By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Youngstown State University football team is idle this weekend, and the open date has given Jon Heacock time to reflect over the season's first nine games of his initial season as head coach.
Heacock has sent his coaching staff out recruiting this week and gave the football team 48 hours off from practice or meetings.
"We are kind of taking inventory of where we are right now," Heacock said Tuesday. "With most of the coaching staff out of town recruiting, we had the players grade this week's film."
Heacock and the Penguins resumed practice Tuesday and will work through Friday before taking Saturday off. Sunday, they will begin preparations for their Nov. 17 game at Stambaugh Stadium against Elon University in a 1 p.m. kickoff.
Taking stock: Tuesday, Heacock spoke about the season's first nine games, of which the Penguins have posted a 7-2 record and have finished play in the Gateway Conference with a 5-2 record. Barring any upsets, that mark will leave them no better than tied for second place.
Heacock said that turnovers have been the difference this season.
"In the seven games that we've won, we have created 23 turnovers to the opposition's 18, and in the two games we lost we were behind in the turnover margin 9-6," Heacock said.
"Teams that have passed the football well against us haven't done that well in the win-loss column, and we've out-rushed out opponents in all seven of our victories," he said.
"In the two games we lost, both Northern Iowa and Western Kentucky out-rushed us," Heacock said.
What Heacock indicated about the season is the same thing that he's been saying all season long.
Winning factors: "We have to be able to run the football convincingly and be able to stop the run, and we have to win the turnover margin to win. And we need to be sound in the kicking game and special teams," he said.
Heacock said although the team is tired, it is relative healthy.
"We're pretty healthy, knock on wood, for this time of the season," he said.
"I was very pleased the way the kids played the last quarter and half of Saturday's game. That quarter and a half, we played good old-time YSU football," he said.
"We're not going to get ready for Elon today or even on Friday. We want to take care of some basic fundamentals this week and then get ready for Elon."
Ryan sparkles: Heacock was asked about the sensational play of senior quarterback Jeff Ryan last Saturday against Southern Illinois.
"Our seniors have to play the best football they know how to play at this time of the season and Jeff did that last week," Heacock said. "He got on a roll out there and when that happens we are going to be a really good football team."
The Penguins had great offensive balance in that game rushing for 275 yards and passing for 232.
"Balance is critical in any game, but it's not everything. The bottom line is the turnover margin. If you don't turn over the football then you have a chance to win."
He was also asked about the season ending game at Marshall, a Division I-A team with a high-powered offense.
"To be honest with you, I haven't even begun to think about Marshall," Heacock said. "We have to beat Elon next week and if we don't do that it doesn't matter what we do against Marshall."
Defense glows: Heacock lauded his defense, which performed spectacular against Southern Illinois.
"But you have to remember that your best defense is your offense," he said. "We had the football for more than 15 minutes more than they did and when we have the football it's tough for the opposition to score. Our defense wasn't on the field nearly as much as theirs was and that was a big difference in the final outcome."