YSU FOOTBALL At Pittsburgh, Penguins will seek a perfect game
Leading receiver Kyle Smith most likely will not be available Saturday.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State coach Jon Heacock has been watching film of Pittsburgh over the last few days. He doesn't see a football team that is 0-3.
Instead, he's watched a team considered Top 25 material in the preseason make too many mistakes against quality competition.
The Penguins play the Panthers Saturday at Heinz Field. Kickoff is 2 p.m.
"What I saw was that they were playing against Notre Dame and Nebraska and I knew that we've played nobody anywhere near that this year," Heacock said.
"They should have beaten Nebraska and if [quarterback Tyler] Palko doesn't throw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns they beat Ohio and are 2-1 instead of 0-3."
So what must the Penguins do to compete against Pitt?
"First, we have to take care of the football," Heacock said. "We can't give them any easy scores. We also have to make the game last as long as we can. Special teams could make a difference in this game."
Heacock explained what he meant by "making the game last long."
"We can't let them come out and score on one-play drives or long touchdown runs," he said. "We have to make them work for everything they get.
"When we have the football we have to keep sustained drives going, we can't put our defense on the field all day long," he added.
Heacock said the Penguins met their first goal of the season, which was to start 3-0.
"Now the second season begins and we have to see where that quick start is going to take us," he said.
The Penguins have wins of 44-14 over Slippery Rock, 35-16 against Northeastern and 42-0 of Liberty.
"Our kids feel good about themselves right now, hopefully than will carry over to this week."
The Penguins are averaging 417 yards per game in total offense -- 238 yards rushing and 178 yards passing, while the defense has allowed an average of 238 yards per game, including just 70 per game on the ground.
Sophomore quarterback Tom Zetts has been the key to the offense. Last week, Liberty used eight and nine-man fronts to stop the YSU rushing game, and Zetts responded by throwing for 205 yards and four touchdowns.
A couple starters did suffer injuries last week, however, and are questionable at best for Saturday.
Senior wide receiver Kyle Smith left with a concussion in the first half and he will not likely be available against Pitt. Smith leads the Penguins with 13 catches (for 135 yards and two touchdowns) and has a 25-game streak with at least one pass reception.
Sophomore defensive end Jose Galloza is also questionable after getting banged up against the Flames.
"He's day-to-day," said Heacock.
How they stack up
The Penguins are 19-18-1 against Division I-A teams since 1981, but the last time they won against that competition was in 2000 when they beat Kent State 26-20.
"We're going to go out and do what we do best," said Heacock. "We also have to be smart as to how we defend against them."
"The real benefit of this game is that it is only 70 miles away and it is a tremendous opportunity for our football team.
"The bottom line to our players is that it is still just a football game," Heacock said.