YSU at South Dakota

Scouting Report:?Week 5

Round 1 of the boxing match that is Missouri Valley Football Conference play went to Youngstown State — and it was a big round for the Penguins.

Third-ranked YSU (3-1, 1-0) is coming off an impressive, dominant victory over South Dakota State (previously ranked No. 3), but the Jackrabbits’ evil twin brother, the University of South Dakota, awaits the Penguins in Round 2.

The No. 6 Coyotes are on an upswing and putting up some eye-popping offensive numbers (averaging 48.8 points per game). They have one of the nation’s most dangerous quarterbacks in Chris Streveler and are looking to make their mark in the MVFC after previously being a bit of a cellar-dweller.

The Penguins’ vaunted defense stands in their way. After holding SDSU’s high-octane offense to seven points, confidence is soaring. The only problem is YSU will probably be without starting quarterback Hunter Wells (shoulder), so backup Nathan Mays will get a major road test.

QUARTERBACKS

YSU — It’s highly unlikely Wells returns today after re-injuring his shoulder in the first quarter last week. He’ll likely be out this week and probably next week as well. Mays has played well in relief, aside from a few ill-timed mistakes. His dual-threat capability makes him hard to prepare for, and he’s showing he’s a more accomplished passer than some may think. Mays is 35-of-48 for 373 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He’s also run for 226 yards on 23 carries.

USD — Streveler, a Minnesota Gopher transfer, is off to an incredible start for USD. He’s completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,168 yards, 10 TDs and zero interceptions. He also runs like a tailback. He has 318 yards and seven TDs on 74 attempts. He’ll be the focus of YSU’s defense and will likely see an array of blitzes and varying coverages.

EDGE — USD

RUNNING BACKS

YSU — Tevin McCaster might still be catching his breath from last week’s 35-carry, 183-yard performance. YSU ran the ball 63 times for 310 yards and possessed the ball for more than 45 minutes. There will likely be a similar gameplan in place against the high-scoring Coyotes. McCaster and Christian Turner have been a great 1-2 punch, combining for 720 yards and five TDs (Mays adds another four scores).

USD — Michael Frederick (5-11, 175) is the Coyotes’ second-leading ball carrier behind Streveler. Fredrick started the first four games, with 212 yards and two TDs on 52 carries (4.1-yard average). True freshman Kai Henry (5-8, 195) is actually USD’s second-leading rusher with 230 yards and three TDs on 44 carries. Neither of them, nor Streveler, have a run longer than 35 yards this season.

EDGE — YSU

RECEIVERS

YSU — YSU’s receivers have been solid at being patient and making plays when called upon. Considering the run-heavy approach likely isn’t changing any time soon, that will be their role for long stretches of the season. Alvin Bailey continues to be the top target, with a team-high 18 catches for 187 yards. Turner has been a big weapon out of the backfield with 11 grabs and 193 yards. Tight end Kevin Rader is a big red-zone target, and Damoun Patterson is a deep threat.

USD — Streveler really spreads the ball around when throwing, as 14 different players have at least one catch. Redshirt freshman Levi Falck (6-2, 195) leads the Coyotes with 16 receptions for 197 yards, but he has yet to score a TD. Shamar Jackson is next with 11 catches for 224 yards (a 20.4-yard average) and two TDs. USD has the ability to throw the ball vertically, so that’s another wrinkle to its offense.

EDGE — Even

OFFENSIVE LINE

YSU — No group played better against the Jackrabbits than the men up front. Their dominance was the prime reason for YSU’s victory, and if they can repeat that performance, they’re going to be looked at as one of the premier groups in the country. They’ve allowed four sacks and paved the way for 288 yards rushing per game.

USD — A young offensive line will almost certainly be tested by an aggressive YSU defense. The Coyotes are starting two freshmen and a junior-college transfer up front. While they’ve been a driving force for an offense averaging nearly 50 points and exactly 550 yards per game, they’ve also allowed 10 sacks, and one of YSU’s defensive linemen let it slip that the Penguins will “get after the quarterback” more this week than last.

EDGE — YSU

DEFENSIVE LINE

YSU — A nice mix of size, strength and speed have the defensive front doing just fine after the departures of two NFL draft picks. Ends Johnson Louigene and Fazson Chapman are big, strong players who are built to stop the run but also can rush the passer. Florida Gator transfer Justus Reed leads YSU with four sacks. Tackles Donald Mesier and Savon Smith are both forces in the middle.

USD — Darin Greenfield, an up-and-coming sophomore defensive end, leads the defensive front in USD’s 4-3 scheme. He leads the Coyotes in tackles-for-loss (8.5), sacks (3) and QB hurries (5). Tackle Taylor Lambert and end Kameron Cline are both returning starters, with Lambert one of the team leaders in sacks and TFLs last year. This group will have its hands full with a powerful YSU offensive line.

EDGE — Even

LINEBACKERS

YSU — Junior middle linebacker Armand Dellovade continues to build an impressive career resume. He had his first career interception against SDSU and his lone tackle-for-loss resulted in a safety. WLB Lee Wright is another play-making LB. He’s third on YSU with 23 tackles.

USD — The Coyotes boast an impressive linebacker corps with three returning starters, including team co-captain John Wessel, a 6-3, 230-pound senior who missed last season with an injury. Alex Coker (6-2, 215) is tied for second on USD with 19 tackles and 3.5 TFLs, and senior Jim Litrenta (6-3, 230) also has 19 tackles and is coming off a big season. They, too, will tangle with YSU’s front five.

EDGE — YSU

SECONDARY

YSU — Jalyn Powell is quickly becoming one of the premier safeties in the MVFC. Aside from being good in coverage, Powell is one of YSU’s best open-field tacklers. He and fellow safety Kyle Hegedus are tied for the team lead in tackles with 27. True freshman corner Bryce Gibson may be the biggest surprise. He leads YSU with four passes defensed.

USD — Junior Danny Rambo is a budding star at corner. The honorable-mention all-league selection leads USD with 25 tackles and also has one interception, two tackles for loss and a team-best five passes defensed. Free safety Andrew Gray is another solid player coming off a big year. He has 18 tackles (fourth on USD) with four passes defensed.

EDGE — YSU

SPECIALISTS

YSU — Place kicker Zak Kennedy has made five of his last six field goals, missing only from 56 yards. He’ll likely enjoy kicking in a dome compared to the swirling winds at Stambaugh Stadium. Punter Mark Schuler has only punted twice in the last three games. He’s one of the league’s best though, with a 41.4-yard average.

USD — First-year kicker Ryan Weese, a Kansas Jayhawk transfer, is 2-for-4 on field goal tries, with a long of just 23. He also handles kickoffs. Punter Brady Schutt is averaging 38 yards per boot, placing nine of his 20 attempts inside the 20-yard line. The Coyotes haven’t scored or given up a score via special teams, but they’re allowing a healthy 14.3 yards per punt return.

EDGE — YSU

PREDICTION

There are no breaks in the MVFC, and while YSU’s dominant victory over South Dakota State was impressive and moved the Penguins into the No. 3 spot in both polls, it won’t mean much if they can’t follow it up against a much-improved USD team.

Streveler is putting up gaudy numbers, but Youngstown State’s defense has seen – and defeated — players boasting similar statistics. Just last week, the Penguins corralled the 2016 MVFC Offensive Player of the Year Taryn Christion. Streveler very well might win that award this year, but he’s going to have to find a way to crack one of the nation’s best defenses.

One of the keys will be to keep Streveler in the pocket. He’s especially dangerous when he keeps plays alive and either scrambles for big gains for finds receivers down the field.

Offensively, the plan is the same as usual for YSU: Run the ball and be efficient in the passing game. The line holds the key to the Penguins’ success. Establishing the run game early is always important. Look for another heavy dose of McCaster, Turner and probably Mays, though YSU needs to be careful because they can’t afford to get the young QB hurt as Ricky Davis is the only other healthy quarterback on the depth chart.

YSU, 17-10.

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