Battle of Conference Leaders:

YSU Travels to South Dakota State

By Marc Weems

Tevin McCaster, a running back on the Youngstown State University football team, leaps over the defensive line and extends the ball across the goal line during the Penguins’ win over the University of Northern Iowa.

When South Dakota State University came to Youngstown last season, they beat Youngstown State University 38-8. The team is looking to avenge that loss when they travel to SDSU for this Saturday’s game.

Both YSU and SDSU are undefeated in Missouri Valley Football Conference play —  each hold a 3-0 record. The winner of Saturday’s game will be in sole possession of first place in the conference.

Last week, YSU was able to overcome extreme circumstances in their game against the University of Northern Iowa. YSU was able to put two drives together in order to win that game 14-10 with third string quarterback Nathan Mays.

SDSU quarterback Taryn Christion has thrown for 22 touchdowns this season while running for two touchdowns.

YSU defensive end Derek Rivers said that even though they will be facing a running quarterback again, they will be ready, because they have faced many running quarterbacks. He mentioned UNI’s Aaron Bailey, University of South Dakota’s Chris Streveler and West Virginia University’s Skyler Howard as people who are similar.

SDSU’s offense has been potent so far this season, averaging 40.6 points per game and gaining 472 yards per game.

“Our defensive backs have a task on their hands along with the linebackers,” Rivers said. “Jake Weineke, number 18 [Connor Landberg] and their tight end, Dallas Goedert are all play makers which are big weapons for their offense. We just have to go out there on defense and just play our game.”

YSU’s defense has only given up 13.8 points per game while giving up just 271 yards per game. Also, YSU recorded 25 sacks with 14 of them coming from defensive ends Avery Moss and Rivers.

“We have to execute our game plan and be in the right spots,” YSU head coach Bo Pelini said. “I think our preparation has been better, and I think our attention to detail has been higher than any time before. There are still some things that we have to clean up and adjust to.”

SDSU’s largest weakness is on defense. The Jackrabbits give up 32.5 points per game, which gives the Penguins potential to put some offensive drives together against SDSU.

YSU’s offense has been able to produce 28 points per game despite its offensive struggles. The Penguins still averaged around 420 yards per game.

YSU running back Tevin McCaster said that finishing games strong is a mentality.

“We have a lot of seniors on the team,” McCaster said. “That was their entire focus during camp and through spring ball and throughout the season so far — that we always have to finish.”

McCaster also said that as running backs they don’t mind getting their numbers called play after play like they did in their comeback against the UNI. He also said SDSU will try and mix things up a bit to slow everyone down.

Pelini has the utmost confidence in his quarterbacks, especially since backup Trent Hosick is out of the season due to a collarbone injury.

“Ricky [Davis] is a lot better. We will see how he plays today, but I anticipate him playing. I have a lot of confidence in Nate [Mays] and he will get a lot more reps this week. He’s a smart, young player,” Pelini said.

Pelini said SDSU is going to challenge the Penguins with its passing game.

“We’ve seen passing teams before, and they do it a little bit different in some respects,” Pelini said. “We’ve played this type of offense before, and they have some good players, so this should be a nice challenge for us. That’s the challenge you face, which is get up every week, and this is no different.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium. The game can be seen on ESPN3.