YSU FOOTBALL Ryan hopes for fast start to memorable year

The teams haven't met since 1966, when YSU posted a 36-6 victory at Rayen Stadium.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Jeff Ryan has been through it before, but this time it's a little different.
Ryan, Youngstown State's senior quarterback from Boardman, will lead the Penguins into their season opener tonight for the final time in his career, against Lock Haven at 7:30 at Stambaugh Stadium.
Ryan has started 31 times of YSU's last 38 games, but tonight's is different for him ... and much more important.
"This is your senior year and you always want your last season to be your best," he said.
Productive camp: Ryan, whose off-season surgery on his shoulder caused him to miss all of spring practice, had a productive fall camp.
"I haven't felt this good since my freshman year," he said.
With Ryan at quarterback the Penguins have posted a 27-11 record and qualified for the Division I-AA playoffs twice in the last three years, including a trip to the championship game in 1999.
Ryan is excited about offense for the coming season.
"We're coming along very well so far this year," he said. "We've got a great offensive line led by some outstanding returnees like Pat Crummey, Lavelle Hawks, Dave Tesniarz, Ryan Smith, Andy DeNiro and Nick Roberts.
"We've also got some great backs like P.J. Mays, Mike Burns, Greg Giannios and Darius Peterson and some good wide receivers like Sean Guerriero, Eugene Mintze and Jerald Burley," he added.
"There's no question that we've got a lot of talent on this unit, but now we've just got to go out and prove ourselves."
The opponent: Ryan isn't concerned that the opener is against a Div. II school which was 3-8 last year and lost 72-0 to James Madison, the only I-AA opponent on its schedule.
"Lock Haven might not be the toughest opponent on our schedule, but this should be a good opener to get our offense into gear and get us going on the right track," he said.
YSU's Jon Heacock, who makes his head coaching debut tonight, is also excited to get the season going.
"This is for them [the players]," he said. "They've worked hard and now it's time to see what they can do."
Heacock, who spent seven years at YSU as a defensive assistant, said offensive coordinator John Klacik call the plays.
"All during preseason we've tried to prepare this team to win, to give yourself a chance to win and I think we've done that," Heacock said. "But we won't really know until [tonight]."
Injured and out: Four players will not play tonight, including three who were starters from a year ago.
Senior fullback Jerry Johnson and junior tailback Josiah Doby both have shoulder injuries, and all-conference defensive tackle, junior Matt Mechling, has a rib injury.
"We're relatively healthy and ready to play ball," Heacock said.
The teams haven't met since 1966, when YSU posted a 36-6 victory at Rayen Stadium.
Tonight's game will mark the 20th home opener for Stambaugh Stadium, which opened on Sept. 4, 1982. The Penguins lost that game against Akron, 20-19, on a last-second field goal.
Heacock, the fifth head coach in YSU history, will try to become just the second to win his first game.
Dike Beede (1938-72) lost his first game to Geneva 12-7, and Rey Dempsey (1973-74) lost 22-0 to Dayton.
Bill Narduzzi (1975-85) was the only coach to win his first game at YSU, a 10-0 defeat of Central (Ohio) State.
Jim Tressel (1986-2000) lost his first game, 34-19 to Nichols State.

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