GATEWAY FOOTBALL 'Toppers' success based on same formula as YSU

YOUNGSTOWN -- The success of the Youngstown State football program has been based on running the football and playing defense.
On Saturday, the Penguins (6-1, 4-1 Gateway Conference) will face a team that does those things just as well, when they play host to Western Kentucky at 1 p.m.
The Hilltoppers (5-2, 2-1) are ranked third in I-AA in scoring defense and total defense, and are second to Youngstown State in the Gateway in rushing offense.
The teams have both been among the top 15 in the I-AA poll all season. The Penguins are No. 5 this week and the Hilltoppers are No. 10.
Formidable rival: "This is a very talented football team with a great defense," said YSU coach Jon Heacock of Western Kentucky. "They don't give you too many opportunities.
"They are a run offense," he added. "They try not to throw the football. Our guys will have a good game plan and will have a handle on what they are doing.
"This will be a very physical football game and it will go all day," he added. "There's going to be four or five plays and special teams that will make the difference.
"We're playing well right now and you always feel more comfortable about a team that doesn't like to throw the football. You go into the game knowing pretty much what to have to stop," he said.
QB situation: Heacock addressed the quarterback situation. Starter Jeff Ryan was sidelined by an injury and did not return in last week's game against Illinois State.
"He could have gone back in and was ready to, but Colby Street was doing so well we just decided to keep Jeff out just for precaution," Heacock said.
Ryan is expected to start Saturday, and could be called upon to pass more because of the Hilltoppers' strength against the run, allowing just 93 yards per game.
"We still have to be able to run the football," said Heacock. "But we may have to use the pass to make our running game work. I've always said that if we can run the ball and stop the run we have a good chance to win. I don't know how many games you can win by just throwing the football."
Offensive line: The Penguins will need a big game from the offensive line, which must not only open holes for Ryan and tailback P.J. Mays, but also give Ryan time to throw.
Mays is the leading rusher in the Gateway with 935 yards on 141 carries and is averaging 6.6 yards per carry with 14 touchdowns.
Ryan is second on the team with 324 yards on 84 carries and three touchdowns, while sophomore tailback Darius Peterson has 275 yards on 52 carries and scored four times. Street, who has carried the ball just 25 times, has 241 yards and a 9.6 average.
The leading receiver is junior Jerald Burley, whose 13 catches is one more than the entire Western Kentucky team. Burley, averaging 19.3 yards per catch, has three touchdowns. He is also averaging 25.3 yards on punt returns and 27 yards on kickoff returns.
On defense: The Penguins' defensive leaders, defensive back Antulio Aroche and linebacker Russell Stuvaints, expect a battle.
"Against this very disciplined option running attack, the defense must be very careful to stay at home and read our keys on every play," said Aroche, who has a team-high 45 tackles.
Stuvaints, who has 44 tackles and leads the team with 14 tackles for losses, said trying to control Western Kentucky's huge offensive line will be critical.
"We can't let them get to us," he said. "We've got to use our speed and quickness against them."
Sophomore placekicker Jake Stewart could be a factor. He is 5-for-5 in field goals, with a long of 49 yards, and 27-of-29 in extra points.