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Scouting Report: Week 5

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Youngstown State junior Natavious Payne rushes into the backfield against Western Illinois this past Saturday where he recorded half a sack, and a season-high four tackles.

YOUNGSTOWN — After Youngstown State’s 38-35 loss to Western Illinois, head coach Doug Phillips said the schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Penguins. Look no further than this week’s road test at Northern Iowa.

After a change at the quarterback position, the 15th-rated Panthers enter Saturday’s contest with plenty of momentum, having won back-to-back matchups.

The M.O. for UNI remains the same — the Panthers are a defensive stalwart that will make life tough for YSU’s offense. Northern Iowa’s defense is staunch, giving up just 298.3 yards and 11.67 points per game, ranking the unit 23rd in total defense and sixth in scoring.

Add in the fact that YSU hasn’t won in Cedar Falls since 1999, and it’s clear the Penguins are facing an uphill battle.

QUARTERBACKS

YSU — Demeatric Crenshaw continues to show strength as a rushing quarterback, but he has struggled to throw the ball this season.

Crenshaw ranks 28th among all FCS players in rushing with 284 yards. Conversely, his 269 passing yards to date rank him 108th out of 150 players.

UNI — Trailing Sacramento State 9-7 at halftime on Sept. 11, UNI head coach Mark Farley inserted Michigan State transfer Theo Day in for last year’s starter, Will McElvain.

The result was four consecutive touchdowns for the offense during the third quarter, and the Panthers haven’t looked back since. Day is 24-for-42 this season for 313 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

EDGE — Northern Iowa

RUNNING BACKS

YSU — Jaleel McLaughlin is third among FCS players with 412 yards this season, and his five touchdowns rank him fourth.

However, this figures to be his toughest task yet, as UNI enters with the No. 13 rushing defense in the FCS. The Panthers have allowed just 89.3 yards per game this year, even after facing Iowa State’s Breece Hall, one of the top backs in all of college football. Hall was kept to 69 yards on 23 carries in that matchup.

UNI — With an average of 152.3 yards per game, the Panthers’ rushing offense ranks 48th nationally. Dom Williams handles the bulk of the workload, nad has 213 yards and a touchdown this season. He averages 6.1 yards per carry. Vance McShane has 109 yards and three scores, and runs for 7.8 yards a pop.

EDGE — Youngstown State

WIDE RECEIVERS

YSU — The Penguins have sturggled to get the ball downfield and rank 113th in passing offense. That shows in the stats of their receivers.

Tight end Andrew Ogletree and receiver C.J. Charleston each have six receptions this season, but the team’s leading receiver in terms of yardage is McLaughlin, who is capable of hauling in passes out of the backfield.

UNI — UNI’s air attack ranks 85th nationally, though its 183.3 yards per game should keep improving as Day keeps getting settled in.

Isaiah Weston (9 rec., 189 yards, 2 TDs) and Quan Hampton (15 rec., 160 yards, 2 TDs) lead the Panther receiving group.

EDGE — Northern Iowa

OFFENSIVE LINE

YSU — The Penguins have given up six TFLs and 1.67 sacks per game, so the offensive front is still a work in progress. YSU gave up five TFLs against WIU, but the Penguins did manage to keep Crenshaw upright the entirety of the contest.

UNI — The Panthers have given up just two sacks all year and rank 7th nationally in sacks allowed per game at 0.67. Additionally, the 4.33 TFLs UNI gives up puts the team at 16th overall.

EDGE — Northern Iowa

DEFENSIVE LINE

YSU — YSU’s two sacks this season rank 114th nationally, while the team’s 10 TFLs slot the Penguins at 117th Vinny Gentile and Hunter Allen each had two TFLs, and Gentile has a sack this year, which came in Week 1 against Incarnate Word.

UNI — The Panthers have 19 TFLs this season, and are led by Caden Houghtelling’s five. He also has a team-high two sacks. Tim Butcher has three TFLs to bolster that front. As a whole, UNI has four sacks this year — 1.33 per game.

EDGE — Northern Iowa

LINEBACKERS

YSU — Grant Dixon has the second-most tackles of any YSU player with 19, and also has 1.5 TFLs. Griffin Hoak has nine stops this year for a Penguin team that has faced mostly pass-first offenses to start the season. That could change this week at UNI, depending on how the Panthers look to attack this group.

Despite the pass-first approaches YSU’s taken on, the Penguins have allowed 160.7 yards rushing per game, slotting them at 72nd. That number would be lower if the 272 yards given up at Michigan State were factored out, however.

UNI — Spencer Cuvelier and Alfonzo Lambert headline a stingy linebacking corps that likely will give YSU headaches. Cuvelier has 30 tackles, as well as two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble, while Lambert has 22 stops.

EDGE — Northern Iowa

SECONDARY

YSU — The Penguins have surrendered at least 320 passing yards in each of their first three games. The 334.3 yards allowed per game rank YSU as the fourth-worst pass defense in the FCS. Jordan White recorded the team’s first interception last week.

UNI — If there is a weakness in UNI’s defense, it’s the 51st-ranked pass defense, which gives up 209 yards per game. However, given YSU’s struggles to air the ball out to date, that figure likely will improve.

Where the Panther secondary does excel is intercepting passes. UNI has six picks this year, slotting it 10th in the nation. Benny Sapp III has three, while Korby Sander, Omar Brown and Stefan Black II each have one.

EDGE — Northern Iowa

SPECIALISTS

YSU — Colt McFadden is still perfect on extra points (12-of-12) and field goals (3-for-3), while Paddy Lynch and Nick DeSalvo are both performing well at punter. DeSalvo pinned WIU at its own 1-yard-line last week.

UNI — Matthew Cook is 4-for-6 on field goals this year, including a 3-for-4 mark from the 40-49 range. He also has 11 touchbacks on 18 kickoffs. Punter Nate Murphy averages 37.77 yards per boot.

EDGE — Youngstown State

PREDICTION

Given YSU’s struggles in the second half against a defense like WIU’s, it’s hard to see much improvement against this staunch Northern Iowa team.

Meanwhile, with Theo Day under center, the Panther offense will work fairly efficiently to put the game away and stave off any ideas of a YSU upset.

Northern Iowa wins, 27-3.

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