Interceptions and a blocked field goal triggered a 62-54 scrimmage victory.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- If it had been a real game, it might have been an upset. But for the Youngstown State defensive unit, keeping the red practice jerseys is more than enough reward.
The defense, supposedly the least-experienced group on the Penguins football team, came up with three interceptions, returning two of them for touchdowns. The defenders also blocked a field goal and recovered a fumble for a 62-54 victory over the offense in the only jersey scrimmage of spring practice Friday at Stambaugh Stadium.
The win allows the defense to keep the red practice jerseys through the remaining practices of the spring until the next jersey scrimmage in the fall.
The entire two-hour session was conducted in a steady rain, which at times was almost a downpour, but coach Jon Heacock thought it was the most beautiful thing he's seen this spring.
Ice Castle weather
"We've had some great weather this spring, but what we had today is Ice Castle weather, and if we are going to be playing come November then we had better get used to playing in this," Heacock said.
"I thought it was a good scrimmage, but it's the same thing we learn every year -- you have to take care of the football and you have to block on field goals and extra points," Heacock said.
"It goes both ways because when the defense is doing something good, the offense isn't and vice-versa," he said.
Heacock liked what he saw of sophomore quarterback Tom Zetts, who finished 14-of-23 for 148 yards and one touchdown, but two interceptions.
Zetts completed 14 of his first 18 passes, but had two of his final five picked off, including one by sophomore defensive back Bob Perez, who returned it 18 yards for a touchdown.
"It was wet out there and hard to get a good grip on the ball," Heacock said. "Aaron [Marshall] found out early in the scrimmage and then the same thing happened to Tom later on."
Marshall, the senior backup, was 4-of-14 for 17 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. Senior safety Brian Wisecarver picked off Marshall, returning it 39 yards for a score.
Sophomore quarterback Vince Gliatta was 4-of-14 for 57 yards.
Junior linebacker Jeremiah Wright had the third interception and caused a fumble, which was recovered by sophomore defensive back Dorian Chenault.
The leading rusher was freshman tailback Brandon Nicholson, who had 18 carries for 111 yards.
He got a lot of extra work since junior Monquantae Gibson didn't dress and senior Josh Cayson banged up his arm early in the scrimmage and did not return.
Junior fullback Demetrus Ison finished with 37 yards on 10 carries while junior tailback Regis Edgerson had 34 yards on 15 attempts. Cayson made 18 yards on five carries.
Senior tight end Shawn Carlson, the 6-foot-7 receiver from Boardman, led the receivers with five catches for 49 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown catch from Zetts.
Ison had four catches for 30 yards, while junior tight end Max King had the longest catch of the day, a 38-yarder from Zetts. Sophomore wide receiver Dustin Helle of Girard had the other touchdown reception, an 8-yard catch from Marshall.
"I've been excited about our offense this spring, we got a few guys banged up right now, but I thought there was some good things today," Heacock said.
"There are still some little things that need to be taken care of and we'll take a look at the films and see what they are."
Freshman redshirt placekicker Brian Palmer of Mineral Ridge kicked three field goals of 22, 20 and 38 yards, but had a 50-yarder blocked by Blake Halverson. Chris Goffer blocked an extra point attempt.
"It was a crazy day out here today and it's not easy to throw the football and it's not easy to catch it," Heacock said. "But again, we may have to play in weather like this so you have to be ready for it.
Zetts wasn't pleased with the turnovers.
"We've just got to take better care of the football," the former Boardman High standout said. "We did come back with a couple of scoring drives and there were times we looked pretty good, but overall it wasn't anywhere near where we've been most of this spring.
"I wouldn't say that it was a step backward for the offense, but we certainly didn't take any steps forward with that effort," Zetts said.
Senior defensive end Justin Scholes said the defense showed the improvements it made over the winter.
"We still have a long way to go, but we've kind of gotten a hold of the system now and we're getting better," he said.
The Penguins will have a light workout this morning without pads and then hold a special teams scrimmage Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.