S. Dakota State at YSU

Scouting Report:?Week 4

Think of the first few games of Youngstown State’s football season as the beginning of a workout.

Those first few exercises aren’t exactly easy, but they’re not the hardest either. Well, that part of the workout is over for YSU. The grueling portion of the routine begins now.

The Penguins (2-1) open Missouri Valley Football Conference play with a bang, facing last year’s co-champion, fourth-ranked South Dakota State (3-0), in a battle between two teams ranked in the top five. The Jackrabbits are one of the most talented teams in the FCS, powered by a multi-faceted offense loaded with size and skill.

Fifth-ranked YSU is built somewhat differently. The defense is again among one of the league’s best, and a steady offense is led by its rushing attack. A Penguin team that’s dealt with a few injuries needs to be at full strength today, and all three phases need to be on point.

QUARTERBACKS

YSU — The concensus is that starting quarterback Hunter Wells will return from a shoulder injury today. That would be a major boost for a YSU team that relies on precise play-action passes and smart decision-making. Those are Wells’ best attributes. Back-up Nathan Mays has played well in his absence, and while his time came against lower-level FCS programs, he did play against the Jackrabbits last year. Mays provides more of a dual threat, and one of the pluses of the QB situation is that SDSU must prepare for both players.

SDSU — Taryn Christion has established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the FCS. He’s a dual-threat QB who is the maestro of a vaunted SDSU offense that can beat teams in a number of ways. This season, Christion has completed 69-percent of his passes (56-of-81) for 692 yards, seven TDs and one interception. He also leads the team in rushing with 163 yards and three TDs on 17 carries.

EDGE — SDSU

RUNNING BACKS

YSU — Tevin McCaster has enjoyed a solid start to the season, and the Penguins likely will to continue to rely on him against SDSU. He has 263 yards and three TDs on 50 carries (a 5.3 yards-per-carry average). He is a proven three-down back who can get tough yards, break long runs and catch the ball out of the backfield. True freshman Christian Turner has been impressive, with 212 yards on just 31 carries (a 6.8 average). He’s also has eight receptions for 174 yards and two TDs.

SDSU — Senior tailback Brady Mengarelli only has 23 attempts through three games, and it appears sophomore Mikey Daniel may be taking over. Daniel has 151 yards and one TD on 28 carries. Isaac Wallace is the third part of a three-headed attack, with 81 yards and three TDs on 15 touches. Daniel may be ready to take over and at 6-foot, 220 pounds, he will be a load to bring down.

EDGE — YSU

RECEIVERS

YSU — With Wells out for most of the last two games, the receiving corps has suffered the most. They weren’t able to build off a solid first game against Pitt, and their timing could be off with Wells missing some practice. Alvin Bailey has a team-high 12 catches for 144 yards, but players like Damoun Patterson (4 receptions) and Isiah Scott (2 catches) have yet to become bigger parts of the offense, something that has to happen soon. Tight end Kevin Rader has just two grabs since a six-catch, 100-yard performance against Pitt.

SDSU — The Jackrabbits have two All-Americans in wide receiver Jake Wieneke, a 6-4, 215-pound senior, and tight end Dallas Goedert, a 6-5, 260-pound senior. Both put up unheard of numbers in 2016. They haven’t been needed as much this season. Goedert has 16 receptions for 210 yards and one TD, while Wieneke has 15 grabs for 173 yards and five TDs. They and Christion will undoubtedly be the focus of the YSU defense. Their size may be daunting, but it’s their ability to attack the ball at that height that makes them so dangerous.

EDGE –SDSU

OFFENSIVE LINE

YSU — The line has allowed just three sacks through three games and has paved the way for one a running game averaging nearly 300 yards per game (281.0). They’ll be tested against a big, physical Jackrabbits front four. The opener against Pitt should have them prepared for the size and strength of SDSU.

SDSU — South Dakota State boasts a monstrous front five that will be a major challenge for YSU. This group, led by All-American center Jacob Ohnesorge (6-3, 295), has allowed just three sacks despite 101 pass attempts. The Penguins must match their physicality to make a push at the point of attack.

EDGE — Even

DEFENSIVE

LINE

YSU — The defensive front was a major question mark coming into the season, and this group has played well thus far. Today will be their biggest challenge yet though. Christion is a superb quarterback who must be contained in the pocket. His scrambling can wreak havoc on a defense, so defensive linemen must be disciplined and stay in their gaps to avoid him turning broken plays into big ones. Florida transfer Justus Reed, a defensive end, leads YSU with four sacks. Stopping the run and making SDSU one-dimensional would be another big benefit for the Penguins.

SDSU — A hefty defensive line sets the tone for a solid South Dakota State defense. Kellen Soulek (6-5, 315) leads the charge. He has been limited by an injury, with just two tackles in his two games played, but one was a sack and the other was a tackles for loss. End Ryan Earith (6-4, 255) is another returning starter. Their size often keeps offensive linemen from reaching the second level.

EDGE — Even

LINEBACKERS

YSU — Linebackers Lee Wright and Armand Dellovade are two of the best in the conference. Wright is second on YSU with 21 tackles, and Dellovade is fourth with 15. Wright is an athletic, playmaking LB with great speed and open-field tackling. Dellovade uses his wits to be at the right place at the right time, and he also sets the defense as the MLB. Both need to be at their best today against a loaded SDSU offense that will try to match Goedert up against either of them.

SDSU — Sophomore Christian Rozeboom came out of nowhere as a freshman last year and was an all-conference selection. He leads SDSU in tackles with 17. First-year starter Eric Kleinschmit is second with 13 tackles. The third LB in the Jackrabbits’ 4-3 scheme, Logan Backhaus, has 12 tackles.

EDGE — Even

SECONDARY

YSU — No one has a tougher task today than the secondary. Wieneke and Goedert are arguably the best in the FCS at their respective positions. YSU’s safeties, Jalyn Powell and Kyle Hegedus, are talented veterans and must step up and play well. Hegedus leads YSU with 22 tackles. Powell is second with 21. The corners are where there is a little concern. Both are first-year starters facing one of the most prolific passing offenses in the country.

SDSU — A veteran secondary has had its ups and downs. Despite three starters returning, SDSU has allowed 238 yards passing per game, seven TDs and made four interceptions. Corner Anthony Washington is arguably their best DB, with three passes defended and a member of the 2016 MVFC All-Newcomer team.

EDGE — YSU

SPECIALISTS

YSU — Place kicker Zak Kennedy is 4-of-6 on field goals with a long of 36. His only misses are from 43 and 56. Punter Mark Schuler hasn’t been needed much since Week 1. He’s averaging 39.1 yards on three punts, with two landing inside the 20.

SDSU — Chase Vinatieri, the nephew of NFL great and SDSU grad Adam Vinatieri, is 3-for-3 on field goals, with a long of 51. He was 11-for-17 last year and didn’t miss inside 40 yards. Kick returner Cade Johnson has a 95-yard return for touchdown already this year. Punter Brady Hale is enjoying a nice start, with six of his nine punts landing inside the 20. He’s averaging 39.1 yards per boot.

EDGE — SDSU

PREDICTION

Arguably the premier FCS game of the weekend, the Penguins and Jackrabbits bring contrasting styles. YSU is fueled by a power running game, while South Dakota State prefers to air it out. Both present solid defenses, but SDSU has had Youngstown State’s number over the years, winning eight of the last nine matchups.

To change that, YSU must control the clock and keep the high-powered Jackrabbit offense off the field. Turnovers will be critical as well because giving SDSU any extra chances is a mistake most teams can’t overcome.

The Penguins must execute the gameplan precisely and play mistake-free football, a tall task against one of the best in the FCS.

SDSU, 31-27.

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