By Kyle Wills
The Youngstown State University football team is off to a scorching start, out-scoring its opponents 80-30 through the first two games of the season. The team came out on top against Duquesne University and the University of Dayton.
The Penguins opened up the 2022 season with a 31-14 victory over the Duquesne Dukes Sept. 3 at Stambaugh Stadium. They were led by a strong running attack with 274 yards rushing and a dominant run defense, allowing an average of two yards per carry.
Head coach Doug Phillips said adding new defensive-run fits was the key to stopping the Dukes run game.
“It’s been a focus all year, it’s been a focus all summer. For us, it was [the new coaches and defensive coordinator] implementing their schemes in the spring and then refining it this summer in August, and making sure we’re fundamentally sound against the run,” Phillips said.
Senior Jaleel McLaughlin led both teams in rushing with 203 yards on the ground along with three touchdowns. Sophomore Demeatric Crenshaw forced his way into the endzone with a rushing score as well.
Creshaw also did work in the air, throwing for 154 yards on 14-for-29 passing. Six of those passes went to junior Bryce Oliver as he collected 58 yards on those receptions.
The team’s defense was a brick wall allowing only 51 yards on 25 rushes. Penguin linebackers had a big game, intercepting the Dukes three times. Sophomore Devin Johnson secured two picks while junior Griffin Hoak caught the other turnover.
Johnson said the success of the linebackers came from playing with their instincts.
“All of us are put together. We’re like a unit out there. When someone else is in, we’re all on the sideline cheering for each other. We’re at the right spot, at the right time, [and] playing with our eyes,” Johnson said.
The Penguins stayed at the Ice Castle for week two as they hosted the Dayton Flyers Sept. 10. They again were the victors by a final score of 49-16. They displayed an overpowering offense in the game, rushing for 256 yards and passing for a school record six touchdowns.
Crenshaw improved his passing game, completing 11 of his 17 passes for 230 yards and five touchdowns. His five end-zone passes tied a school record set by Kurt Hess on Nov. 19, 2011.
“[It’s] very humbling [tying the record]. I was doing what I could do to get a win. If that’s what has to happen to get a win then I’ll keep doing it,” Crenshaw said.
Crenshaw connected with four different receivers on his passing scores and six different receivers overall. One of those targets being redshirt freshman Max Tomczak who had a huge game receiving, racking in 92 yards on three catches and bringing in one of Crenshaw’s touchdown passes.
Junior Mitch Davidson’s fourth quarter touchdown pass set the record for most passing touchdowns as a team.
On the ground, McLaughlin continued his hot start to the season with 129 yards on 13 carries including a touchdown. He is now 10th on the NCAA all-time rushing yards list with 6,916.
Phillips was impressed with the team’s explosiveness and thought it was the largest improvement from week one.
“You saw a lot of kids touch the ball today. We’re still trying to figure out who we are in the offense, so for us to start off fast. I thought we came out from the get-go,” Phillips said.
Dayton’s offense could not get much going against the Penguin defense as it produced only 189 yards of total offense.
The run defense was again present against the Flyers as Youngstown State held Dayton to 55 yards on the ground and 1.6 yards per attempt. Redshirt freshman Dewan Martin and senior James Jackson helped close up the run games as they finished with a combined seven tackles —four tackles for loss and three sacks.
The defense also held the Flyers to 134 yards passing while forcing five sacks and two interceptions. Senior Quincy Lenton and junior Troy Jakubec each had a pick to help fuel the defense.
“We take pride in turnovers and winning the turnover battle.It increases the chances of winning the game which is the ultimate goal,” Lenton said.
The football team will head to Lexington, Kentucky to face a SEC opponent at No. 9 ranked the University of Kentucky, Sept. 17 at noon. The game can be listened to or watched on 570 WKBN or the SEC Network.