He was called upon to replace injured starter Hunter Wells on the opening series twice and led the Guins to wins over Robert Morris and South Dakota State. Mays has yet to play in 2018.

Schuler Has Been Solid
    Junior punter Mark Schuler has been a key weapon for the Penguins throughout his career. In his career he is averaging an impressive 41.7 yards per punt on 122 attempts.
    At WVU, Schuler had an outstanding game with an average of 43.2 yards per kick on six attempts. He had a long of 56 yards and placed two punts at the WVU one-yard line. He placed three kicks inside the 20 vs. Valparaiso and two inside the WIU 15. This year he has placed seven of his 17 kicks inside the 20-yard line.
    As a sophomore, he played in nine games – did not punt against Robert Morris and Central Connecticut – and had 41 punts for an average of 41.6 yards per boot.
    He placed 14 kicks inside the opponents' 20-yard line and had five kicks of more than 50 yards on the campaign. In MVFC games, had 38 punts for an average of 41.8 yards a kick.
    As a freshman, he was a second-team All-MVFC selection, averaging 42.5 yards per punt on 64 kicks while playing in all 16 games.

Gibson Leads Secondary
    Sophomore CB Bryce Gibson has been looked upon to lead the new-look group following some drastic changes to the secondary because of injuries.
    Through four games, three of the top of five tacklers on the team are members of the secondary. Chrispin Lee has a secondary-high 23 total stops, Gibson has 17 tackles and Will Latham has 15. Of their 57 combined tackles, 39 have been unassisted. Gibson leads the team with five pass breakups.
    Last year, Gibson started all 11 games as a true freshman. He finished with 35 total tackles, 24 of which were solo stops. The Guins started a pair of seniors in Jalyn Powell and Billy Nicoe Hurst along with sophomore Kyle Hegedus last year. Unfortunately, Hegedus tore his ACL in his right knee and is lost for the season leaving YSU without three starters from 2017. YSU's unit led the FCS in fewest passing yards allowed in 2017.
    CB DJ Smalls and Gibson have started the first four games for the Penguins. Latham and Avery Larkin had each started the first three games in the secondary. Lee has started the past two games after Terray Bryant started the season opener vs. Butler. Devanere Crenshaw started at safety against WIU.

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 26-68.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 163-20-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 139-17 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 160-27 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 86-10-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 190-16 when leading entering the fourth.
• 88-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.

Up Next:
    YSU is back on the road when it visits South Dakota State on Oct. 13.