YSU, high schools kick off quests for gridiron greatness




He was surrounded by 500 Youngstown State students in the “Yo Show” T-shirts he helped distribute (which represent a group he helped create), but on Thursday night, the only thing Justen Vrabel had on his chest was paint.

“I’ll tell you what,” Vrabel said during halftime of Thursday’s

28-10 win over Dayton in the season opener at Stambaugh Stadium. “We had one hell of a turnout and we had one hell of a tailgate.

“We may not be playing up to our potential, but the student

section looked good tonight.”

Youngstown State drew 12,018 for the season opener and at least 1,000 of them were students. The Penguins won their season opener for the second straight year. Last season, YSU started with a stunning 31-17 win at Pitt for its first win over a BCS school.

As a former standout basketball player at Canfield, Vrabel grew used to playing in front of big (and loud) student sections during his high school games. As the Student Government Association’s chief of staff, he wanted to create that same atmosphere at Youngstown State, a commuter school whose best fans are often old enough to remember when Jim Tressel got hired.

“Honestly, we were sitting in our dorm room one night and I said it would be nice to have a unified student section,” Vrabel said. “Youngstown is a commuter campus and we have a tough time getting everyone together, so we said, ‘Hey, what about the ‘Yo Show’?”

Youngstown State’s student section was sold out by midafternoon — the students spilled over into other sections on the east-side stands — and they handed out 500 shirts provided by YSU’s marketing department.

“It’s always great when the students are out there,” senior linebacker Ali Cheaib said. “We know if we win, they’ll continue to show up, so that’s our goal.”

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