Penguins Face Big Challenge In Visit to West Virginia

Montgomery VanGorder
Montgomery VanGorder

    The Youngstown State football team plays its first road game of the season when the Penguins visit No. 14 West Virginia on Saturday night. Kickoff at Milan Puskar Stadium is set for 6 p.m. The game is available on AT&T Sports Net, WKBN 570 AM and iHeartRadio.
    YSU (0-1) lost its season opener to Butler 23-21 last Saturday. The Penguins led 21-7 in the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs scored the final 16 points for the come-from-behind victory.
    In the game, Tevin McCaster rushed for 166 yards on 29 carries while new starting quarterback Montgomery VanGorder completed 18-of-27 passes for 234 yards and three scores in his starting debut. VanGorder connected on scoring tosses to Miles Joiner, Samuel St. Surin and Kendric Mallory.
    Butler rallied in the fourth quarter scoring 16 points. Trailing 21-7, the Bulldogs pulled within a touchdown with 9:20 left as Pace Temple caught a six-yard touchdown pass from Will Marty. With 1:20 remaining, Butler closed within 21-20 on a 12-yard toss from Marty to Sam Yeaton. The Guins sacked Marty on the two-point conversion try, setting up and onside kick try by Butler. The Bulldogs were successful in the onside kick as the ball the was recovered by Temple. With just four seconds left, Drew Bevelhimer kicked a 44-yard field goal which turned out to be a the game winner. It was YSU's first loss in a home opener since 1995.
    West Virginia (1-0) picked up an impressive 40-14 win over Tennessee in its season opener in Charlotte, N.C., last Saturday. Preseason All-American QB Will Grier was strong in his first outing of the campaign throwing for 429 yards and five touchdowns.
    This is the third meeting between the teams, the most recent of which was in 2016. The Penguins dropped a 38-21 contest the Mountaineers on a warm day in Morgantown. With temperatures in the mid-90s, YSU battled to a 14-all tie through the first half before West Virginia scored the first 17 points of the second half. YSU cut the deficit to 31-21, but a late score made the final 38-21.
    YSU closes out the non-conference season with a home contest against Valparaiso on Sept. 15 at Stambaugh Stadium.



Quick Notes
• The Penguins visit West Virginia for the third time in program history. The Guins paid visits to Morgantown in 1938 and 2016.
• The 23-21 loss to Butler snapped the Penguins' home opener win streak that dated back to 1996, a span of 22 games.
• TB Tevin McCaster rushed for more than 100 yards for the seventh time in his career.
• YSU had a rather inexperienced lineup during the game against the Bulldogs. Ten different Penguins made their first career starts while a total of 18 made their YSU debuts. Only six players who started last year's opener at Pittsburgh started against Butler.
• Six players who started every game last year and who were in the lineup against Butler were TB Tevin McCaster, C Vitas Hrynkiewicz, OG Gavin Wiggins, LB Armand Dellovade, DE Johnson Louigene and CB Bryce Gibson.
• Wiggins has a team-best 32 consecutive starts. Dellovade has 30 straight starts while
Hrynkiewicz has been in the starting lineup for the past 28 games.
• McCaster opened his senior campaign on a high note rushing for 166 yards on 29 carries.
• Last year, Dellovade, Hrykniewicz and Wiggins were named second-team All-MVFC while long snapper Steven Wethli was an honorable-mention selection.
• QB Montgomery VanGorder threw three touchdown passes to three different receivers in his YSU debut.
• PK Zak Kennedy has made his last 54 PATs entering the game at West Virginia. His last miss came in the second quarter of YSU's playoff win over Wofford in 2016.
Mark Schuler has had 108 punts in his three years with the program.
• YSU's last win in West Virginia was 1994 against Boise State in the FCS title game.

Last Meeting: WVU 38, YSU 21 (2016)
    Youngstown State was tied at halftime at West Virginia, but the Mountaineers scored 17 third-quarter points to take control as the Penguins dropped a 38-21 decision at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown in 2016.
    The Penguins took a 14-7 lead in the second quarter after scoring a pair of touchdowns in a span of 3:34. The first score, a one-yard run by Martin Ruiz, tied the game, and Ricky Davis' 74-yard touchdown pass to Alvin Bailey put the Guins ahead 14-7.
    But the Mountaineers tied the contest at halftime and used a 17-0 third quarter to get the best of the Penguins. QB Trent Hosick's first career touchdown run in the fourth quarter cut the deficit to 31-21 with 8:44 left in the game.
    WVU responded just over three minutes later with a 21-yard scoring toss from Skyler Howard to Kennedy McKoy for the final outcome.

Last Game: Butler 23, YSU 21
    Butler scored 16 fourth-quarter points and on the strength of a 44-yard field goal by Drew Bevelhimer with four seconds upset Youngstown State 23-21 last Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium.
    After the game was tied 7-7 at halftime, the Penguins scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to go ahead 21-7. Montgomery VanGorder connected with Samuel St. Surin on a 26-yard score and then found Kendric Mallory on a 44-yard scoring toss.
    Butler pulled within a touchdown on a Will Marty six-yard pass to Pace Temple with 9:20 remaining. With 1:20 left, Marty found Sam Yeaton on a 12-yard touchdown pass. The Bulldogs went for two, but YSU sacked Marty.
    Butler then recovered an onside kick for one final chance. The Bulldogs moved to the YSU 26-yard line and Bevelhimer came on for the game-winning kick in the final seconds.

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.
    He enters the WVU contest just 99 yards shy of 2,000 for his career following a 166-yard effort against Butler.
    In his first year as starter in 2017, McCaster rushed for 1,066 yards on 221 carries and scored 13 touchdowns.

Preseason Accolades
    The veterans on the team have earned their fare 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 have been named to the Missouri Valley Football Conference's preseason all-league first team. Sophomore CB Bryce Gibson is a second-team preseason all-league pick.
    On the STATS FCS Preseason All-America Team, four Penguins were listed.
    McCaster was a second-team preseason selection while Wiggins, Wethli and Dellovade were third team picks.

Newcomers at WR
    The Penguins' new-look wide receiving corps had a solid opener against Butler.
     Newcomers Kendric Mallory and Zach Farrar combined to catch seven passes for 101 yards. Mallory added a 44-yard touchdown reception in the contest.
    Samuel St. Surin caught a career-high five passes for 85 yards and a touchdown while Ryan Emans and Zack Torbert had receptions. For Emans, it was the first receptions of his YSU career.
    St. Surin, Darius Shackleford and Farrar all made their first career starts vs. Butler. True freshman Natavious Payne also played in the contest.

Tight End See New Faces As Well
    The available YSU tight ends against Butler did not have a collegiate snap under their belt. On offense, YSU used redshirt freshmen Miles Joiner and Josh Burgett with senior Chris Durkin held out because of injury. Durkin had the lone collegiate snaps of the group.
    Transfer Charles Reeves and true freshman Jake Benio saw action on special teams.
    YSU lost three senior tight ends that were key parts of the program throughout their careers so the position is full of newcomers in 2018.
    Gone from a year ago are Kevin Rader, Shane Kuhn and Anthony Parente while the only returnee with playing experience is Durkin.

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 Dan Becker got the call at the left tackle spot vs. Butler while at right tackle transfer Charles Baldwin made his YSU debut in the contest.
    Wiggins has started 32 straight games, Hrykniewicz the past 28 while Sharp made his fifth career start.

Graduate Transfers
    YSU has added a pair of graduate transfers who will be looking to cap off their collegiate careers on high notes.
    In January, YSU added quarterback Montgomery VanGorder from Notre Dame while tackle Charles Baldwin joined the program after spending his undergrad at Kansas.
    VanGorder was primarily a holder on placement kicks in four seasons at Notre Dame while serving as a reserve quarterback.
    Baldwin transferred to Kansas after spending time at Alabama and ASA College.
    Both started against Butler.

Plenty of Newcomers
    YSU had plenty of new faces see action in the contest with Butler. A total of 18 players made their Penguins debuts in the contest while 10 players made their first career starts.
    The Guins who made their first career starts were QB Montgomery VanGorder, OT Charles Baldwin, TE Miles Joiner, WR Darius Shackelford, WR Zach Farrar, WR Samuel St. Surin, SS Terray Bryant, NB Will Latham, DE Shereif Bynum and DT Wes Thompson.
    Three true freshmen played in the game with WR Natavious Payne, LB Griffin Hoak and TE Jake Benio getting snaps.

VanGorder Debut
    In his Youngstown State debut, QB Montgomery VanGorder completed 18-of-27 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns against Butler.
    His first touchdown came in the first quarter when he found Miles Joiner on a three-yard score. He had a pair of touchdown tosses in the third quarter. He connected on a 28-yard scoring toss to Samuel St. Surin then went deep to Kendric Mallory for a 44-yard score as the Penguins went in front 21-7.

Spreading the Ball Around
    In the opener, the Penguins had eight different players catch passes. Samuel St. Surin caught five passes for 85 yards to lead the way while Kendric Mallory had four for 78 yards. Zach Farrar had three receptions while Ryan Emans added a pair. Players with single grabs were Zack Torbert, Tevin McCaster, Christian Turner and Miles Joiner.

Balanced Offense
    In the opener against Butler, the Penguins were almost perfectly balanced on offense with 235 yards rushing and 234 yards passing.
    In the first half, YSU had 194 yards rushing while passing for 93. In the second half, the Penguins threw for 141 yards while rushing for 41.
    YSU averaged 7.1 yards per play with 469 total offensive yards on 66 snaps.

Gibson Leads Secondary
    With injuries and graduation changing the secondary, sophomore CB Bryce Gibson will be looked upon to lead the new-look group.
    In the opener vs. Butler, Gibson had a career-high eight tackles, seven of which were solos, to go along with three 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 last year in senior Jalyn Powell and Billy Nicoe Hurst along with sophomore Kyle Hegedus. Unfortunately Hegedus tore his ACL in his right knee and is lost for the season.
    DJ Smalls and Avery Larkin return after both starting at the nickel spot last year. Larkin started six games while Smalls started the final two of the season. Both players started against Butler. Terray Bryant, who was a linebacker last year, started at safety against the Bulldogs.

Dellovade Always Plays Tough
    YSU senior LB Armand Dellovade has been a mainstay on the Penguins' defense throughout his career.
     In 39 career games played, Dellovade has  242 career tackles, 148 of which are solo stops. Impressively, Dellovade has made 37 starts in his 39 games played.
    He opened the 2018 campaign with a seven-tackle effort against Butler.
    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.

Louigene, Smith Anchor Line
    On the defensive front, seniors DE Johnson Louigene and DT Savon Smith are the leaders. Louigene started all 11 games last year while Smith started nine. Both started against Butler alongside first-time starters Wes Thompson and Shereif Bynum.
    Louigene had 39 stops last year while Smith finished with 27. In their careers, Smith has started 21 games while Louigene has 12.
    Senior DT Lamont Ragland has started four games for the Guins in his career. Junior DE Ma'lik Richmond had three tackles vs. Butler while Antoine Cook made his YSU debut.

Kennedy In Top Four
    Senior PK Zak Kennedy ranks fourth in school history in points by a placekicker. Last season, Kennedy had 67 points. As a sophomore he scored 96 points, and as a freshman he had 91.
    This season, Kennedy could move into second place as he trails Brian Palmer by 13 and Mark Griffith by 25.
    He has made 46 field goals in his career and 119 extra points in his three years with the program. He has made his last 54 PAT kicks.

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.
    He missed the opener against Butler because of an injury.

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 42.1 yards per punt on 105 boots.
    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. He boomed 16 punts of more than 50 yards, including a career-long kick of 74 yards against Samford in the playoffs.

Tailbacks Return
    The names fans grew to know last year at tailback were Tevin McCaster and Christian Turner. The duo had a standout campaign combining for 1,506 yards and 14 touchdowns. Both headline a talented group in 2018. Both players saw the bulk of the carries against Butler as they combined for 212 yards on 37 attempts.
    Joe Alessi has shown flashes during his YSU career that he can be a key contributor, and Devon McNutt and London Pearson are both in their third year with the program. Last year, Braxton Chapman redshirted and this fall the Guins have added Dra Rushton and Randy Smith Jr.
Working Overtime
    Twice last season the Penguins 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 eventual champion 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.

March of the Penguins
    Last season the Penguins had 36 drives of at least eight-or-more plays. In the opener against Butler the Guins had four drives of eight-or-more plays.
    In the 2017 season finale, the Guins had three drives of longer than eight plays, two of which were scores on a rainy and cold afternoon.
    YSU had four drives of nine plays or more at Southern Illinois but was only able to score once. At Indiana State, YSU had just one long drive despite scoring nine touchdowns.
    At UNI, YSU had three eight-play drives, including a 14-play sequence that ended with a missed field goal.
    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.
    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.

McCaster Nearing 2K
    Senior TB Tevin McCaster is just 99 yards shy of becoming the 20th player in school history to amass 2,000 yards rushing in a career. McCaster enters Saturday's contest at WVU with 1,901 yards on 386 carries. He has 24 touchdowns rushing as well.
    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.
    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.
    At South Dakota, McCaster scored a career-high four touchdowns. Against South Dakota State, McCaster had a career-high 35 rushes for a career-best 183 yards.

Durden, Rivers Make Rosters
    Two former Penguin defensive standouts made NFL rosters - CB Kenneth Durden and DE Derek Rivers.
    Rivers, a third round draft pick by the New England Patriots, is slated to  be a backup defensive end behind Adrian Clayton. Durden has made it on the roster of his second NFL team landing a spot with the Tennessee Titans. He was one of five cornerbacks kept by the team. Durden previously played for the Oakland Raiders.
New Coordinators in 2018
    The Penguins have new coordinators run the offense and defense in 2018.
    Brian Crist, who coached the YSU wide receivers from 2015-17, takes over the offensive play-calling duties this year. On defense, Richard McNutt and Donald D'Alesio will be the co-coordinators during the campaign. McNutt has coached the secondary since 2015 while D'Alesio has coached the defensive line since 2016.
    Under Head Coach Bo Pelini, Shane Montgomery was YSU's offensive coordinator from 2015-17 while Carl Pelini was the Penguins' defensive coordinator from 2015-17. Both moved on to FBS programs following last season.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 135-35 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 26-67.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 162-20-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 138-17 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 159-26 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 85-10-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 189-16 when leading entering the fourth.
• 87-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.

Up Next:
    YSU returns home to take on Valparaiso on Saturday, Sept. 15. Kickoff for the contest at Stambaugh Stadium is set for 2 p.m. The Penguins are idle on Sept. 22 before opening MVFC play at Western Illinois on Sept. 29.