Scouting the Penguins

By Thomas Donley, @tdonleyDE

The SIU football team will host its second nationally-ranked team in three home games this year Saturday when No. 16 Youngstown State comes to Carbondale.

The game features the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s top offense and its top defense in terms of total yards. The Salukis (2-4, 1-2 MVFC) average 41.7 points and 543.7 yards per game, both best in the Valley. The Penguins (3-3, 1-2) allow 279.3 yards per contest, the least in the MVFC.

Youngstown’s pass defense has been especially stingy, allowing 90.8 yards per game through the air.

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The Penguins’ season-low came Sept. 19 against Saint Francis. YSU allowed 87 yards of total offense, 10 of them through the air. Youngstown held Robert Morris to 16 passing yards Sept. 12.

SIU co-offensive coordinator Nick Hill said the Penguins’ defensive numbers are not artificially low because of an easy schedule.

“I really think that they’re as good as any defense we’ve seen,” Hill said. “Athletically, they were good last year. A lot of those guys are back. If you look at the film and the scores, they’re probably feeling they could be 5-1. It’s a good D, and we’ve got our work cut our for us.”

The Saluki offensive line will have to contend with Penguin junior defensive end Derek Rivers. Rivers became the YSU career record-holder with two sacks Oct. 17, giving him 21.5 in his career. 

“Obviously, you don’t overlook what he’s done,” said SIU senior center Garrett Clark. “But we’re going to treat him like any other player and play our best.”

Offensively, Youngstown State boasts two of the Valley’s top six rushers. Junior running back Jody Webb is second with 79.5 yards per game. Junior running back Martin Ruiz is sixth with 66.3 yards per game. SIU senior quarterback Mark Iannotti is fifth, picking up an average of 69.7 yards on the ground.

The Penguins are fourth in the MVFC, averaging 188.0 rushing yards per game. The Salukis are ninth in run defense, allowing 205.8 yards per game. 

Thomas Donley can be reached at t[email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 269.

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