By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Monquantae Gibson knows Youngstown State football, and he wasn't even with the Penguins last season.
"You hear about the tradition so much when you first get here, with Coach Tressel and the national championships," said Gibson, a running back who played for the University of Kentucky in 2003.
"But you really don't experience it until you put on the uniform and run out there on the field."
After a difficult wait, Gibson finally sprinted onto the field Saturday night at Stambaugh Stadium against Florida International and played in his first game for Youngstown State.
"When I took my first hand-off, it finally hit me," Gibson said. "This is all for real."
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Gibson came to Youngstown State with a wealth of football credentials. The YSU media guide describes him as one of the top running backs in the history of Kentucky high school football.
Through a friend who knew Youngstown State defensive tackle Jamel Lee, Gibson found an opportunity with the Penguins. He enrolled in January and participated in spring drills.
But when the season kicked off last week against Slippery Rock, Gibson wasn't on the field. Instead, he was nursing a shoulder injury.
"I was real anxious because I know what I can do on the field," Gibson said. "Everybody was waiting to see it, asking me whether I was going to play this week."
Gibson made his debut for the Penguins with just under five minutes remaining in the first quarter. He carried four straight times on a drive that ended in Nick Terracina's 47-yard field goal.
A 6-foot, 205-pound tailback, Gibson describes his running style as "bruiser at times, slasher at other times. You have to mix it up because it's chess out there, not checkers."
Gibson mixed it up effectively against the Florida International defense, leading all rushers in the game with 122 yards on 22 carries.
Youngstown State enjoys plenty of depth in the offensive backfield. In addition to Gibson, the Penguins also employ junior Josh Cayson, sophomore Regis Edgerson and sophomore Demetrius Ison.
"There's three of us right now and we all have different styles," Gibson said. "Josh is a slasher, Regis is a bruiser and I'm a little bit of both. The defenses don't know what to key on."
Cayson added 44 yards rushing against the Golden Panthers, while Ison scored a touchdown on a 7-yard pass from Tom Zetts in the second quarter.
Gibson calls Ison the leader in the backfield.
"He keeps us pumped," Gibson said. "He's one of those hard-nosed guys. He plays fullback, so he's not going to dodge anybody and he expects us running backs to do the same."