By JOE SCALZO
On Nov. 15, 1994, against an Alcorn State team with a senior quarterback named Steve McNair, the Youngstown State football team scored a school-record 63 points.
On Saturday, in Coach Eric Wolford’s third game at YSU, the Penguins matched it, rolling to a 63-24 victory over Central Connecticut State
The stakes were much different this time — and the opponent wasn’t nearly as good — but still. The YSU men’s basketball team didn’t score that many in 12 of its 30 games last year.
“There is no taking the foot off the pedal,” said freshman running back Adaris Bellamy, who helped the Penguins tie another school record by scoring two of the running backs’ eight touchdowns. “Once we get it going full speed, there is no stopping us.”
For the second straight week, YSU (2-1) dominated the game on the ground, rushing for 322 yards on 43 carries (7.5 per attempt). Speedy sophomore Jamaine Cook led the Penguins with 14 carries for 179 yards and three touchdowns — the first three of his college career.
All three of those scores were from 23 yards or more. At times, it looked like Cook was running against 10 defenders, not 11.
“I feel like I had my best game as a Penguin,” he said. “So far.”
Last week, YSU’s coaches gave player of the game honors to the team’s five running backs after running for 286 yards and three TDs in a 31-7 win over Butler.
But through two weeks, the staff has yet to name an offensive lineman of the week.
When asked if that would change after Saturday, Wolford smiled and said, “I don’t know. It’s hard to say until we look at the film.
“I’m sure there’s someone in there we can give an award to but we don’t want to set our standards too low, either.”
Too low? After eight rushing touchdowns?
“Those guys are a work in progress,” Wolford said. “Obviously we did some good things because we got some yardage here tonight.”
Quarterback Kurt Hess was 15 of 20 for 191 yards but threw his first career interception, which set up the Blue Devils’ first score.
The game was actually tied 14-14 early in the second quarter before YSU scored pulled away to a 35-14 halftime lead.
During the break, Wolford reminded his team that it was playing a defending conference champion with a reputation for comebacks.
“That was my biggest fear,” he said. “Were we going to come out in the second half and be ready to play?”
Central (1-2) actually scored first in the third quarter, on a 37-yard field goal by Joe Izzo, but the Blue Devils’ defense had no answer for YSU’s offense.
Central quarterback Gunnar Jespersen completed 16 of 26 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown and also ran 15 times for 68 yards and a TD as the Blue Devils gained 358 yards and were 9 of 16 on third down.
“We gave up a couple big plays,” said linebacker Deonta Tate, who had seven tackles and broke up three passes. “As a whole, we could do a lot better on some key aspects but we played pretty good.”
YSU played its second string for much of the fourth quarter and still only punted twice in the game. Both those punts were due to offensive penalties on first or second down.
“Obviously [offensive coordinator Shane] Montgomery called a good game and it’s a compliment to all our offensive coaches,” Wolford said. “We have a great staff here and I think the players realize when they listen and do exactly what they’re instructed to do, they’ll have a chance to be successful.
“We’ve got a little bit of talent.”
That talent will be tested next weekend against defending champion Southern Illinois.
The Salukis, who were preseason favorites in the Missouri Valley, lost to Southeast Missouri State on Saturday. Southern Illinois beat YSU 28-7 last year.
“I feel like our game today gave us more confidence for our conference play,” Cook said. “In this conference we’re not respected and we want to go in there and gain that respect.”