Better kicking game needed

If Youngstown State University's football team has any intention of extending its season into the playoffs, it definitely needs some big improvement in the kicking game.
More specifically, the punting game and the kickoff coverage game. The punting has been pitiful at times this year, and junior punter Kosta Karapetsas of Warren just hasn't been getting the job done.
Last Saturday in the Penguins' 41-20 win over Southwest Missouri State, Karapetsas had two punts under 10 yards -- one for 9 yards and the other for 6 yards.
Granted, both kicks were into a stiff 15-mph wind, but even so, there is no excuse for that kind of effort.
Average: In six games, Karapetsas has punted 29 times for an average of 36.7 yards, not horribly bad, but his net average is just 32 yards.
Of his 29 punts, three have been 10 yards or less and four others were in the 20-to-25-yard range, two of which came at Northern Iowa, inside the UNIDome, where there is no wind.
The problem for the Penguins is that there doesn't appear to be anybody else better to take over.
Freshman red-shirt Ryan Martino, a Cardinal Mooney product, has punted once this season for 19 yards. Craig Cicero, also a red-shirt freshman from Newton Falls, has never punted in a game for YSU, and there are reports that he has quit the team for the second straight year. Neither has challenged Karapetsas in practice.
Final punt: Last Saturday, YSU's final punt of the game was made by senior quarterback Jeff Ryan, and it traveled just 16 yards from the shotgun position.
What might be an even greater concern for YSU coach Jon Heacock is the team's kickoff coverage.
Already this year, YSU's opponents have returned six kickoffs for 30 yards or better, including two over 70 yards. Last Saturday, Southwest Missouri returned one 71 yards and another 53 yards. Indiana State had a 78-yard return on the Penguins two weeks ago.
"We definitely have some problems in our kicking game," said Heacock. "We have to get them solved quickly, and the place we have to do it is on the practice field."
The rest of the Penguins' special teams have been doing a solid job, especially the kickoff return team, which is ranked No. 2 in the country, and the punt return team, which is ranked 14th.
One of best: Although he's missed two extra points this season, sophomore placekicker Jake Stewart of Austintown is still one of the best in the conference.
Saturday, the Penguins will play host to Illinois State in the Homecoming game at 4 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.
Special for the Homecoming festivities, the tailgate lots will open at 8 a.m. and the Homecoming parade will begin at 2 p.m. at the corner of Lincoln and Fifth avenues. Fifth Avenue will be closed from 2 to 3 p.m., so tail-gate fans are reminded to get there before 2 p.m.
Prior to kickoff, the 2001 YSU Athletic Hall of Fame Class will be introduced on the field, and the halftime will feature the crowning of the king and queen.
The stadium gates will open at 2:30 p.m., and the first 7,500 fans will receive a YSU Rally Towel compliments of Wendell August Forge, MetLife Insurance and WFMJ-TV.
Policies: Fans are reminded that the new YSU policies prohibit backpacks, fanny packs, coolers, bags and containers of any size. Televisions or cameras will not be allowed. Pagers, cell phones and small purses are permissible, but all purses are subject to search.
The YSU ticket office is open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. during the week and beginning at 8 a.m. on Saturday. Fans can also call to reserve tickets or to get more game-day information at (330) 742-1YSU.
XPete Mollica covers YSU athletics for The Vindicator. Write him at