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Rycraft's versatility shows



Published: Fri, September 3, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.



By BRIAN RICHESSON

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State football fans can expect to see plenty of jersey No. 10 on the field this season.

That's because senior Matt Rycraft does just about everything. Well, almost.

"I did mess up on that punt," said Rycraft, expressing his regret to coach Jon Heacock in the post-game press conference after the Penguins' victory over Slippery Rock.

"That was my fault, Coach," added Rycraft of a play in which Slippery Rock recovered its own muffed punt. "I should have scooped that one up."

Role playing

Rycraft spent most of the 2003 season as the back-up quarterback to Aaron Marshall.

But with quarterback Tom Zetts recovered from a broken collarbone that he suffered last season -- and Marshall now as his back-up -- the Penguins are utilizing Rycraft elsewhere.

"It's definitely different," said Rycraft, a former West Branch High standout, of his role. "I like to do anything to help this team, whether it's receiver, running back, quarterback, special teams."

Rycraft certainly played that part in the Penguins' season opener.

He caught six passes for 16 yards, carried four times for 54 yards with a 1-yard touchdown run and returned one kickoff for 8 yards.

Not forgotten in his all-around game was an explosive block he levied against a Rock player on Josh Cayson's 72-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter.

"I've been around a couple years," said Rycraft, on how he prepares himself to be versatile.

"Playing quarterback, I learned the scheme for every position, so I just have a real good idea of what everybody's supposed to do," he added. "They can throw me in anytime, and hopefully I can make something happen."

Slow start

That wasn't exactly the case early as the Penguins fell behind 6-0 at halftime and looked lethargic against their Division II opponent.

"I was definitely surprised. I thought we'd come out and do better than we did, but I still wasn't worried," Rycraft said.

According to Heacock and his players, they didn't act like they were worried either, staying relaxed in the locker room at halftime.

"We were very calm. We knew what we had to do. In the first half, we obviously didn't do it," Rycraft said. "We knew we had to do the fundamentals, the right things, and we went out there and did what we were supposed to do."

The Penguins' turnaround began with the first of Jason Perry's two interceptions in the third quarter.

"We've got a lot of weapons on offense, and our defense played incredible," Rycraft said. "It was the defense that got the offense motivated, and it really helped the offense get rolling."

richesson@vindy.com




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