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YSU Scouting Report: Week 8

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Youngstown State quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw (10) tries to evade a pair of Missouri State defenders during the Penguins’ 41-33 upset win two weeks ago. YSU visits Indiana State on Saturday.

Talk about a brutal home stretch.

Entering the second half of its season at 2-3, Youngstown State will face some of the best in the FCS to finish its season out, as three of its remaining five opponents are in this week’s Stats Perform Top 25. Those three are South Dakota State (No. 6), North Dakota State (No. 3) and Southern Illinois (No. 4). In addition, North Dakota just dropped out last week, but could find itself ranked again once it gets back on track.

Before that gauntlet, however, the Penguins travel to Terre Haute, Ind., to face the Indiana State Sycamores, who enter at 3-4 and certainly are beatable.

The term “must win” gets thrown around a lot these days, but this is as close to that as possible if the Penguins want to extend their progress from the 41-33 upset of Missouri State two weeks ago and continue that mojo into the final four weeks of the year.

ISU’s offense has struggled, as it ranks at the bottom of the Missouri Valley Football Conference in points per game (15.6) and total yardage (265.1). Given that YSU has allowed 37.6 points per game this year, we’ll soon find out if that’s due to the prolific offenses the Penguins have faced, or if deeper concerns are present.

Meanwhile, ISU has allowed 30.3 points per game, and YSU is scoring just under that with 28.2 points per game.

QUARTERBACKS

YSU — Demeatric Crenshaw is coming off his most complete performance of the season, having completed 10 of 19 passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 195 yards and a touchdown.

The passing numbers won’t jump off the stat sheet, but being able to complete downfield passes like he did last game will continue to open things up for Crenshaw and the YSU backfield. Crenshaw’s 97.4 rushing yards per game are 16th-best in the FCS.

ISU — Anthony Thompson is 94-of-154 this season with 918 yards and six touchdowns. He’s been picked off five times. His 131.14 yards per game are 84th in the FCS, and he won’t factor into the ISU run game.

EDGE — Youngstown State

RUNNING BACKS

YSU — Jaleel McLaughlin is the FCS’ third-leading rusher at 117.6 yards per game, and the Penguins also get Christian Turner back from injury this week.

The Sycamore defense gives up 152 yards per game on the ground, which ranks seventh in the MVFC.

ISU — Peterson Kerlegrand heads up a Sycamore ground game that ranks 10th out of 11 teams in the MVFC in terms of yardage per game. Kerlegrand has run for 473 yards this year and has scored three times. He also has five receptions for 67 yards.

EDGE — Youngstown State

WIDE RECEIVERS

YSU — Given the opportunity to make plays downfield two weeks ago, YSU’s receivers capitalized. Sam St. Surin hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass, while Jorge Portorreal had a 6-yard scoring grab.

Tight end Andrew Ogletree has 15 receptions for 120 yards this season, and is often one of Crenshaw’s most preferred targets.

ISU — Dante Hendrix is one of the top receivers in the MVFC, but has been limited to just two games this year due to injury. He played in ISU’s season opener, then didn’t appear again until last week against Missouri State.

That said, he made his presence immediately known, as he hauled in 10 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown against the Bears. Morgan Rontrez has 33 receptions for 241 yards this year, while Phazi McClurge has 22 grabs for 286 yards and three scores.

EDGE — Indiana State

OFFENSIVE LINE

YSU — After the upset of MSU, Penguin head coach Doug Phillips said the offensive linemen sat down in the week before to “kumbaya” and get things together. It showed, as YSU bulldozed what was a top 15 rushing defense for 377 yards and four touchdowns. In addition, Crenshaw finally had time to complete passes beyond the short- to mid-range routes. If the Penguins are to succeed, the front will have to keep progressing off of that step forward.

ISU — The Sycamore front is anchored by guard Isaiah Edwards, who has received MVFC honors during his career at ISU. Indiana State allows 1.71 sacks per game, and the rushing offense is 10th in the MVFC right now.

EDGE — Youngstown State

DEFENSIVE LINE

YSU — The YSU defensive front did a much better job of applying pressure against Missouri State than in previous weeks, as Jason Shelley often was scrambling around and was sacked four times. Hunter Allen had 1.5 of those, while Chris Fitzgerald had a TFL.

ISU — Inoke Moala’s 1.14 sacks per game (8 total) rank him eighth in the nation right now, and Indiana State as a whole averages 3.43 sacks per game, which is 7th in the FCS. Expect Moala to wreak a little havoc on Saturday, as he also has 12 TFLs.

EDGE — Indiana State

LINEBACKERS

YSU — Grant Dixon and Griffin Hoak took a collective step forward two weeks ago, as Hoak led the team with two sacks while Dixon had an assisted sack plus 1.5 TFLs.

ISU — Geoffrey Brown is the top linebacker for the Sycamores, with 31 tackles, six TFLs and a sack. Matt Thompson has notched two TFLs and a sack of his own.

EDGE — Youngstown State

SECONDARY

YSU — The Penguin secondary has been prone to giving up big plays this year, and Hendrix will certainly provide a tough test.

Still, this group is coming off a performance in which Keyon Martin and Jordan White each recorded an interception. White also led the Penguins in tackles that game.

ISU — This unit also has struggled, as the Sycamores have given up the 9th-most yards per game in the MVFC (247). Michael Thomas has two picks this season and two PBUs, while Mekhi Ware has four PBUs. In all, ISU has intercepted five passes this season.

EDGE — Indiana State

SPECIALISTS

YSU — Colt McFadden is 5-for-6 this season, and booted through a pair of kicks against MSU. His long is from 45 yards out. Paddy Lynch and Nick DeSalvo still split punting duties, and have done well together. Sam St. Surin also turned in an explosive kick return that set up a Jaleel McLaughlin touchdown run against the Bears.

ISU — Alan Selzer is 6-for-9 on field goals this season, while Travis Reiner has 13 punts inside the 20 and seven that went beyond 50 yards.

EDGE — Youngstown State

PREDICTION

Coming off a massive win over Missouri State followed by a bye week, the Penguins should be both confident and rested.

Look for YSU to handle business on the road and get back to .500, courtesy of a big day on the ground and what should be the defense’s best performance this season.

Youngstown State wins, 31-17.

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