The Penguins hope to eliminate the mistakes they made in the rout of Lock Haven.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State football coach Jon Heacock spent two days last weekend correcting some of the mistakes the Penguins made in their season opener.
He'll see the results of his labor Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium, when the Penguins play host to Clarion at 7 p.m.
"We spent all of last Saturday and Sunday concentrating on nothing but Youngstown State," said Heacock. "We worked on fundamentals, things that we didn't do well in the opener."
Turnovers: Turnovers and penalties were two areas of concern for Heacock. The Penguins turned the ball over five times in their 38-7 victory over Lock Haven, including three fumbles, and they were penalized nine times for 95 yards.
Now YSU must play a Clarion team that Heacock said is better than Lock Haven.
"Last year Clarion beat Lock Haven by 42 points with over 500 yards of total offense and seven quarterback sacks," Heacock said, "and they both return almost everybody again this year."
Three starters missed last week's game because of injuries, and their status remains uncertain for Saturday.
Senior fullback Jerry Johnson appears to be out, and junior defensive tackle Matt Mechling and junior tailback Josiah Doby are questionable, as is junior tight end Dennis Dlugosz, who suffered a shoulder sprain against Lock Haven.
Telling point: "It's going to come right down to Saturday night when they warm up and then let us know if they're ready or not," Heacock said.
Freshman red-shirt fullback Mike Roberts is also questionable, so Yancey Marcum was moved from linebacker to fullback to help fill the void.
Junior tailback P.J. Mays, who rushed for 226 yards and scored a touchdown against Lock Haven, was named both the Penguins and Gateway Conference offensive player of the week.
Mays will be joined in the backfield by senior quarterback Jeff Ryan, who was 11-of-15 for 114 yards and a touchdown while playing only about a half.
Both players complimented the offensive line, which was bolstered by the return of senior Lavelle Hawkes, a starter in 1999 who sat out last season because of NCAA sanctions.
Gaping holes: Hawkes started at guard and played next to All-American candidate Pat Crummey at tackle. Together they opened some gaping holes for Mays and company to run through.
The Penguins' defense was also impressive, holding Lock Haven to just 199 total yards, including 71 rushing yards.
YSU senior linebacker and co-captain Bob Sivik said he thought the defense played well, but there was room for improvement.
"We have some pretty good talent on this unit, but there is still a definite need to get better and that's our goal this week," he said.
Defensive plays: The Penguins forced two turnovers, senior safety Bruce Hightower's sixth career pass interception and senior defensive tackle Todd Blackwell's fumble recovery.
YSU's special teams play also did well. Sophomore Darius Peterson blocked a punt and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown and senior Andre Coleman ran back a kickoff 89 yards for another score.
"There were a lot of good things that happened last week," said Heacock. "Now if we can take care of those fundamental mistakes this week, we should be an improved team."