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YSU Scouting Report: Week 11

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Youngstown State sophomore Bryce Oliver makes a 31-yard touchdown catch during the fourth quarter against South Dakota State on Oct. 30. Oliver and the Penguins welcome North Dakota State to the Ice Castle on Saturday.

YOUNGSTOWN — Just like that, we’re down to one final home game in Youngstown State’s 40th season at Stambaugh Stadium.

Perhaps fittingly, the Penguins may have saved their best opponent for last, as the vaunted North Dakota State Bison stampede into the Ice Castle.

As in other seasons, NDSU is among the best in the FCS, as they enter this week’s matchup fifth in the Stats Perform Top 25 Poll. That’s even after suffering their first loss of the season last week — a 27-19 decision to arch rival South Dakota State (who checks in at No. 4 in the same poll).

Meanwhile, the Penguins are reeling after suffering their third straight loss, a disappointing 24-21 defeat at North Dakota last week after YSU had built a 21-10 lead in the fourth quarter.

QUARTERBACKS

YSU — Demeatric Crenshaw returned from his leg injury in last week’s loss, and for the most part was true to form. The quarterback completed 13 of his 17 passes for 75 yards and was picked off once. As usual, though, he provided some firepower in the ground game, accounting for 60 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.

YSU head coach Doug Phillips mentioned he’s still rehabbing some on that lower leg, but that the added reps in practice this week now that he’s resumed first-string duties will help him continue to grow as this season winds down.

NDSU — Like YSU, the quarterback situation at NDSU has hit a few bumps in the road lately. Virginia Tech transfer Quincy Patterson started NDSU’s first seven games before suffering a shoulder injury against Missouri State.

Enter Cam Miller. The reserve quarterback rallied the Bison from down seven to a 27-20 victory, completing 7 of 9 passes for 122 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The NDSU offense also had some struggles the week before against Illinois State, and so now a QB controversy, if you want to call it that, has arisen. Last week against South Dakota State, Miller started and completed 15 of 23 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns and was picked off once.

Patterson is listed as the starter on this week’s NDSU depth chart, but in his press conference this week, NDSU head coach Matt Entz said he anticipates Miller playing. In either scenario, the Bison have a good option under center. Both QBs also can scramble and make plays with their feet.

EDGE — North Dakota State

RUNNING BACKS

YSU — At times, the YSU rush attack looked potent against UND. At others, it fell into a dormant state as the Penguin offense sputtered.

Jaleel McLaughlin ran 18 times for 122 yards and a touchdown in the loss, and also led the team in receiving with seven receptions for 39 yards.

Keeping McLaughlin and Christian Turner involved in the offense in as many ways as possible is critical for YSU, as they tend to be the best playmakers on this offense.

NDSU — The Bison deploy a two-man attack on the ground, featuring Dominic Gonnella and Kobe Johnson. Gonnella has 380 yards and a pair of touchdowns this season, while Johnson has 377 yards and a score.

TaMerik Williams also works into the rotation and has 296 yards and four touchdowns.

EDGE — North Dakota State

WIDE RECEIVERS

YSU — The YSU receiving corps didn’t factor in much at UND last week, though part of that was Crenshaw opting into checkdowns quite a bit, according to Phillips. YSU’s tailback tandem of McLaughlin and Turner led YSU in receptions a week ago, but don’t count out Bryce Oliver and tight end Andrew Ogletree to make plays.

Oliver has 16 receptions for 210 yards and four touchdowns this season, while Ogletree has snagged 21 passes for 189 yards.

NDSU — Christian Watson is far and away the top NDSU receiver, as he accounts for nearly 1/3 of the team’s receptions. He’s hauled in 29 catches for 588 yards and six touchdowns. Phoenix Sproles has 15 receptions for 174 yards and a score, while Noah Gindorff has 10 grabs for 137 yards and a touchdown.

EDGE — North Dakota State

OFFENSIVE LINE

YSU — There were moments last week it seemed the Penguin front had finally pieced things together, and then others where it once again sturggled.

The YSU run game could bulldoze its way down the field one series, before having trouble even gaining a yard the very next. In addition, Crenshaw was sacked four times in the loss.

Perhaps with some continuity, however, things will improve.

NDSU — The Bison feature the top rush attack in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, and NDSU’s quarterbacks have been sacked just 11 times all year, the second-best mark in the MVFC. Then, too, a pair of Bison big men made the Preseason All-MVFC First Team — Cordell Volson and Cody Mauch.

EDGE — North Dakota State

DEFENSIVE LINE

YSU — Youngstown State had no sacks and just three TFLs last week, but the defense held on quite well until the 14-point surge it gave up to end the game. Chris Fitzgerald had a couple dominant series, but it was an otherwise quiet day for the YSU defensive front.

NDSU — NDSU leads the MVFC in sacks with 32, and defensive tackle Eli Mostaert is a big piece of that with 6.5 of them. Mostaert was a Preseason All-Conference Second Team selection. Expect this NDSU front to wreak havoc much of Saturday afternoon.

EDGE — North Dakota State

LINEBACKERS

YSU — Grant Dixon had one of his stronger performances last week with nine tackles, a forced fumble and a pass breakup, and YSU as a whole kept UND to 163 yards rushing.

NDSU — Jackson Hankey leads NDSU with 60 tackles, and James Kaczor was a Preseason All-MVFC First Teamer, though he’s only appeared in three games this season. He did play last week against SDSU, however.

EDGE — North Dakota State

SECONDARY

YSU — The MVFC’s worst pass defense had a relatively solid day last week, but still gave up plays at inopportune times. Jordan White came up with an interception in the loss, and Quincy Lenton again shined with five tackles.

NDSU — NDSU has given up an average of just 171.9 pass yards per game, the best mark in the Missouri Valley, and the Bison have picked off eight passes. YSU’s passing threat has been minimal this year, and that likely won’t change Saturday.

EDGE — North Dakota State

SPECIALISTS

YSU — Colt McFadden’s 7-for-8 season ranks YSU third in field goal percentage in the conference, and Sam St. Surin is a quality kick return threat.

NDSU — Jayden Price is capable of housing a punt at any time, and averages 13.3 yards per return.

EDGE — Youngstown State

PREDICTION

There’s no two ways about this — North Dakota State is for real. Coming off their first loss of the season, the Bison will be out to prove something and showcase how dominant they are as the postseason approaches.

North Dakota State wins, 38-14.

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