Penguins' defense meets challenge

& lt;a & gt;By PETE MOLLICA & lt;/a & gt;
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Youngstown State defensive unit has probably been the biggest surprise of the spring practices.
Saturday, the defense, sparked by many young, inexperienced players won its second straight jersey scrimmage, 35-22, over the offense at Stambaugh Stadium.
The defense will keep the red practice jerseys for the remainder of the spring and until the first jersey scrimmage when fall practice gets underway in August.
"The defense is proud of their effort," said senior linebacker Justin Dellarose. "We've had so many guys step up this spring, and to win two jersey scrimmages has just been awesome.
"We came into spring practice with a lot of young, inexperienced players after losing eight starters through graduation, and with injuries this spring even more young players were called upon," Dellarose added.
"Winning the scrimmages is nice; it gives you bragging rights until fall practice begins."
Once again, the defense did it with turnovers -- three fumble recoveries and two pass interceptions -- and didn't allow a touchdown.
"The defense had two good takeaways," said YSU coach Jon Heacock, "while the offense gave one away on an interception, but overall there was some good hitting going on out there.
"Our numbers are really down on defensive backs because of injuries and a lot of guys had to play a lot of snaps today, but I was impressed with the hitting.
"The offensive backs took better care of the football and you could see that it was something that they have worked very hard on since the last scrimmage," Heacock added.
Sophomore tailback Justin Reams led the rushers with 61 yards on 11 carries, but he also lost two fumbles. Sophomore Josh Cayson added 46 yards on 11 tries, while senior Josiah Doby added 38 yards on 11 carries.
Quarterback battle
The two remaining quarterback candidates this spring, junior Matt Rycraft and senior Luis Gonzalez, took all the snaps. Sophomore Aaron Marshall went down a week ago with a fractured ankle and won't play any more this spring.
Rycraft completed 9-of-25 passes for 108 yards, but was also sacked five times for minus-19 yards rushing. Gonzalez finished 5-of-16 passing for 21 yards and was sacked three times for minus-15 yards. They each threw one interception.
Sophomore wide receiver Shawn Carlson and senior fullback Chris DiMauro each caught three passes, while Carlson finished with 49 yards, including the longest play from scrimmage, 30 yards from Rycraft.
The offense's only two scores came on field goals from junior transfer Nick Terracina, who had kicks of 48 and 42 yards and just missed a 47-yard attempt.
Dellarose, senior defensive back Steve Reynolds and defensive end Ryan Clonch all recovered fumbles for the defense, while senior defensive end Mike Nuzzo and redshirt freshman cornerback Jason Perry each had an interception.