Penguins Set For Homecoming Tussle Against No. 3 SDSU

Miles Joiner
Miles Joiner

    The 17th-ranked Youngstown State football team returns home to face a strong challenge against third-ranked South Dakota State on Saturday evening. Kickoff for the Homecoming tilt is set for 6 p.m. The game is available on ESPN+, WKBN 570 AM and iHeartRadio.
    YSU (4-1, 0-1) suffered its first setback of the season dropping a tough 21-14 decision at UNI in the UNI-Dome last Saturday. The Penguins trailed 14-0 and 21-7, but kept battling against the Panthers.
    UNI took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter when QB Will McElvain connected with Isaiah Weston for a 39-yard touchdown pass. The Panthers extended their lead to 14-0 when Trevor Allen scored on a 10-yard run with 5:07 left in the second quarter.
    YSU pulled within a touchdown just 11 seconds later as Nathan Mays found Jermiah Braswell for a 75-yard strike. But just before halftime, UNI pushed the advantage back up to two touchdowns as Tyler Hoosman scored a on 15-yard run with 1:01 remaining.
    On its first possession of the second half, YSU marched 75 yards in eight plays as Mays capped the drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Kendric Mallory.
    The Penguins had their chances to draw closer, but couldn't capitalize. YSU missed a 44-yard field goal late in the third quarter, turned the ball over after reaching the UNI 14-yard line with 5:18 remaining and had a potential game-tying touchdown pass dropped with five minutes left.
    South Dakota State (4-1, 1-0) opened MVFC play with a 28-10 victory over Southern Illinois. The Jackrabbits trailed 10-9 at halftime before the outscoring the Salukis 19-0 in the second half.
    Redshirt freshman J'Bore Gibbs threw three touchdown passes while running back Pierre Strong ran for 229 yards on 20 carries and added a 64-yard touchdown run to lead the offensive effort. The defense held SIU to just 215 yards of total offense to win its fourth straight game.
    The Penguins defeated SDSU 19-7 in the last meeting between the teams at Stambaugh Stadium in 2017. Last year in Brookings, S.D., the Jackrabbits picked up a 36-7 win over YSU. SDSU leads the all-time series 13-7.

Quick Notes
• YSU is 3-1 in games following a loss to open its MVFC slate. The only time the Penguins started conference play 0-2 was in 2004.
• The defense has forced 12 turnovers in just five games. YSU forced a total of nine in 11 games in 2018. The Guins have a takeaway in every game this season.
• QB Nathan Mays threw for a career-high 239 yards in the defeat at UNI. He also threw a career-long 75-yard touchdown pass to Jermiah Braswell.
• Braswell has three touchdowns on the season. He entered the season with four career TD receptions.
• Mays had two touchdown passes in a game for the third time this season.
• YSU had another solid game on punt return. Jake Coates returned five punts for 41 yards and had a long return of 25 yards. In the past two games, Coates has returned 11 punts for 174 yards and a touchdown.
• DT Antoine Cook had 3.5 TFLs and a sack in the contest at UNI. DB Jaelin Madison recorded his first career sack against the Panthers.
• The Penguins held UNI to just 99 yards rushing on 35 attempts. YSU surrendered four pass completions that went for 162 yards. The other six completions went for 73 yards.
• YSU has five players who have rushed for at least 165 yards and have scored a touchdown.
• TB Joe Alessi had his second career 100-yard rushing game with 146 yards on 14 carries vs. Robert Morris. His other 100-yard performance was in November 2016 at Missouri State.
Braxton Chapman had 132 yards rushing and London Pearson had 126 vs. Howard on Sept. 7. It was the 35th time in school history that YSU had multiple 100-yard rushers.

Last Time Out: UNI 21, YSU 14
    YSU suffered its first setback of the season dropping a tough 21-14 decision at UNI in the UNI-Dome last Saturday. The Penguin trailed 14-0 and 21-7, but kept battling against the Panthers.
    UNI took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter when Will McElvain connected with Isaiah Weston for a 39-yard touchdown pass. The Panthers extended their lead to 14-0 when Trevor Allen scored on a 10-yard run with 5:07 left in the second quarter.
    YSU pulled within a touchdown just 11 seconds later as Nathan Mays found Jermiah Braswell for a 75-yard strike. But just before halftime, UNI pushed the advantage back up to two touchdowns as Tyler Hoosman scored a on 15-yard run.
    On its first possession of the second half, YSU marched 75 yards in eight plays as Mays capped the drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Kendric Mallory.

Last Time vs. SDSU
    YSU suffered a 36-7 setback at South Dakota State in Brookings, S.D., at Dana Dykhouse Stadium last October. The Penguins led 7-6 in the first quarter before the Jackrabbits ended up scoring the final 30 points of the game.
    After falling behind 6-0, the Guins marched 78 yards on eight plays and took a 7-6 lead when Christian Turner scored on a 27-yard pass from Montgomery VanGorder at the 7:41 mark of the first quarter.
    SDSU responded with a 31-yard field goal by Chase Vinatieri just over four minutes later and never trailed again in the contest. SDSU's final four touchdowns were rushing scores by Mikey Daniel, C.J. Wilson and Taryn Christion.
    YSU trailed just 23-7 entering the fourth quarter before Christion scored twice to put the game out of reach.
    The Guins held SDSU to 78 yards passing.

Homecoming Happiness
    The Penguins are playing their 79th Homecoming contest this Saturday against South Dakota State. YSU has won six of its last eight Homecoming contests.
    The Penguins own an all-time mark of 53-24-1 in Homecoming contests. SDSU has been YSU's Homecoming opponent twice. At Stambaugh Stadium, YSU 25-12 in Homecoming games.

Four Wins By 20 Points
    All four of YSU's wins have come by more than 20 points. YSU has defeated 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.

Turnovers on the Uptick
    The YSU defense has made it a habit of forcing turnovers so far in 2019. YSU has caused 12 turnovers in five games – 4 vs. Samford, 3 vs. Howard, 3 vs. Duquesne and 1 vs. Robert Morris and UNI. 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.
    In just five games this season, the Guins have intercepted seven passes, which newly eclipses the total from each of the past two seasons combined. YSU had three interceptions in 2018 and five in 2017.

More INTS in 2019
    The Penguins have intercepted seven passes in five games 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.

One-Hit Wonders
    The Penguins have six one-play drives this season. YSU scored on three one-play drives against Howard and had one each against Duquesne, Robert Morris and UNI.
    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 last Saturday, Nathan Mays connected with Jermiah Braswell on a 75-yard touchdown pass.

Mallory With TD Catch
    Senior WR Kendric Mallory hauled in his first touchdown reception of the season against UNI.
    Mallory caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Nathan Mays in the third quarter at UNI.
    Mallory had a pair of touchdown grabs last year hauling in scoring tosses against Butler and Valparaiso.
    Against UNI he caught three passes for 45 yards. Entering the game he had three receptions for 25 yards this season.

Big Days For Coates
    Junior PR Jake Coates has had the best two games of his YSU career in each of the past two contests.
    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. He had a touchdown return of 63 yards and additional returns of 22 and 33 in the contest.
    At UNI, he had five returns for 41 yards, including a 25-yard return.
    Prior to the RMU game, Coates' career-long return was 22 yards against South Dakota State in 2018. Coates now has 60 returns in his career for 365 yards. He now ranks tied for second in school history in career punt returns (60) and sixth in yards (366).

Now We're Cooking
    Sophomore DT Antoine Cook led the Penguins with seven total tackles against UNI. Cook was credited with three solo stops and four assists vs. the Panthers.
    Cook had a sack for an eight-yard loss in the first quarter and ended the game with 3.5 TFLs for 14 yards in losses.
    For the year, Cook has 19 total tackles - 10 solos and nine assists. It was the second sack of his career and the first since the 2018 season opener against Butler.

Braswell Stepping Up
    Senior WR Jermiah Braswell has three touchdown receptions this season to lead the Penguins.
    He caught a career-long 75-yard touchdown reception against UNI last Saturday. 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 40 receptions for 737 yards and seven touchdowns.

Scoring Runs in Victories
    The Penguins have gone on big runs to seize control in each of their four 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.

Multiple-QB Attack
    The Penguins have played four quarterbacks this season with three having rushing touchdowns - Nathan Mays, Joe Craycraft and Mark Waid. The trio has combined for seven touchdowns on 75 carries and 303 yards.
    The contest at UNI was first 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. Joe Craycraft scored on a seven-yard run in the fourth quarter against RMU.
    Nathan Mays has rushing touchdowns in three games and has four on the season. Mays has seven touchdown passes this season - two each in each of the first two games and two more at UNI.
    Conor Collins saw snaps in the fourth quarter against RMU. Craycraft made his first career start against the Colonials.

Alessi Making an Impact
    Senior TB Joe Alessi has led the Penguins in rushing each of the past three games. Alessi had a season-high 146 yards on 14 carries in the win over Robert Morris. It was the second 100-yard rushing game of his career and first since November 2016 at Missouri State (190 yards).
    In five games this year, Alessi has a team-high 375 yards on 55 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).
    Matt Jones has started all five games at center for the Penguins and helped anchor an offense that is amongst the nation's leaders 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. In five games, Jones has 22 total tackles and added a fumble recovery against Duquesne.

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 79 total tackles (40 solos), 21.5 TFLs and 13 sacks so far this season.
    DT Antoine Cook was the latest to step up with a career-best performance recording seven tackles, three TFLs and a sack at UNI. Against Duquesne, Craig had seven tackles and a sack. In the win over Howard, Richmond had eight tackles and sack while Craig had two sacks and seven tackles and Reed had four tackles and a pair of sacks. Reed opened the season with a three-sack performance vs. Samford.
    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 two field goals and is 24-of-27 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 21 total tackles this season, just one shy of his 2018 total of 22. Mitchell, had a career-best 35 tackles last season and this year has 19 with six TFLs. Terray Bryant and Christiaan Randall-Posey have combined for 27 tackles this years.
    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 in 2018 with 20 of his 22 tackles came against MVFC foes.

Secondary Has Depth
    The Penguins secondary has stepped up this season. The unit has seven interceptions through five games. Six different players already have an interception. Of those six, four have recorded their first career INT.
    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 ranks second on the team with 22 total tackles and has a team-best two interceptions. Hegedus missed the 2018 campaign with a knee injury, and has a team-leading 27 total tackles, including 17 solo stops and one interception.
    Five other secondary members, Jaelin Madison (14), D.J. Smalls (14), Bryce Gibson (12), Dee Ford (11) and Melvin Jackson (11) 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, 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 has started the last four 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 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 five games. Senior graduate transfer Matt Jones has started all five games this year while Myles Douglas has made four starts.
    Zinni was named the MVFC Offensive Lineman of the Week against RMU.

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.
    Additionally, YSU is playing 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.

Touchdowns By Current Guins
    The Penguins have 18 players on their roster who have combined for a total of 60 touchdowns. TB Joe Alessi has the most rushing touchdowns with nine while Jermiah Braswell leads the team with seven receiving TDs.

Numbers of Note
• Turnover Margin: Since 1996, the Penguins are 141-38 when they win or tie in the turnover margin. When committing more turnovers, YSU is just 27-72.
Since 1990 YSU is:
• 168-21-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points in a game.
• 144-18 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
• 166-28 when scoring 28-or-more points.
• 88-11-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game.
• 196-16 when leading entering the fourth.
• 90-3-2 when holding opponents to 10 points-or-less in a game.

Up Next: At Southern Illinois
    The Penguins return to the road on Oct. 19 to take on Southern Illinois. Kickoff at Saluki Stadium is set for 3 p.m. Eastern time.