Faith and football bond YSU defensive end standouts

NFL hopefuls Avery Moss and Derek Rivers anchor the Youngstown State Penguins' defensive attack

Avery Moss and Derek Rivers, two standout players on Youngstown State's football team, are best friends.

FRISCO, Texas (WKBN) – If Youngstown State University has an advantage in the FCS National Championship game on Saturday, it will be on defense. Specifically, getting to the quarterback.

The Penguins have recorded a new school record 47 sacks this year, breaking a mark that stood for 34 years.

Doing most of the damage is their senior defensive ends, Derek Rivers and Avery Moss — two guys who will probably be playing on Sundays next fall.

Rivers’ career stats jump off the page — 167 total tackles, 54 1/2 of those for loss, and a school record 40 sacks, 14 of which he logged this season.

Moss is the transfer from Nebraska. He has racked up 51 tackles this year, nearly twice what he did last season. He also recorded double-digit sacks with 10.

Moss and Rivers are two of the most dominant defensive players in school history, and they share much more than football.

“We’re definitely best friends. On and off the field we’ve developed a best friend relationship,” Moss said. “Our religious relationship. In mid-season of the year, we got baptized together and that was like, a big stage in our lives. Like I said, all glory to God. It’s been great to know him and have him as my guy to go to for everything.”

“Man, that’s my best friend,” Rivers said of Moss.”It’s awesome to be in that situation with him, and this situation. He’s my best friend. He’s helped me grow so much as far as my faith. Even on the field so much. A lot of growth from this year, from the past year, is because of him. If I need anything, I know he’s got my back and he knows I got his back. That’s my boy, man.”

At practice on Thursday, James Madison Head Coach Mike Houston said YSU’s defensive front will be the best the Dukes have faced all season.

The FCS National Championship will kick off Saturday at noon Eastern Standard Time at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

Be sure to watch “YSU Drive for 5,” airing Friday at 7 p.m. on WKBN 27 and live on

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