Making strides from Game One to Game Two is difficult, but imperative.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- If there was one good thing about Youngstown State's 51-21 season-opening victory over Slippery Rock last week it was that the Penguins played their best football when the score got close.
After YSU blew a 28-7 lead and allowed The Rock to come back to within 28-21 midway through the third period, the Penguins were at their best on defense, holding Slippery Rock to less than 80 total yards and racking up 23 unanswered points to pull away for the win.
"There were some good things happening last week, but the fact that we played our best when things got tight was most impressive," said coach Jon Heacock.
"The defense played well at times, but we've got to do a better job of stopping the run," he added. "Preparation is the key. We just have to do a better job there. It hasn't been bad, but it still needs improvement."
The Penguins don't have a lot of time to get better since they will take on Maine Saturday at 4 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.
The Black Bears of the Atlantic 10 Conference were 5-6 last season, but won three of their last four games. They will be playing their season opener Saturday.
"They've had all spring, all summer, all fall camp and last week to get ready for Youngstown State," Heacock said.
Heacock praised his offensive unit, which he felt played very well in the season opener.
"Both our quarterbacks, Tom [Zetts] and Mike [Schneider], played very well and with Todd [Rowan] coming back this week we are very deep at that position," Heacock said.
"Our offensive line has been outstanding and we've got good support behind them, while the receiving corps showed they are ready as nine different players caught a pass in the game," he added.
Senior tailbacks Marcus Mason and Monquantae Gibson combined for nearly 200 yards rushing, as the Penguins gained 224 yards on the ground against The Rock.
This will be the first meeting between YSU and Maine since 1990, when the Penguins closed out an 11-0 season with a 38-17 win over the Black Bears at Stambaugh Stadium.
The series stands at 2-2 with both teams winning on their home field. The Penguins lost at Maine in 1989, 28-14. The other two meetings came in 1965 when YSU lost in Orono, 27-22, but won 14-6 in Youngstown in 1966.
Heacock got some good news this week as senior wide receiver Josh Cayson, who moved from tailback to wideout in the spring, has been cleared to play Saturday.
Defensive end injured
But at the same time the Penguins will be without defensive end Greg Jacobs, who was injured against Slippery Rock and will not play.
Senior fullback Regis Edgerson, who missed last week's game, will also still be out Saturday.
"We're kind of going into the game cold since they didn't play and we have no recent films of them," Heacock said. "We know that they like to spread things out and they'll do whatever you give them," he added.
"Playing at home is a definite advantage in this case and they have to open the season on the road which is not easy. It's a big football game for both teams," he concluded.