Coach Jon Heacock says the team must put last week's loss behind them.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State coach Jon Heacock knows his team did not play very well against Northern Iowa.
But, Heacock also knows that game is history, and the Penguins must get ready for their next challenge, which is a big one Saturday.
The Penguins (6-2, 3-1 Gateway Conference) travel to Normal, Ill., to take on Illinois State (6-1, 3-0) in a 2:37 p.m. kickoff at Hancock Stadium. The game will be telecast by WFMJ-TV (21) in addition to WBBG-FM (106.1) and WNIO-AM (1390).
"We've got to move on, get over [Northern Iowa] and go on to the next game," Heacock said. "We understand where we are, but we've got to turn the page and go on."
Heacock said the Penguins had some winning performances in the 31-23 loss to Northern Iowa.
"Marcus Mason on offense and Jeff Koval on defense both had winning performances," he said. "There were a couple of others, but not many."
Allowing too many big plays
Heacock's biggest concern going into the Illinois State contest is that the Penguins are giving up too many big plays defensively.
"We just have to go to work," he added. "We still control our own destiny as far as the big picture goes, the rest will have to take care of itself."
One of the reasons that Heacock is concerned this week about the defense is that Illinois State has become a big-play offensive team.
"They do a great job protecting their quarterback and they do it by running one and two-man routes," he said.
"They have an outstanding running back in Pierre Rembert," he added.
"The key for us is to be able to run the football against them," said Heacock. "We need to keep the defense off the field as much as possible.
"We're playing on the road in the Gateway and that's the bottom line because there are no easy road games in our conference," he said.
Easier to stay focused
Heacock said the only thing about playing on the road is that it is easier for the players to stay focused on the game in hand.
"We're together the entire time and it makes things easier to be focused, although our focus has been pretty good overall this season," he continued.
The Penguins are No. 10 in the I-AA polls, while the Redbirds have jumped to No. 3 in the Sports Network poll and No. 2 in the coaches poll.
"It's exciting to be going there an playing a top-ranked team. I know our kids are excited about it," said Heacock.
Mason is ranked No. 2 in I-AA in rushing. He has rushed for over 100 yards in six of seven games. The one game he didn't make a 100 yards, he finished with 99. He has 1,071 yards this season and is averaging 153 yards per game, and 6.5 yards per carry, with 15 touchdowns.
Zetts had off day
Junior quarterback Tom Zetts did not have one of his better games last week, though he passed for 208 yards. He didn't have a touchdown and threw four interceptions, a career high, all in the second half.
The overall offense has played well this season, but the defense, which is allowing 370 yards per game, needs to get better.
"I'm still very confident in this football team," Heacock said. "I have great faith in my team."
And what does he expect from his team on Saturday?
"We're sitting here 6-2 and think they're going to go out there and play like crazy," Heacock said.