The Michigan State Spartans are headed back home for Week Two with a 1-0 record after an impressive win at Northwestern last Friday. This week, the Spartans will be back in front of fans at Spartan Stadium for the first time since November of 2019. I am sure both players and fans alike are equally excited to see what the atmosphere will be like on the banks of the Red Cedar. The opponent almost doesn’t matter, as the ambiance will likely be electric no matter what, except that this is what this piece is about, so let’s get to it.
School: Youngstown State University
Conference: Missouri Valley Conference (FCS)
Location: Youngstown, Ohio
Head Coach: Doug Phillips (second season)
Mascot: Pete and Penny Penguin
All Time Series: Michigan State leads 2-0 (Last meeting in 2013)
The Penguins started off their season with a thrilling 44-41 overtime win over Incarnate Word. The win required a 39-second drive to get into field goal range to send the game into overtime before Youngstown State was able to hold the Cardinals off the board and kick a game-winning field goal from 27-yards-out. The game featured over 950 yards of total offense.
There’s not much to look at after one game, but we will read too much into it anyway.
As was just mentioned, there was a lot of offense in the game. The Penguins put up 44 points on 463 yards of total offense and kept the ball for almost 36 minutes. They did not turn the ball over and collected 25 first downs.
The bulk of the offense for YSU came on the ground, as the Penguins amassed 351 rushing yards on 61 carries for an average of 5.8 yards per carry.
Through the air, it was still efficient, but the totals weren’t nearly as impressive. YSU threw for 112 yards, while completing just nine passes on 12 attempts for an average of 9.3 yards per pass attempt.
On defense, the Penguins gave up almost 500 yards of total offense to Incarnate Word, along with 26 first downs. Youngstown State allowed the Cardinals to covert seven of 14 third-down attempts. YSU did force and recover a fumble for the game’s lone turnover.
The splits were the opposite for the Penguin defense, as the unit was torched for 352 yards on 28-for-47 passing for 7.5 yards per pass attempt. Four of those passes ended up in the end zone as well.
On the ground, Youngstown State allowed 143 yards on 28 attempts for an average of 5.1 yards per rush. So there should be plenty of room for the Spartan running game this week — especially with Kenneth Walker III in the backfield.
Players to Watch
Demeatric Crenshaw got the start for Youngstown State at quarterback. The freshman had a very good first game, with the efficient line of nine-for-12 passing for 112 yards (9.3 yards per attempt) and a touchdown.
He is also a dual-threat, as he ran the ball 20 times for 81 yards and two scores. So the MSU defense is going to need to account for his ability to run as much as anything else the Penguins do offensively.
In the backfield, senior Jaleel McLaughlin ran the ball 29 times for 242 yards (8.3 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 46 yards, which also led the team.
McLaughlin and Crenshaw form a dynamic rushing duo for Youngstown State and the MSU front seven is going to need to be very good at dealing with both of them on nearly every play.
Senior tight end Andrew Ogletree caught two passes for 28 yards last week and junior wide receiver Bryce Oliver caught two passes for 15 yards and a touchdown.
On defense, linebacker Grant Dixon was first-team All-MVC last spring, while safety Zaire Jones was second-team all-conference. Dixon finished the opener with six tackles and Jones added five stops.
In the special teams, placekicker Colten McFadden made all three of his field goal attempts, including the tying kick as time expired in regulation, and the game-winner in overtime.
Kick returner Samuel St. Surin averaged 27 yards per return, including a 49-yarder in the opener against Incarnate Word.
So there is a little bit about Youngstown State, who last beat an FBS school in 2012 when the Penguins knocked off Pittsburgh 31-17. This team won’t be scared of playing at Spartan Stadium, but Michigan State should be able to have its way offensively. What will be more interesting to see is how the Spartan defense handles this impressive rushing attack.