Last season, the Penguins were predicted to finish with a winning record and were loaded with talent from the offense and defense.
The talent was there, but the Penguins would finish with a record of 4-7 losing to teams such as South Dakota State, North Dakota State, Indiana State, and especially a home opener loss to the non-scholarship Butler Bulldogs on a last-second field goal.
The four wins that the Penguins would get in 2018 were against Valparaiso, Southern Illinois, Northern Iowa, and South Dakota. Going forward, these are Five Key Youngstown State Games in 2019.
Five Key Youngstown State Games in 2019
Even though the Penguins are looking much better football-wise and are healthier, they still need to finish games this season. These are the five teams the Penguins should look out for during the 2019 College Football season.
5.) Samford Bulldogs:
The Penguins will open the 2019 campaign at Montgomery, Alabama for the Guardian Union FCS Kick-Off where they will play the Samford Bulldogs. Samford, just like the penguins last season, failed to make the playoffs and look to bounce back from a 6-5 record in 2019.
For the Penguins to win this game, they will have to stop Samford running backs DeMarcus Ware, and Antwione Sims. Samford is still undecided about the quarterback situation as four-year starter Devlin Hodges graduated in the fall.
The quarterback likely will either be junior Liam Welch who has 119 yards passing and three touchdowns from 2016-2018, and South Florida transfer Chris Oladokun who has passed for 297 yards and three touchdowns in his career.
The biggest challenge for the YSU defense will be trying to get through this experienced offensive line for the Bulldogs.
With players like Sherief Bynum, Ray Anderson, Case Mitchell and Kyle Hedges returning on defense, look for the Penguins to get to the quarterback early on. The Penguins will also use the ground game big-time with Christian Turner and Joe Alessi against a Samford team that finished 53rd last season on defense.
This will be a big rematch from the first round of the 2016 FCS playoffs, which the Penguins beat the Bulldogs 38-24.
4.) Northern Iowa:
The Penguins will have technically their first road challenge on October 5th against the Northern Iowa Panthers. The Penguins won last year’s game against the Panthers 31-10 when Tevin McCaster rushed for 136 yards and scored three touchdowns, but now things are different.
Since Nathan Mays will likely start look for them to pass more, especially if there is ay struggle at the running game with Alessi or Turner. This would be a good strategy if the Panthers are like last season where they finished 44th in the final defensive standings where they gave up 3,015 yards on opponents passing and 18 touchdowns.
These two teams have been back and forth against each other for the last couple of years. Before, it was the Panthers winning every single season, but now it has been the Penguins winning against them since 2012.
There is still a quarterback situation on who will start for Northern Iowa. It looks like either former high school two-sport star Jacob Keller, Will McElvain and freshman Nate Martens will compete for the position.
Head coach Bo Pelini and the YSU coaching staff will have to strategize on defense to stop the Panthers offense. As of the 2000s, Northern Iowa has beaten the Penguins 13 times while the Penguins have only won four times.
3.) South Dakota State:
If you are a Penguins fan, then last year’s game at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium was tough to watch. The first quarter was close, but then the Jack Rabbits would pull away, beating the Penguins 36-7.
The Jack Rabbits will have to start fresh at the quarterback position now that Taryn Christion is gone, but C.J. Wilson will still be tough to take down.
When South Dakota State decides to run with Wilson, the Penguins will have to stack up, not spread out. If they decide to spread out, it can become last season all over again where Wilson rushed for 119 yards.
YSU will have to get passed guys like Austin Smenda who ranked 16th on the Jackrabbits defense with 11 tackles, Ryan Earith who had 24 total tackles, along with two and a half sacks, and linebacker Seven Wilson who ranked sixth on the Jackrabbits with 24 total tackles and had a sack last season.
The last time the Penguins were able to beat the Jackrabbits was two years ago, 19-7. Youngstown State wants revenge on this team and once they play each other on October 12th at Stambaugh Stadium or as some call it, the “Ice Castle.”
2.) Indiana State:
Last year’s loss against the Indiana State Sycamores was very shocking. In 2017, the Penguins rolled past them with ease, but last season was the opposite.
Most of that was thanks to ISU quarterback Ryan Boyle who turned the 0-11 Sycamores into a 7-4 team just one season after transferring from Iowa. Players like DJ Smalls, Ma’lik Richmond, Wesley Thompson, and Melvin Jackson did make a few tackles against Indiana State, but Boyle did not let that bother him. He would pass for 325 yards on 17-28 passing attempts and score three touchdowns during the game.
The Penguins will have to play better on offense against Indiana State this time. If Mays is ready, look for him to throw and run on a defense that finished 89th last season.
Youngstown State does not want to lose to a team like Indiana State again, so look for big weapons on offense like Jake Coats, Jermiah Braswell, and Kendric Mallory to have big games.
Indiana State has a home-field advantage, but if they start slow, look for the Penguins to pounce and pull away.
1.) North Dakota State:
North Dakota State is Youngstown State’s biggest challenge every season.
YSU had their chance to upset the Bison last year at the Frago-Dome. But due to a lack of rushing, a poor communication where Mays spiked the ball on a fourth and goal, and a change at quarterback late, the Bison were able to come away with the victory.
New NDSU head coach Matt Entz knows what the Penguins are about and how tough they can be. Look for this season’s game to be another close low scoring game. The biggest thing for the Bison is that they lost 24 seniors and only return seven full-time starters.
With potential starting quarterback Holden Hotchkiss transferring, that leaves to doors open for Iowa State transfer Zeb Nolan, Trey Lance, and Noah Sanders.
Nolan will likely be the starting quarterback, and when it’s time for the Penguins to play the Bison’s, it will be an entertaining game to watch at Stambaugh Stadium on November 2nd.
We will see how the Penguins do as the season is a month and a half away from starting and camp is soon. It’s a brand new season and anything can happen.
Youngstown State Games in 2019 Photo:
Youngstown State’s Stambaugh Stadium. (Photo courtesy The Comeback).