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Youngstown State vs. North Dakota State FCS Football Preview – Press Box Sports

FCS Football North Dakota State Youngstown State

Youngstown State is taking on their third-straight FCS Football top-ten opponent this week. The No. 8 Penguins will host the second ranked North Dakota State Bison at Stambaugh Stadium this Saturday. The Bison are still undefeated and look to continue their winning ways against Youngstown State. For the Penguins, the brutal portion of their FCS Football schedule continues. They lost a heartbreak game last week against South Dakota and won a defensive battle two weeks ago against South Dakota State. Now, North Dakota State comes to town with high hopes of getting a quality victory and gain ground on No. 1 James Madison. For Youngstown State, they need to rebound and winning this game would give the Penguins a boost in the Coaches Poll and also a boost in the Missouri Valley Conference.



Neither team fields a gunslinger at quarterback, but Easton Stick for North Dakota State has the advantage in this matchup. The junior from Omaha, NE has been efficient given that he has just 84 passing attempts in five games. Stick has been very accurate, leading FCS Football with a 73.8 completion percentage. He also is second in efficiency with a 193.1 rating. Stick has thrown for 800 yards, 10 touchdowns, and has yet to throw a pick this season. Hunter Wells started Youngstown State’s first-three games of the season, but has been battling a shoulder injury. Nathan Mays came in against South Dakota State and led the Penguins to victory. It’s a tale of two different offenses with this team, depending on who starts for the Penguins. Wells is more of a traditional pocket passer, while Mays is a lot more mobile with 256 rushing yards and averaging 6.9 yards per carry. The status of Wells for Saturday’s game is still unknown.

Running Backs:

Both teams like to beat up defenses with their ground game. The Bison are tied for first in FCS Football, averaging 318.6 rushing yards per game. Lance Dunn and Bruce Anderson are a great running back duo for the Bison and one of the best tandems in FCS Football. Dunn is averaging 10.3 yards per carry for 566 yards (6th FCS), and 12 touchdowns. Anderson has 399 yards and 3 touchdowns. Look for a steady dose of carries between those two guys.

The Penguins have a solid running back tandem of their own in Tevin McCaster and Christian Turner. For the year, McCaster has 536 rushing yards (14th FCS) and 8 touchdowns. He’s a dangerous back that can break for big gains if he finds an opening. Turner tends to thrive in short-yardage and red zone situations. He’s averaging 5.4 yards per carry for 321 yards. The running game for Youngstown State isn’t as potent as it is for the Bison, but this is a team that can also rush efficiently, averaging 268.2 yards per game.


RJ Urzendowski has been the top target for Stick this season. The two played high school football together and have great chemistry. Urzendowski has 17 catches, 221 yards, and 4 touchdowns on the season. Darrius Shepherd is another name to watch for the Bison. Shepherd has 16 receptions and 209 yards this season. Jeff Illies is another contributor in the passing game, but has struggled with injuries this season. The tight end runs excellent routes and has been solid in the intermediate passing game.

Alvin Bailey leads all Penguin receivers with 21 catches and 255 yards. The senior hasn’t found the end zone yet this season, but he makes critical plays to keep drives going. Christian Turner is the second-best receiver on the team out of the backfield. He has 14 receptions, 206 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Turner is great in the short passing game and can churn out big gains. Kevin Rader is your typical tight end. Good hands, great routes, and can be relied upon. This unit hasn’t been that effective given that Youngstown State is more run oriented, but they may have to step up if the Penguins have to come from behind.


The Bison have virtually shut down every opponent so far this season. They rank first in FCS Football in scoring defense (6.2 ppg), total defense (159 ypg.), passing defense (94.2 ypg.), and passer rating (57.00). The passing defense for North Dakota State is just flat-out scary. The have recorded 11 interceptions in five games. Safety, James Hendricks has been huge in the Bison secondary. Even though he hasn’t been credited with a single start this season, the sophomore has 4 picks and 4 pass deflections. He’s a ball hawk that can rise to the occasion. Trey Dempsey and Robbie Grimsley have combined for 6 interceptions. Linebackers Levi Jordheim and Jabril Cox will be key contributors in stopping the Penguins running game. The defensive line is the weakest link with the Bison on defense. While effective, the d-line has been banged up and doesn’t have much depth at the position.

Youngstown State on the other hand, has a great defensive front that is led by Fazson Chapman and Justus Reed. The duo has combined for 8 sacks and can get to the quarterback in an instant. The secondary is great in aiding in rushing defense. Safety, Jalyn Powell leads the team with 36 tackles with Kyle Hegedus right behind with 35 tackles. Linebackers Lee Wright and Armand Dellovade will have the task of containing the high-powered rushing attack of the Bison.

Keys to the Game:

Youngstown State: On offense, the Penguins need to attack the Bison defense on the ground. Establish the running game first, then pick them apart in the short passing game. They need to create long drives to wear down the defensive line. The offense cannot stall against North Dakota State. Mays and McCaster have to keep drives going and put points on the board to match the Bison on offense.

On defense, they need to contain Dunn and Andersen. Don’t give up big running plays. Force Stick to make plays through the air. Change up blitzing schemes to confuse the o-line and get pressure to the quarterback. Make plays to get off the field. The Bison are averaging over 35 minutes time of possession and Youngstown State needs to win the possession battle. If they can control the pace of the game and keep the score low, the better the chances are for the Penguins.

North Dakota State: The Bison have to get the running game going quickly and pound the Penguin d-line with a barrage of carries. Score fast and let the defense hold down the fort. They need to build up a lead late in the game to force the Penguins to pass. Use a steady mix of plays through the air and on the ground to keep Youngstown State guessing.

If the Bison defense can stop the run, they can stop the Penguins altogether. Place a couple more guys in the box to contain McCaster and Turner. They can’t let Mays beat them with his feet. Having a linebacker spy Mays the whole game will help. Put pressure on him to force bad decisions in the passing game.

Game time is set for Saturday 7pm est. at Stambaugh Stadium in Youngstown, OH. You can watch the game on ESPN3. Read the full game recap here pressboxsports.net after the game.



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