Wolford hints QB move possible
By Joe Scalzo
On Saturday, Youngstown State quarterback Kurt Hess could begin one reign while another one ends.
For the first time in Eric Wolford’s 21/2 seasons, the Penguins’ coach hinted that the team is considering making a change at quarterback — a startling, but perhaps inevitable, admission in the wake of the team’s four-game losing streak.
“The only thing that we’ve talked about is, right now we can’t continue on this path,” said Wolford, who took care not to point the finger at any one player when discussing the offense’s failures. “We’re going to see how the week goes, but we cannot continue to have these breakdowns. I’ll leave it at that.”
Hess, a first-team all-conference selection last season as a sophomore, is struggling through the worst stretch of his 30-game career. Over the past four games, he has thrown six interceptions and fumbled three times, losing two. (For comparison’s sake, Hess had eight interceptions in 11 games last season and fumbled just twice, losing one.)
While some of the turnovers aren’t his fault — Wolford pointed to protection breakdowns, poor pass routes and big deficits that forced YSU to abandon its run-first offense — Hess has clearly not looked like the player who led the Penguins to their 4-0 start.
“We have been preaching ball security and all those type of things but I think [we fix it] by having players really understand that if this continues, we’re gonna have to make a change [at struggling positions],” said Wolford. “We are all accountable for what we do. We’re not going to let guys continue to put us in bad situations.”
While that quote was vague, Wolford added this a few minutes later: “If you don’t throw it to the guy that’s open or throw it away, you made the wrong decision. It’s that simple, you know?”
Backup Patrick Angle has completed 6 of 11 passes for 50 yards in four games this season but the sophomore did not play in last week’s loss to South Dakota State even though the Penguins fell behind 41-7 in the opening minutes of the third quarter. Style-wise, Angle is a similar quarterback, albeit shorter and with a stronger arm.
Hess is liked and respected by the players and the coaching staff — it’s telling that he was the only player brought in for Tuesday’s news conference — and his popularity outside the locker room is a big reason why he could win Homecoming King this Saturday.
Not surprisingly, he focused on the positive when talking to reporters —Hess could probably find something nice to say about lawyers who moonlight as used-car salesmen — and said he believes the Penguins can still finish the season strong.
“I truly believe in my team,” Hess said. “I believe in my teammates and my coaches and what we’re doing here.
“I believe we’re still a good football team. The record and some of the stats and the boxscores may not tell you that, but we’re a really solid football team with a lot of good players.”
Maybe, but belief is one thing. Performance is another.
During last week’s press conference, Wolford gave an unprompted defense of Hess, saying, “Kurt’s our guy and we believe in him. We expect Kurt obviously to bounce back.”
Hess didn’t and Wolford offered no such defense on Tuesday. It’ll be up to Hess to make that argument for him.
Question is, can he?