Penguins Set to Entertain Top-Ranked North Dakota State

Jermiah Braswell
Jermiah Braswell

     The Youngstown State football team opens November with a home contest against top-ranked North Dakota State on Saturday night at Stambaugh Stadium. Kickoff for the game is set for 6 p.m. The game is available on ESPN+, WKBN 570 AM and iHeartRadio.
    YSU (5-3, 1-3 in the MVFC) picked up its first Missouri Valley Football Conference win of the season with an impressive 59-14 victory against Western Illinois at Stambaugh Stadium last Saturday. After the contest was tied at seven, the Penguins reeled off the next 52 points to roll to the win.
    Joe Alessi opened the scoring for the Penguins on a 44-yard run just 70 seconds into the game. WIU tied the contest just over three minutes later, but after that it was all Penguins. YSU added three more touchdowns in the first quarter as Alessi scored on a 56-yard run and Nathan Mays connected with Jermiah Braswell on a pair of long touchdown passes - 40 and 54 yards.
    The scoring onslaught continued in the second quarter as Christian Turner caught a one-yard pass from Mays, Colt McFadden made a 25-yard field goal and Kendric Mallory caught a Hail Mary from Mays from 39 yards as time expired in the first half.
    In the third quarter, Miles Joiner hauled in a 25-yard touchdown pass from Mays and Braxton Chapman capped off the scoring.
    North Dakota State (8-0 and 4-0) won for the 29th straight time with an impressive 23-16 victory at third-ranked South Dakota State last Saturday. Against the Jackrabbits, NDSU trailed 6-0 in the first quarter before scoring 16 straight points. SDSU fought back to tie the game at 16 with 7:22 left in the game. After the teams traded turnovers, the Bison faced a fourth-and-short from their own 29-yard line. On fourth down, Adam Cofield scored on a 71-yard run with just 2:32 remaining to keep the Bison unbeaten.
    The Penguins have lost the last two games at Stambaugh Stadium by identical 27-24 scores. In 2017, the contest went to overtime, but after YSU missed a field goal, Cam Pedersen converted a 36-yard field goal for the win. In 2015, YSU led 24-10 in the fourth quarter, but the Bison rallied by scoring 17 fourth-quarter points to earn the win. NDSU has won the last seven meetings to build a 9-4 series lead.

Quick Notes
• Head Coach Bo Pelini goes for the 100th win of his career this Saturday vs. North Dakota State. Pelini owns 67 career wins at Nebraska and 32 with the Penguins.
• YSU's defense has forced 16 turnovers in eight games. YSU forced a total of just nine in 11 games in 2018. Against WIU, the unit forced three fumbles.
• QB Nathan Mays threw a career-best four touchdown passes against Western. He is the 12th quarterback in school history to throw for four scores in a game.
• The five combined touchdowns passes vs. Western tied a school record for most in a game. It was the fourth time in school history the Penguins accomplished the feat.
• The 45-point margin of victory tied the school record for largest in an MVFC game. It is the third time the Guins have won a league game by 45 points.
• TB Joe Alessi had an impressive first quarter-and-a-half. He rushed 13 times for 156 yards and two touchdowns and caught two passes for 31 yards.
• DE Justus Reed registered a sack for the third straight contest. Reed leads the team with nine sacks and 12 TFLs.
• WR Jermiah Braswell had the first multi-TD reception game of his career vs. Western.
• 70 players saw action against WIU.
• The Penguins have scored 45-or-more points in four games this season. On two occasions, YSU has scored at least 54 points. At home, the Penguins have scored at least 28 points in all five games.

Last Time Out: YSU 59, WIU 14
    YSU picked up its first Missouri Valley Football Conference win of the season with an impressive 59-14 victory against Western Illinois at Stambaugh Stadium last Saturday. After the contest was tied at seven, the Penguins reeled off the next 52 points to roll to the win.
    Joe Alessi opened the scoring for the Penguins on a 44-yard run just 70 seconds into the game. WIU tied the contest just over three minutes later, but after that it was all Penguins. YSU added three more touchdowns in the first quarter as Alessi scored on a 56-yard run and Nathan Mays connected with Jermiah Braswell on a pair of long touchdown passes - 40 and 54 yards.
    The scoring onslaught continued in the second quarter as Christian Turner caught a one-yard pass from Mays, Colt McFadden made a 25-yard field goal and Kendric Mallory caught a hail-mary pass from Mays from 39 yards as time expired in the first half.
    In the third quarter, Miles Joiner hauled in a 25-yard touchdown pass from Mays and Braxton Chapman capped off the scoring.

Last Time vs. NDSU
    YSU suffered a hard-fought 17-7 loss at No. 1 North Dakota State last November at the Fargodome. The contest was tied after three quarters before the Bison scored the contest's final 10 points for the win.
    After a scoreless first quarter, NDSU took a 7-0 lead with 9:07 left in the second quarter on a 30-yard pass from Easton Stick to Lance Dunn. The Guins hung tough and tied the contest late in the third quarter when Nathan Mays connected with Miles Joiner on 21-yard scoring toss.
    However, in the fourth quarter, NDSU scored 10 points to pull out the win. The Bison went in front 14-7 on a one-yard run by Stick with 11:22 left. NDSU made it a two-possession game on a 36-yard field goal by Cam Pedersen.

Five Wins By 20 Points
    All five of YSU's wins have come by more than 20 points. YSU opened the year with four straight wins of at least 20 points - Samford 45-22, Howard 54-28, Duquesne 34-14 and Robert Morris 45-10. It marked the first time in school history that the Penguins won four consecutive games by 20 points or more. YSU won four straight by 19 or more points during the 1993 campaign.
    YSU defeated Western Illinois 59-14 last Saturday for its fifth win of the season.

Turnovers on the Uptick
    The YSU defense has made it a habit of forcing turnovers so far in 2019. YSU has caused 16 turnovers in eight games – 4 vs. Samford, 3 vs. Howard, Duquesne and Western Illinois and one against Robert Morris, UNI and Southern Illinois. In 11 games in 2018, the Penguins caused just nine turnovers.
    Until the first three games of this year, the last time the Penguins forced three-or-more turnovers in consecutive games was back in 2002.
    Already this season, the Guins have intercepted eight passes, which newly eclipses the total from each of the past two seasons combined. YSU had three interceptions in 2018 and five in 2017.

Sacks On The Rise
    YSU had three sacks against Western Illinois to bring the Penguins' total to 24 through eight games. The Penguins recorded just 18 in 11 games last season. DE Justus Reed leads the team with nine sacks. In 15 career games played, Reed has an impressive 14 sacks.
    Ma'lik Richmond has been a major contributor as well with seven sacks this season. Richmond had three sacks in 2018.
    Last year's sack leader was Savon Smith and he had six while starting all 11 contests. Additionally, YSU has 62 TFLs this season after registering just 51 in 2018.
More INTS in 2019
    The Penguins have intercepted eight passes this year. YSU had three in 11 games a year ago and had just five in 2017. The Guins equaled their 2018 total in the season opener vs. Samford with three INTs. The three interceptions against the Bulldogs were the most interceptions in a single game for the program since Sept. 26, 2009, at Indiana State.

Multiple-QB Attack
    The Penguins have played four quarterbacks this season with three having rushing touchdowns - Nathan Mays, Joe Craycraft and Mark Waid. That trio has combined for nine touchdowns on 114 carries and 342 yards.
    The contest at UNI is the only time this year YSU did not employ a multiple-QB system.
    Freshman QB Mark Waid made his YSU debut against Duquesne and scored a pair of rushing touchdowns. He also played against SDSU. Joe Craycraft scored on a seven-yard run in the fourth quarter against RMU. Craycraft has passing scores against SDSU and Duquesne.
    Mays has rushing touchdowns in four games and has six total on the season. Mays has 11 touchdown passes this season.
    Conor Collins saw snaps in the fourth quarter against RMU and WIU. Craycraft made his first career start against the Colonials.

Mays Is A Gamer
    After battling injuries during the past three games, a somewhat healthy QB Nathan Mays threw a career-high four touchdown passes against Western Illinois.
    Mays suffered an injury on YSU's final offensive play vs. UNI on Oct. 5. He somehow was in the starting lineup against South Dakota State.
    Against SDSU, Mays completed 14-of-24 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 58 yards on 13 carries and scored twice. He was knocked out of that contest in the fourth quarter. He returned against Southern Illinois and threw for 137 yards.
    This season he has completed 90-of-147 passes for 1,277 yards and 13 touchdowns. Entering the year, he was 108-of-175 for 1,342 yards and seven touchdowns.

Alessi Now A Pass Catcher
    In his first 40 games with the Penguins, tailback Joe Alessi had not caught a pass.
    In the last four games, Alessi has seven receptions for 100 yards. He had his first career reception against UNI on Oct. 5. Against South Dakota State he caught three passes for 55 yards. Included in that was a 45-yard touchdown reception, the first of his career.
    Additionally, Alessi has 1,209 career rushing yards on 140 attempts, an average of 8.6 per rush. He has two 100-yard games this season and had a best 156 yards vs. Western last week.

One-Hit Wonders
    The Penguins have seven one-play drives this season. YSU scored on three one-play drives against Howard and had one each against Duquesne, Robert Morris, UNI and WIU.
    Against Howard, Joe Alessi scored on a 40-yard touchdown run, Braxton Chapman raced 78 yards for a score and London Pearson ripped off a 75-yard touchdown run.
    In the win over Duquesne, Joe Craycraft threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Pearson. Against Robert Morris, Alessi scampered home on a 43-yard touchdown rush. At UNI, Nathan Mays connected with Jermiah Braswell on a 75-yard touchdown pass. Against WIU last Saturday, Braswell caught a 40-yard pass from Mays.

Big Season For Coates
    Junior PR Jake Coates is having one of the best seasons by a punt returner in school history. Coates has returned 24 punts for 310 yards this season, an average of 12.9 per return.
    Coates is just seven yards shy of the school record for punt return yards in a season. Dave Roberts has held the mark with 317 since 1992.
    He was named the MVFC Special Teams Player of the Week in the win over Robert Morris. Coates set a school record with 133 yards on five returns vs. RMU. He had a touchdown return of 63 yards and additional returns of 22 and 33 in the contest.
    Last Saturday against WIU, he had a career-long 81-yard punt return. It was the fourth-longest in school history.
    He now ranks second in school history in career punt returns (68) and third in yards (474).

Braswell Stepping Up
    Senior WR Jermiah Braswell leads the Penguins in all three receiving categories. Braswell has 21 receptions for 449 yards and five touchdowns. He is also averaging a team-best 21.4 yards per reception.
    Against Western Illinois, he caught two first quarter touchdown passes. He had a 40-yard score and a 54-yard touchdown. It was the first multi-touchdown game of his career.
    He caught a career-long 75-yard touchdown reception against UNI on Oct. 5. Earlier in the year he caught a 24-yard touchdown against Robert Morris and a 38-yard touchdown vs. Howard.
    For his career, Braswell has 48 receptions for 920 yards and nine touchdowns.

Reed A Difference Maker
    DE Justus Reed has made an impressive return after missing the 2018 season with a torn Achilles tendon.
    Reed has 30 total tackles this season which includes 12 TFLs and nine sacks. He has sacks in five of eight games and had another negated by a questionable targeting call vs. Duquesne that forced him to miss the first half against Robert Morris. With YSU leading big at halftime against RMU he saw limited action. He started the season with a three-sack performance against Samford.
    In 2017, Reed showed flashes of being a difference maker with 15 tackles, 5.5 TFLs and five sacks as a pass-rush specialist. He played in seven games during his first year at YSU.

Richmond Making An Impact
    Senior DE Ma'lik Richmond is making the most of his first year as a starter.
    Richmond, who had a career-best nine tackles at Southern Illinois, has 33 total tackles this season, highlighted by seven sacks. He has eight tackles for loss this year.
    Richmond had two sacks against the Salukis and finished with eight solo stops.
    Entering the season, he had 29 career tackles and three sacks in 16 games played through a two-year span. Of his 14 career TFLs, 10 have been sacks.

Alessi Having Breakout Year
    Senior TB Joe Alessi has led the Penguins in rushing each of the past six games.
    He had a season-high 156 yards on 13 carries last Saturday against Western Illinois. His previous season best was 146 yards on 14 carries against Robert Morris. He has three 100-yard rushing games in his career. The other came in November 2016 at Missouri State (190 yards).
    This year, Alessi has a team-high 657 yards on 97 carries. In his previous three campaigns, he had 552 yards on 43 carries.

Keep Up With The Joneses
    The Penguins have had solid performances from newcomers Matt Jones (West Virginia) and Zaire Jones (Vanderbilt) this year.
    Matt Jones has started all eight games at center for the Penguins. Zaire Jones had quite a debut against Samford recording two interceptions and five total tackles. In eight games, Jones has 40 total tackles, including 23 solo stops.

D-Line Playing Well
    The Penguins defensive line has seen all four starters step up so far this season.
    The group of DEs Justus Reed, Ma'lik Richmond and DTs Antoine Cook and DeMarko Craig - all first-time starters in 2019 - have combined for 129 total tackles (72 solos), 35.5 TFLs and 23 sacks so far this season.
    DE Ma'lik Richmond was the latest to have a career-best performance. At Southern Illinois, Richmond had nine total tackles, including eight solo stops. He had three TFLs and two sacks vs. the Salukis.
    DT Antoine Cook had a career-best performance recording seven tackles, three TFLs and a sack at UNI. Against Duquesne, Craig had seven tackles and a sack. Reed opened the season with a three-sack performance vs. Samford. Against WIU, Reed had two more sacks.
    In 2018, Reed missed the campaign with an injury, Cook was a reserve, Craig redshirted and Richmond was a pass-rush specialist.

McFadden Times Three
    The Penguins added Kent State transfer Colt 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.
    This season, Colt McFadden has made four field goals and is 36-of-39 on PAT tries.
    Paul McFadden finished his career with 240 points making 52 field goals and 78 PATs. He earned notoriety for being a barefoot-style kicker. 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.

LBs Have Deep Numbers
    LBs Ray Anderson, Christiaan Randall-Posey and Cash Mitchell give the Penguins good experience at that position.
    Anderson has 41 total tackles this season after recording 22 a year ago. He had a career-best eight tackles at Southern Illinois. Mitchell, had a career-best 35 tackles last season and this year has 31 with 7.5 TFLs. Terray Bryant (24) and Christiaan Randall-Posey (18) have combined for 42 tackles this year. The pair had 12 vs. WIU.
    Last year, Mitchell led the group with 35 tackles while Randall-Posey finished with 30 total tackles, including 23 solos. He started three games. Anderson came on strong at the end of the campaign in 2018 with 20 of his 22 tackles came against MVFC foes.

Scoring Runs in Victories
    The Penguins have gone on big runs to seize control in each of their five victories.
    Against Samford, YSU trailed 7-0 before scoring 31 unanswered points. In the contest vs. Howard, the Guins went a on 48-7 scoring run which included a 21 straight points and then 27 consecutive points. In the win over Duquesne, YSU jumped out to a 21-0 lead and went on to win by 20. YSU trailed Robert Morris 7-0 before scoring 31 consecutive points.
    Last Saturday, the Penguins were tied with Western Illinois 7-7 before erupting for the next 52 points in the victory.

Secondary Has Depth
    The Penguins secondary has stepped up this season. The unit has eight interceptions and six different players have an interception.
    This year, leading the way are two players who didn't play for YSU in 2018 - SS Zaire Jones and FS Kyle Hegedus.
    Jones transferred from Vanderbilt and has 40 total tackles and is tied for the team-lead with two interceptions. Hegedus missed the 2018 campaign with a knee injury, and has 41 total tackles, including a team-high 29 solo stops and two interceptions.
    Five other secondary members, Jaelin Madison (22), Dee Ford (21), D.J. Smalls (20), Bryce Gibson (18) and Melvin Jackson (15) have double digits in tackles this season. Smalls, Gibson and Ford have interceptions this year.

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 and started the final 25 games of his career for the Mountaineers and started against the Penguins last September in Morgantown. Jones has started every game at center while Douglas has started the last seven games at right guard.

Becker, Zinni Anchor Line
    The most veteran YSU players on the offensive line are sophomore LT Dan Becker and senior LG 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 last year is Devon Robinson. He made a pair of starts at right tackle in 2018.
    All three players have started the first eight games. Senior graduate transfer Matt Jones has started all seven games this year while Myles Douglas has made six starts.

Touchdowns By Current Guins
    The Penguins have 18 players on their roster who have combined for a total of 73 touchdowns. TB Joe Alessi has the most rushing touchdowns with 12 while Jermiah Braswell leads the team with nine receiving TDs.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 142-39 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 27-73.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 169-21-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 145-18 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 167-29 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 88-11-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 197-17 when leading entering the fourth.
• 90-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.

Up Next:
    YSU plays its next two contests on the road starting with a trip to South Dakota next Saturday. The Penguins then head to Terre Haute, Ind., to take on Indiana State.