By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- It wasn't a pretty performance, but Jon Heacock still became just the second head coach in Youngstown State football history to win his first game.
The Penguins made too many mistakes, but were good enough to defeat Lock Haven 38-7 before 15,709 fans at Stambaugh Stadium.
Youngstown State had five turnovers -- Jeff Ryan and Colby Street each threw an interception and the Penguins lost three of seven fumbles -- and was penalized nine times for 95 yards. They were also denied twice by goal line stands at Lock Haven's 1.
"It was a good win for our program," said Heacock. "It wasn't very pretty at times, but at times it was. We definitely have to take better care of the football.
"The key to tonight's game is just where are we going to go from here," Heacock said. "Are we going to get better or not?"
Strong running: There were some bright spots in the victory, especially by junior tailback P.J. Mays, the East High product.
Mays rushed for a career high 226 yards on 21 carries, for an average of 10.8 yards, and scored a touchdown.
Senior Andre Coleman (Warren/Harding) made good on a promise to return a kickoff for a touchdown, as he raced 89 yards in the third period to score the Penguins' final TD.
Sophomore transfer Darius Peterson, who scored a rushing touchdown on a 4-yard run in the second period, showed his versatility by blocking a punt at the Lock Haven 48, then scooping it up at the 36 and going all the way for another score.
Senior quarterback Jeff Ryan, who played just over a half, was 11-of-15 for 114 yards and one touchdown, which came on YSU's first possession.
It was a typical Ryan play in which he rolled to his right from the Lock Haven 34-yard line, giving the impression he was going to run. When the defensive backs closed, he lobbed a pass to wide-open Eugene Mintze.
The final YSU points came on a 42-yard field goal by sophomore Jake Stewart.
Stuffing the Eagles: Defensively, the Penguins were also impressive, holding Lock Haven to 71 yards rushing and 199 total yards. YSU forced two turnovers -- one fumble and one interception.
Lock Haven's only touchdown was set up when Peterson fumbled at the Penguins' 48. Their drive aided by a pass interference penalty, the Eagles scored on a 5-yard pass from freshman quarterback Bill Witmer to Marcus Burkley.
"I thought the defense handled the situations well," Heacock said.
Heacock said he didn't think first-game jitters played a role in the Penguins' mistakes.
"We've got too many guys who have been around too long to make those kind of mistakes, first game or not," he said.
YSU's inability to score when they had the ball on the goal line disappointed Heacock, he said.
"I was especially disappointed with the first one," he said. "The second one, I'm not sure just what happened and we'll have to take a look at the films."
Goal line stands: Leading 7-0, the Penguins had first-and-goal at the Lock Haven 10. A holding penalty on first down put the ball at the 20, but Mays ran for 14 yards. Two carries by sophomore Mike Burns put the ball inside the 1. On fourth down Ryan tried to roll left but was stopped at the 2.
The other goal line failure, in the fourth quarter, started with a first-and-goal from the 2. On first down Peterson fumbled but recovered at the 1. On second down senior fullback Greg Giannios tried to dive over the top, but he fumbled and the Eagles recovered it in the end zone for a touchback.
Coleman's kickoff return was a thing of beauty.
"I could just see it coming, the way the hole opened up and then I was all alone," he said. "I had some great blocking on that run."