Youngstown State Football enters 2014 at number 24 in our rankings. Check out our Top 25 Season Preview for more on the top college teams to watch this fall. Can’t find your team in the Top 25? View our full rankings to see where every team stands.
Last Season: 8-4 (5-3) Missouri Valley Football Conference
Going into November, with four games remaining in the regular season, the Youngstown State Penguins were undefeated in FCS play and in control of the Missouri Valley Football Conference. They won the first of their final four games, at South Dakota 38-34. Then, up 14-3 at halftime over Northern Iowa, the wheels fell off. UNI roared back to pull it to 20-19, and then Panther kicker Tyler Sievertsen hit a 34-yard game-winning field goal as time expired.
Reigning National Champs North Dakota State and always tough South Dakota State were next on the slate, both home games. Trouble. Especially since senior QB Kurt Hess suffered an ankle injury in the UNI loss and was unable to make it to halftime against North Dakota State. The ‘Guins dropped both contests and fell into a tie for second place in the MVFC with South Dakota State. They did not receive a berth to the FCS playoffs.
-Chris Elkins C – Second team FCS All-American, three-year starter
-Kurt Hess QB – 164/265 (61.9%), 2,229 yards, 22 TDs, 6 INTs, 53 rushing attempts, 194 yards, 4 TDs
-Kyle Sirl DE – 47 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 4 sacks, 1 pass breakup
-Ali Cheaib LB – 56 tackles, 6 TFL, 1 FR, 1 INT, 7 pass breakups
-Dale Peterman CB – 36 tackles, 1 FF, 1 FR, 3 INTs, 4 pass breakups
What to Watch For
Run it Back? – Martin Ruiz lit up MVFC stat sheets and scoreboards in his first season as a Penguin. He set Youngstown State football freshman records for carries (192), yards (1,094), TDs (15) ,and was named the MVFC Newcomer and Freshman of the Year. He won’t have veteran offensive linemen Chris Elkins (the only Youngstown State All-American), Kyle Bryant, and Andrew Sinko to block for him this season, so rushing yards might be a little harder to come by in 2014.
The Penguins finished 2013 with a bitter taste in their collective mouth, but they have a lot to be excited about. Last season featured their first six-game winning streak since the Jim Tressel days.
This season, they’ll be without four-year starting quarterback Kurt Hess. Conference Freshman of the Year in 2010, first team All-MVFC in 2011, honorable mention All-MVFC in 2012, and a second team selection as a senior, Hess will be missed. Redshirt freshman Ricky Davis and junior Dante Nania are in competition to replace the man that holds just about every passing record in the Youngstown State books.
The ‘Guins should be set up pretty nicely on defense with only four starters lost to graduation, so they’ll look to improve on their 26.2 ppg allowed last season. Whatever you want to say about YSU, you can’t argue against their discipline; they finished fourth in the FCS in penalties per game last season with only four flags thrown against them in an average game. They also scored on 91.5% of their red zone chances, second best in the division. That discipline and tenacity will help them move forward from a rough finish to a solid 2013 campaign. Fans wouldn’t be out of bounds hoping for playoffs this season.