Penguins Set To Take On Howard in Home Opener

Braxton Chapman, Kierre Hawkins, Joe Craycraft
Braxton Chapman, Kierre Hawkins, Joe Craycraft

   The Youngstown State football team plays its home opener against Howard on Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium. Kickoff against the Bison is set for 2:05 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium. The game is available on ESPN+, WKBN 570 AM and iHeartRadio.
    YSU (1-0) started the season on an impressive note beating Samford 45-22 in the Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff Classic on August 24 in Montgomery, Ala. The Penguins trailed 7-0 before scoring 31 unanswered points thanks to a ground-and-pound offense and a physical, opportunistic defense.
    The Penguins dominated the contest on the ground rushing for 277 yards on 61 attempts while the defense forced four Bulldogs turnovers.
    Behind 7-0, Nathan Mays found Samuel St. Surin for a 16-yard touchdown pass to tie the contest. Just 43 seconds later, Cash Mitchell scooped up a fumble and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown to give the Guins a 14-7 lead.
    In the second quarter, Colten McFadden drilled a 43-yard field goal and just before halftime Mays connected with Josh Burgett for a four-yard touchdown pass.
    In the fourth quarter, Braxton Chapman's one-yard scoring run extended the lead to 31-7. The Penguins and Samford traded touchdowns in the last 13:37 with Chapman and Turner each scoring for YSU.
    Howard (0-1) dropped its season opener last Saturday at Maryland, 79-0.  The Terrapins scored 28 points in each of the first two quarters to build a 56-0 halftime advantage and cruise to the victory. In the contest, Maryland had 623 yards of total offense while limiting the Bison to just 68 yards on 57 snaps. Howard netted one yard on 38 rushing attempts and passed for 67 yards on seven completions.
    The game against Howard starts a busy month at home for the Guins. After Saturday's contest, YSU entertains Duquesne on Sept. 14 and Robert Morris on Sept. 28. The Guins play seven home games in 2019 and host three 2018 playoff participants - Duquesne, South Dakota State (Oct. 12) and North Dakota State (Nov. 2).

Quick Notes
• The Penguins have won 23 of their last 24 home openers dating back to the 1995 campaign.
• Players who made their first career YSU starts against Samford were OG Jordan Velez, C Matt Jones, DB Dee Ford, SS Zaire Jones, DB Jaelin Madison, DE Justus Reed, DT Antoine Cook, DT DeMarko Craig, DE Ma'lik Richmond, P Nick DeSalvo and PK Colten McFadden.
• YSU intercepted three passes against the Bulldogs. It was the most interception in a game for the Guins since Sept. 26, 2009, at Indiana State. Also, YSU had a total of three interceptions in 2018.
• Five of YSU's six scoring drives were 2:55 or above and four of the six took at least 3:45. The Guins had a 13-play, 75-yard drive that took 8:21 off the clock in the second half.
• TB Braxton Chapman scored the first touchdowns of his YSU career against the Bulldogs. Chapman scored on a pair of one-yard runs in the fourth quarter. TE Josh Burgett had the first touchdown reception of his career. Burgett caught a four-yard scoring toss in the second quarter.
• DE Justus Reed and FS Kyle Hegedus both had successful returns for injuries. Reed had 2.5 sacks and a total of five tackles. Hegedus led the Penguins with six total stops.
• Samford finished the game with 267 yards passing. However, two completions (55 and 64 yards) gained 119 yards. Through three quarters, Samford had 142 yards (102 came in the first) before passing for 125 in the fourth.
• DB John Harper intercepted the first pass of his YSU career in the third quarter. QB Joe Craycraft completed the first pass of his YSU career in the second quarter.

Last Time Out: YSU 45, Samford 22
    YSU scored 31 unanswered points to seize control after trailing early against Samford to cruise to a 45-22 victory over the Bulldogs in the Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff Classic on Aug. 24 in Montgomery, Ala.
    The Penguins dominated the contest on the ground rushing for 277 yards on 61 attempts while the defense forced four Bulldogs turnovers.
    Behind 7-0, Nathan Mays found Samuel St. Surin for a 16-yard touchdown pass to tie the contest. Just 43 seconds later, Cash Mitchell scooped up a fumble and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown to give the Guins a 14-7 lead.
    In the second quarter, Colten McFadden drilled a 43-yard field goal and just before halftime Mays connected with Josh Burgett for a four-yard touchdown pass.
    In the fourth quarter, Braxton Chapman's one-yard scoring run extended the lead to 31-7. The Penguins and Samford traded touchdowns in the last 13:37 with Chapman and Turner each scoring for YSU.
Pounding the Rock
    The Penguins' offensive rushing distribution was impressive in the season-opening win over Samford. Four players had at least 11 carries and 50 yards against the Bulldogs.
    QB Nathan Mays led the way with 13 carries for 90 yards. Among the tailbacks, Christian Turner had 13 carries for 89 yards and a touchdown, Joe Alessi had 56 yards on 14 attempts and Braxton Chapman carried the ball 11 times for 50 yards and a pair of one-yard touchdown runs.
    In total, YSU had 277 yards rushing on 61 carries.

New Faces Make An Impact
    In his first game with the Penguins, safety Zaire Jones intercepted two passes and had five tackles to help lead an outstanding defensive effort against Samford. Redshirt freshman defensive tackle DeMarko Craig had five total stops, including four solos in his YSU debut.
    True freshman defensive back Dee Ford started and had five total tackles as well, including four solo stops. Also making an impact were two Penguins who missed all of last year with injuries.
    Safety Kyle Hegedus returned to the lineup to lead the team with six total tackles and defensive end Justus Reed had five stops, including 2.5 sacks.

Success On Third Down
    The Penguins converted 10-of-17 third-down opportunities while holding Samford for just 2-of-9 on third down.
    In the first half, YSU was an impressive 8-of-11 on third-down plays and gained 127 yards while scoring both of their offensive touchdowns. In the fourth quarter, YSU converted both of its third downs on the same drive. Remove an 0-for-4 stretch in the third quarter and the Penguins went 10-of-13 on third downs in the game.
    Samford did not convert a third down for a first down until the 13:37 mark of the fourth quarter.

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  started the year with a combined 212 yards on
42 carries and scored three touchdowns against Samford. Alessi had the most carries with 14 while Turner led the way with 89 yards. Chapman had the most touchdowns with two.

Keep Up With The Jones's
    The Penguins picked up solid performances from newcomers Matt Jones and Zaire Jones.
    Matt Jones started at center for the Penguins and helped anchor a line that rushed for 277 yards on 61 carries.
    Zaire Jones had quiet a debut recording two interceptions and finishing with five total tackles. Jones was the first Penguin since LeRoy Alexander had two picks in his YSU debut against Pittsburgh in 2015.

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 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.
    He had nine and 12-yard receptions in the second half.

Two-QB System Works
    The Penguins played both Nathan Mays and Joe Craycraft at quarterback to keep Samford off balance.
    It worked as Mays rushed for 90 yards on 13 carries while Craycraft had 15 yards on four attempts. Through the air. Mays was 10-of-18 for 124 yards and two touchdowns while Craycraft completed 3-of-3 attempts for 35 yards.

Forcing Turnovers
    The Penguins forced four turnovers which led to 14 points in the win vs. Samford.
    The first forced turnover resulted in a 26-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Cash Mitchell. The first interception of the season came with Samford at the YSU 28-yard line. The next interception was crucial following a botched punt at the Penguins' 13-yard line. Following a sack, Zaire Jones picked the ball off at the 10. The Penguins marched 90 yards for a touchdown.
    In the third quarter, John Harper's interception came with Samford at the YSU 21.

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.
    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.
    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 a reserve role on Aug. 24.

Home Opener Success
    The Penguins have won 23 of their last 24 openers dating back to the 1995 campaign. In the 24 games since 1995, YSU has outscored its opponents by an impressive 874-254 margin.
    Since then the Penguins have posted four shutouts, including 2017 vs. Robert Morris, while the most points allowed was 23 by Duquesne in 2014 and Butler in 2018. On offense, the Guins have scored at least 21 points in each of those games and gone over 30 on 17 occasions, including a high of 77 versus Valparaiso in 2011.

Superb In Home Openers
    YSU is 53-23-2 all-time in home openers dating back to the program's beginning in 1938.
    Since moving to Stambaugh Stadium in 1982, YSU is 29-7-1 in the first home game of the season. Since 1989, YSU is an impressive 24-2-1 in home openers.

All-Time Home Opener Notes
Most Points: 77 vs. Valparaiso, 2011
Fewest Points: 0 vs. Stephen F. Austin, 1995 (3 times)
Opp. Most Points: 43 by Southern Illinois, 1969
Opp. Fewest Points: 0 by Robert Morris, 2017 (11 times)
Margin of Victory: 64 | 77-13 vs. Valparaiso, 2011

Non-Conference Home Success
      YSU has won 34 of its last 36 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.

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 is 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 made six PAT kicks.
    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. He played six seasons amassing 520 points missing just five PAT kicks in 165 attempts and making 120 field goals.
    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. He made a field goal against Missouri State in the regular season.

TEs Were Consistent
    One of the groups that saw consistent improvement during the 2018 campaign was the tight ends. YSU had three players see the bulk of the playing time last year, highlighted by 2019 sophomores Miles Joiner and Josh Burgett.
    Joiner caught 12 passes for 202 yards, but was a key weapon in the red zone, catching four touchdown passes. He started eight games.
    Burgett played in all 11 games a year ago and earned seven starts. YSU will be bolstered by the return of Kierre Hawkins, who played in just two games because a knee injury. Redshirt freshman Jake Benio played on special teams in 2019.
    In the opener, Burgett caught the first touchdown pass of his YSU career.

Mays Brings Experience
    One person the Penguins can rely on early in the campaign who owns some solid experience is senior QB Nathan Mays.
    Mays, who started against Samford, has seven career starts and played in 25 contests for the Penguins.
    Against Samford, he completed 10-of-18 passes fort 124 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 90 yards on 13 carries with a long run of 25 yards.
    As redshirt freshman in 2016, he engineered a come-from-behind fourth-quarter comeback win over UNI during the regular season when two quarterbacks were knocked out of the contest with injuries. Late in the campaign, his running style was a good change of pace in helping the Guins reach the National Championship Game.
    In 2017, he saw an increased role starting five games and playing in eight contests. He completed 75-of-113 passes for 905 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 317 yards on 77 attempts.
    Last year, he only saw action in four games as he dealt with a circulation issue in his leg throughout the campaign. He started at NDSU and played well vs. the Bison in a 17-7 defeat.

LBs Return Key Trio
    The Penguins will need to replace four-year starter Armand Dellovade at linebacker, but they have some experience to lean on. Ray Anderson, Christiaan Randall-Posey and Cash Mitchell each saw a lot of action 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 25 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.
    Last year, Gibson was second on the team with 42 total tackles and had 31 solo stops. He had a team-high 12 pass breakups on the campaign. Gibson has started 22 straight games entering the campaign. 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.
    Jones and Velez started against Samford while Douglas saw playing time as well.

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 started on the offensive line against Samford.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 138-37 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.
• 142-18 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 163-28 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 88-10-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 193-16 when leading entering the fourth.
• 89-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.

Up Next:
The Penguins play host to Duquesne at Stambaugh Stadium on Sept. 14. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.