Coach John Heacock was pleased with how his quarterbacks played.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State's best offensive weapon, running back P.J. Mays, said he would rather run against any defense other than the Penguins.
Mays, a senior from East High, had a game-high 87 yards on 15 carries and scored a touchdown, but the defense dominated the jersey scrimmage at Stambaugh Stadium Thursday night, winning by a score of 61-50.
"They've [defense] improved so much from last year, they get to the ball so quickly and they have been pounding on me for the last week," Mays said.
"I know that they are making us that much better on offense, but we still have a ways to go there," Mays added. "We still have guys who don't know the plays and that's got to improve quickly, but I think we'll be OK, especially the way our defense is playing."
YSU coach Jon Heacock said he expected no less from the defense.
"That group is pretty much senior-oriented and they should shine out there," he said. "They are going to have to play even better for this team to have great success this year."
Heacock wouldn't be specific about what he observed, but noted one kind of mistake that must be corrected.
"We put the ball on the ground a couple times and we know from last season that we can't do that if we are going to win.
"We had a lot of young kids running around out there and for the most part they looked pretty good," he added.
Several players are recuperating from injuries; eight were held out of the scrimmage, including projected starters Jerald Burley, Phillip Larman, Mike Roberts and Mike Bracken.
Junior quarterback Luis Gonzales also sat out with a back injury. Senior Colby Street and redshirt freshman Aaron Marshall handled most of snaps.
Senior Justin Green and sophomore Matt Rycraft were both moved to wide receiver earlier this week, although Green did play some quarterback in the scrimmage and finished with the best stats, completing 6-of-7 passes for 86 yards.
Street was 10-of-22 for 92 yards and Marshall was 6-of-12 for 49 yards with one touchdown and one interception, which was tipped by the receiver and into the arms of freshman linebacker Jacob Koch.
Senior defensive end Tim Frost played well, finishing with two sacks and one tackle for loss, and knocking down a Street pass at the line of scrimmage.
Senior defensive tackle Wendell Parish and senior linebacker Jon Tekac also had fumble recoveries, while junior cornerback Sherod Holmes, who just joined the team on Sunday, made the big play of the scrimmage.
The California native and transfer from Butte Junior College scooped up a fumble by freshman tailback Demetrius Ison and raced 38 yards for a touchdown.
Scored in fourth series
The offense scored its first points on the fourth series, when Marshall drove the team 80 yards in seven plays. He was aided by a 33-yard run by Mays and a pass interference penalty, passing 16 yards to freshman wide receiver T.J. Anderson for the touchdown.
The second offensive score came on a 35-yard pass from Green to Marshall, who was playing wide receiver.
The final two offensive touchdowns came in short yardage situations; Marshall ran in from 3 yards out, then Mays added a 5-yard scoring run.
Junior placekicker Jake Stewart made both of his extra point attempts and added a 27-yard field goal. He attempted a 57-yard kick late in the scrimmage with the wind, but it was just short.
"I was pleased with our quarterback play," Heacock said. "I thought both Colby and Aaron threw the ball well. Luis was hurt and didn't play, but overall I've been pleased with our quarterback situation to date and we'll keep evaluating it right on up to game time."
The Penguins will work out today at 3 p.m., Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon.
Three players, including redshirt freshman Pete Perry of Poland, have left the team. The others were redshirt freshman Todd Frank and sophomore offensive lineman John Ragan. Redshirt freshman John Bartos of Ursuline has been ruled academically ineligible and junior tailback Darius Peterson has been moved to cornerback.