Penguins Set to Take On Duquesne At Stambaugh Stadium

Dee Ford (Photo By Ron Stevens)
Dee Ford (Photo By Ron Stevens)

    The Youngstown State football team looks to keep its early-season momentum going when it plays host to Duquesne on Saturday afternoon at Stambaugh Stadium. Kickoff against the Dukes is set for 2:05 p.m. The game is available on ESPN+, WKBN 570 AM and iHeartRadio.
    YSU (2-0) used a methodical ground attack in a 54-28 victory over Howard in the home opener last Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium. The Penguins rushed for 454 yards and scored six touchdowns on the ground. The YSU defense forced three turnovers and had six sacks in the victory.
    The Guins jumped out to a 6-0 lead before the Bison scored a pair of touchdowns to grab a 14-6 lead at the end of the first quarter. But YSU outscored Howard 41-7 over the next two quarters. In the second quarter, Nathan Mays found Jermiah Braswell for a 38-yard touchdown to pull the Penguins within 14-13. Braswell's diving catch ended up being ranked No. 8 on ESPN SportsCenter's Top 10 on Saturday. Christian Turner added a five-yard score and Ryan Emans caught a 15-yard pass from Mays to give the Guins a 27-14 lead at halftime.
    In the third quarter, Howard opened the scoring to get within 27-21, but the Penguins answered with four straight rushing scores by Mays (two yards), Alessi (40), Braxton Chapman (78) and London Pearson (75) to go ahead 54-21 in the fourth.
    Duquesne (1-0) opened the season with a 44-3 win over Walsh last Saturday at Arthur J. Rooney Field. Five different players found the end zone for the Dukes, which tallied 464 total yards in the victory and held the Cavaliers to just 73 total yards, including 55 through the air and 18 on the ground. DU held the Cavaliers to 19 total yards in the second half. The Dukes are coming off an impressive 2018 season that saw them win in the opening round of the FCS Playoffs at Towson before falling to South Dakota State.
    This will be the fourth all-time meeting between the programs and first since August 2016. In the 2016 contest, YSU beat Duquesne 45-10 at Stambaugh Stadium. The Penguins jumped out to a 24-3 lead behind first-time starting QB Ricky Davis. After the Dukes scored just before halftime, the Guins outscored Duquesne 21-0 in the second half.

   

Quick Notes
• The Penguins lead the FCS with 731 yards rushing, 7.31 yards per carry and 365.5 yards per contest. YSU is second with nine rushing touchdowns. Even more impressive is YSU has lost 40 yards on two bad snaps.
• The defense has forced seven turnovers in just two games. YSU forced Samford into four giveaways in the opener and caused three vs. Howard. The last time the Guins forced three-or-more turnovers in consecutive games was  in September 2009 - Indiana State/Northeastern. In 11 games last year, YSU forced just nine turnovers.
• The Penguins had three one-play scoring drives vs. the Bison. In 2018, had one, one-play drive and that was five yards. YSU had a pair of one-play TDs vs. Robert Morris in 2016.
• YSU has five players who have rushed for at least 120 yards and have scored a touchdown.
• For the second straight game, defensive end Justus Reed record multiple sacks. Reed had a pair of sacks vs. Howard after having 2.5 in the opener vs. Samford.
• DB Dee Ford intercepted the first pass of his YSU career in the third quarter. His interception was the fourth for the Penguins this year. That number already eclipses the 2018 total.
• One game after having seven drives of at least 2:56 the Penguins had just three out of 15 possession that went longer than 2:16.  All three came in the first four drives of the game.
• The last time the Penguins had had multiple
100-yard rushers was vs. Eastern Washington in the 2016 FCS semifinals (Tevin McCaster - 154 and Jody Webb - 101). Braxton Chapman had 132 yards and London Pearson had 126 vs. Howard. It was the 35th time in school history that YSU had multiple 100-yard rushers.

Last Time Out: YSU 54, HU 28
    YSU used a methodical ground attack in a 54-28 victory over Howard in the home opener at Stambaugh Stadium.
    The Penguins rushed for 454 yards and had six touchdowns on the ground. The YSU defense forced three turnovers and had six sacks in the victory.
    The Guins jumped out to a 6-0 lead before the Bison scored a pair of touchdowns to grab a 14-6 lead. But YSU outscored Howard 41-7 over the next two quarters. In the second quarter, Nathan Mays found Jermiah Braswell for a 38-yard touchdown to pull the Penguins within 14-13. Christian Turner added a five-yard score and Ryan Emans caught a 15-yard pass from Mays to give the Guins a 27-14 lead at halftime.
    In the third, Howard opened the scoring to get within 27-21, but the Penguins answered with four straight rushing scores by Mays, Alessi, Braxton Chapman and London Pearson to go ahead 54-21 in the fourth.

Last Time vs. Duquesne
    YSU opened the 2016 campaign in impressive fashion beating Duquesne 45-10 at Stambaugh Stadium.
    The Penguins jumped out to a 24-3 lead behind first-time starting QB Ricky Davis. After the Dukes scored just before halftime, the Guins outscored Duquesne 21-0 in the second half.
    Davis had a solid starting debut rushing for 74 yards on 10 carries while completing 12-of-16 passes for 187 yards and three scores.
    Two of those touchdowns went to Darien Townsend. Davis and Townsend connected on a 49-yard pass early in the contest before the two hooked up again on a 36-yard toss late in the second quarter.
    Martin Ruiz, Shane Kuhn and Tevin McCaster all had rushing scores while Stefan Derrick caught a touchdown in his first game as a Penguin.
    The Guins amassed 610 yards of total offense while holding Duquesne to 222, including just 34 on the ground.

Pennsylvania Visitors
    The Penguins have had a tremendous amount of success against visitors from the Keystone State.
    The last time YSU lost a home game to a team from Pennsylvania was to Villanova on Oct. 28, 1978 (22-17).
    Since that time, the Guins have won 35 straight home games against teams from Pennsylvania.
    Most of those contests have come against members of the Division II PSAC. YSU has three wins over Duquesne, Robert Morris and Saint Francis (Pa.) and a pair of wins against Villanova in the winning streak.

Defense Stepping Up
    The defense has forced seven turnovers in just two games. YSU forced Samford into four giveaways in the opener and caused three vs. Howard. The last time the Guins forcred three-or-more turnovers in consecutive games was  in September 2009 - Indiana State/Northeastern.
    In 11 games last year, YSU forced just nine turnovers and has a +6 turnover margin.

One-Hit Wonders
    The Penguins scored on three one-play drives against Howard, all of which came in the second half.
    With 7:25 left in the third quarter, Joe Alessi scored on a 40-yard touchdown run to give the Penguins a 40-21 lead over the Bison. On YSU's next offensive play, Braxton Chapman raced 78 yards for a score with 2:16 left in the third.  After YSU had a five-play series, London Pearson ripped off a 75-yard touchdown run with 11:25 left in the game.

Pounding the Rock Continues
    The Penguins have the most prolific rushing offense in the FCS through two games. YSU is first with 731 yards rushing, 7.31 yards per carry and 365.5 yards per contest. YSU is second with nine rushing touchdowns.
    The Guins followed up a 277-yard performance vs. Samford with a 454-yard effort in a win over Howard. Helping out the cause were 78 yard runs by Braxton Chapman and 75 by London Pearson.
    Bolstered by a strong running attack, YSU is averaging 538 yards per game of total offense which ranks fourth in the FCS. YSU is also third in scoring offense at 49.5 points per game.

Braswell Makes Top Plays
    Senior WR Jermiah Braswell earned the No. 8 spot on ESPN SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays with a fantastic diving catch for a touchdown against Howard.
    In the second quarter, Braswell was open on a deep route and Nathan Mays threw a pass that Braswell had to make a diving attempt to haul in. He had three catches for 99 yards in the contest and hand another highlight-reel catch on a 23-yard reception later in the quarter.

More INTS in 2019
    In just two games, the Penguins already have more interceptions this year than in 2018.
    The Guins had their fourth interception of the season against Howard last Saturday.
    YSU intercepted three passes against Samford in the season opener. It was the most interceptions in a game for the program since Sept. 26, 2009, at Indiana State.

Impressive Scoring Runs
    The Penguins have gone on two big runs to seize control of the game in each of their first two games.
    Against Samford, YSU trailed 7-0 before scoring 31 unanswered points in the contest. In the contest vs. Howard, the Guins went a on 41-7 scoring run which covered the second and third quarters.

Craig, Richmond Make Impact
    Senior DE Ma'lik Richmond and redshirt freshman DeMarko Craig have made big impacts through the first two contests.
    Together, the duo has combined for 23 total tackles (14 solos), six tackles for losses and four sacks.
    Craig has 12 stops, seven of which came against Howard, while Richmond now has 11, including a career-best eight vs. the Bison.

Reed Leads Nation
    Senior DE Justus Reed leads the FCS averaging 2.25 sacks per contest after two games. Reed has been credited with 4.5 sacks through two games. Last year's sack leader for YSU was Savon Smith with six in 11 games.
    Bryce Sterk of Montana State and Luke Holloway from Idaho State rank second averaging two sacks per game.
    Through two games this season, Reed his just a half sack shy of his career high five which he set in 2017.

Mays On Three-Game TD Streak
    Senior QB Nathan Mays has a three-game streak with at least two touchdown passes.
    Mays ended the 2018 campaign with a two-touchdown performance at Illinois State. He opened the year throwing two touchdowns against Samford and added two more last Saturday against Howard.
    Mays entered the year with seven career touchdown pass and through two games already has four in 2019.

Next Tailback Up
    The Penguins have had a first-team All-MVFC selection at tailback for three straight seasons, but will be looking to a new face to carry the torch.
    Tevin McCaster was selected first-team All-MVFC in 2018 and earned the nod previously in 2017. In 2016, Martin Ruiz earned first-team honors. The last time a school had a tailback earn first-team honors in four straight years was Southern Illinois from 2000-03.
    This year's group of Joe Alessi, Christian Turner, Braxton Chapman and London Pearson  has a combined 622 yards on 70 carries and scored eight touchdowns after the first two games. Alessi the most carries with 22 while Chapman leads the way with 182 yards.

Keep Up With The Joneses
    The Penguins have had solid performances from newcomers Matt Jones and Zaire Jones.
    Matt Jones has started the first two games at center for the Penguins and helped anchor an offense that leads the nation in rushing.
    Zaire Jones had quite a debut against Samford recording two interceptions and five total tackles. Jones was the first Penguin since LeRoy Alexander had two picks in a game since 2015 (Pittsburgh). That was also Alexanders'  YSU debut.

Sure handed St. Surin
    Junior WR Samuel St. Surin scored the first touchdown of the 2019 campaign for the Penguins. In the first quarter against Samford, he hauled in a 16-yard touchdown pass from Nathan Mays.
    He finished with a career-high-tying five catches for 93 yards in the contest. Two plays before his touchdown, St. Surin caught a key 25-yard pass on 3rd-and-15.  Late in the second quarter he had a 31-yard reception that helped set up a touchdown.

D-Line Totally New
    The Penguins had four players start the opener on the defensive line that didn't start a year ago - and all four made their starting debuts against Samford.
    The new group of DEs Justus Reed, Ma'lik Richmond and DTs Antoine Cook and DeMarko Craig were solid up front against Samford and again vs. Howard.
    Reed missed the 2018 campaign with an injury, Cook was a reserve defensive end, Craig redshirted and Richmond was a pass-rush specialist who had three sacks.
    Against Samford, the four players combined for 14 tackles, four TFLs and three sacks. In the contest vs. Howard, they combined for 24 tackles, 6.5 TFLs and five sacks.
    Last year's season opening starting defensive line featured DE Shereif Bynum, DT Wes Thompson, DT Savon Smith and DE Johnson Louigene. Bynum and Thompson saw action against Samford in reserve roles.

Non-Conference Home Success
    YSU has won 35 of its last 37 non-conference home games since September 2004. The two setbacks came against Liberty in 2008 (31-28) and Butler in 2018 (23-21).
    Since falling to the Flames on Sept. 27, 2008, the Penguins had won 20 straight at home against non-conference foes until a loss to the Bulldogs in 2018. Both defeats came on final-play field goals.

Team of Graduates
    The Penguins have an impressive amount of college graduates on this year's squad.
    QB Nathan Mays, WR Ryan Emans, OL James Wilson, DB Sam McGuigan and DB Kyle Hegedus are all in graduate courses at YSU after earning their degrees.
    Joining that group are graduate transfers Matt Jones (West Virginia) and Myles Douglas (Tennessee Tech).

Schedule Rarities in 2019
    For the first time since 2004, the Penguins will not play an FBS team during their schedule. YSU is playing an all-FCS schedule for the just the second time in school history. The lone other time the Guins had a slate full of FCS opponents was back in 1983.
    From 1989 through 2004 the Guins hosted a Division II program in all but one season (1993). From 1984 to 1988, the schedule was full of FBS opponents as the Penguins played a total of 12 games vs. upper-level foes. YSU played FBS Cincinnati in 1981 and 1982, the first two years it was an FCS program.
    Since the 2005 campaign, YSU has played Pittsburgh (five times), Ohio State (twice), West Virginia (twice), Penn State (twice), Michigan State (twice) and Illinois.
    Additionally, YSU will play seven home games for the first time since 2014.

16 Remain From 2016 Season
    A total of 16 Penguins remain on the roster from the 2016 National Runner-Up team.
    Those players are: Joe Alessi, Jermiah Braswell, Shereif Bynum, Ryan Emans, Norman Fox, Kyle Hegedus, Nathan Mays, Devon McNutt, Malachi Newell, London Pearson, Christiaan Randall-Posey, Darius Shackleford, Samuel St. Surin, Zack Torbert, James Wilson and Jacob Zinni.
    Those that played in the National Championship Game at some point were Braswell, Mays, Alessi, Randall-Posey, Torbert and Emans.

McFadden Times Three
    The Penguins added Kent State transfer Colten McFadden in the spring, and that last  name is very familiar to YSU Football fans.
    His father, Paul, played for the Penguins from 1980-83, while his brother Connor, was with the program from 2013-16. Both his father and brother were placekickers.
    Colten McFadden had a successful YSU debut kicking a 43-yard field goal in the second quarter and making six PAT kicks. Against Howard he made six PATs.
    Paul McFadden finished his career with 240 points making 52 field goals and 78 PATs. He earned notoriety for being a barefoot-style kicker. He went on to play six seasons in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons.
    Connor McFadden played a big role in YSU's playoff run in 2016. In the quarterfinals against Wofford, he converted a PAT kick in overtime. He also had a PAT kick in the playoffs vs. Samford.

LBs Have Strong Trio
    LBs Ray Anderson, Christiaan Randall-Posey and Cash Mitchell give the Penguins good experience at that position.
    Last year, Mitchell led the group with 35 tackles and started seven contests. Randall-Posey finished with 30 total tackles, including 23 solos. He started three games.
    Anderson came on strong at the end of the campaign and finished with 22 total tackles, including 14 solos. He started five games  in conference play and 20 of his 22 tackles came against MVFC foes.
    In the season opener, Mitchell had five total tackles and returned a fumble 26 yards for his first career touchdown in the second quarter. YSU played dime coverage for most of the contest vs. the Bulldogs.

Secondary Has Depth
    The Penguins secondary had a variety of faces see action in the win over Samford. YSU started six defensive backs against the pass-happy Bulldogs. Starting were CB Bryce Gibson, CB Dee Ford, FS Kyle Hegedus, SS Zaire Jones, NB DJ Smalls and DB Jaelin Madison.
    Three of the six - Madison, Jones and Ford - were all making their YSU debuts while Gibson, Smalls and Hegedus have a combined 48 games started.
    Also seeing action against the Bulldogs were Melvin Jackson and John Harper. Harper intercepted a pass in the third quarter.
    Ford intercepted the first pass of his career and returned it for a touchdown, but that was called back because of an illegal blocking penalty.
    Last year, Gibson was second on the team with 42 total tackles and 31 solo stops. He had a team-high 12 pass breakups on the campaign. Gibson has started 23 straight games. Smalls had 22 total tackles (16 solos), six pass breakups and returned an interception for a touchdown against South Dakota.
    Hegedus returned after missing the 2018 season with a knee injury. Hegedus had 74 total tackles, 46 solos and two fumble recoveries in 10 starts in 2017.

O-Line Transfers
    YSU added a pair of graduate transfers to bolster the offensive line in 2019. The Penguins picked up center Matt Jones, who was a two-year starter at West Virginia, and Myles Douglas, who started every game in 2017 at Tennessee Tech.
    Jones is a native of nearby Hubbard, Ohio, and started the final 25 games of his career for the Mountaineers. He started against the Penguins last September in Morgantown.
    Additionally, YSU added junior college transfers Jordan Velez and Jadan Starks.
    Douglas made the first start of his career against Howard.

Becker, Zinni Anchor Line
    The most veteran YSU players on the offensive line are sophomore LT Dan Becker and senior RG Jacob Zinni.
    Becker started the first nine games at left tackle in 2018 and played in all 11 contests. Zinni started the final two games of the year at guard. In 2017, Zinni started the first five games at right guard.
    The only other lineman to previously start a game at YSU who returns from last year is Devon Robinson. Robinson made a pair of starts at right tackle in 2018.
    All three players have started the first two games.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 139-37 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 27-72.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 166-21-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 143-18 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 164-28 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 88-10-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 194-16 when leading entering the fourth.
• 89-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.