The fifth-year senior had five catches and two TDs against Maine.
By CHUCK HOUSTEAU
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State University's fifth-year senior wide receiver T.J. Peterson is emerging as the leader of a unit that had very little game experience heading into the 2006 season.
Peterson was the only returning wide receiver with any starts under his belt after the Penguins lost standouts Kyle Smith, Damian Wright and Jameson Evans from last year's team.
Saturday against the Maine Bears, Peterson caught a career high five passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns to help rally the Penguins in their 34-14 victory over the Bears at Stambaugh Stadium.
Peterson caught a 42-yard pass for his first touchdown of the year from quarterback Tom Zetts in the second quarter and followed that with a 16-yard score in the third period.
Peterson's second score put the Penguins ahead for good after YSU trailed 14-13 at the half.
"[Maine] was loading up the box and we thought about throwing the ball even more than we did," said YSU head coach Jon Heacock as the Penguins tallied 21 points in the second half.
"Later on in the game it got to the point where we needed to throw the ball some and we were able to do that," Heacock said.
It wasn't all that surprising that Peterson stepped up and made the big plays against Maine.
The senior has great size (6-feet-1-inch, 190 pounds), possesses good speed and has great hands. He had caught 24 passes and two TDs in his career heading into this season and against Slippery Rock last week he had three catches for 47 yards.
Peterson said that the Penguins felt like they had a chance to exploit the Bears' secondary.
"They played a lot of man defense," Peterson said. "We were expecting that and so we were planning on throwing a little bit.
"Tommy [Zetts] and I were on the same page a lot and all of our young receivers really stepped up today," Peterson said.
The Penguins also are relying on junior Rory Berry as the other starter while senior Josh Cayson, a former tailback and sophomore Da'Michael Horne also have seen a lot of action.
"Experience is the only thing lacking with our group," Peterson said. "But I think the last two games we really stepped up and showed people that we really can play.
"That's really not an issue any more," Peterson said. "We have a lot of talent and depth now at this position so we are just starting to click and getting things going."
Zetts lauds receiver
Zetts said that Peterson has really stepped it up as the leader of the young receiving corps.
"T.J's a senior and he knows that this is really his big shot," Zetts said. "Last year, we had some other guys with experience that are now gone.
"T.J is the only guy coming back with experience and I think he took that to heart and he's worked hard and its really paid off."
Peterson said that he and the rest of the wide receivers are up to the challenge of this season.
"I try to lead," Peterson said. "I don't know if I'm the main leader but I try to inspire the guys to play a little bit better."