Stubbs helps YSU to biggest victory in a decade
By Joe scalzo
Call it a program-changer. Call it a statement-maker. Call it Youngstown State’s biggest win in at least a decade.
Just don’t call it an upset.
Behind a breakout performance from lightning-quick freshman Andre Stubbs, a bevy of big defensive plays and a typically strong performance from Youngs-town State’s offense, the Penguins earned a decisive 31-17 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday night at Heinz Field.
“A lot of people said this was a far-fetched thing and it was very absurd, but we believed in the locker room that we could beat this Pitt team,” said junior quarterback Kurt Hess. “We really came out here and expected to win and I think that really helped us.”
The game’s key stretch came midway through the third quarter. Youngstown State led 21-10 but had just been held to its first three-and-out of the game. Pitt took over at its own 42 and drove 36 yards in seven plays to set up a fourth-and-1 at the YSU 21.
Pitt’s first-year coach, Paul Chryst, called for running back Isaac Bennett to run into the center of the Penguin defense, where he was stuffed for a 1-yard loss.
“We did that fourth-down stop with sophomores,” said senior defensive tackle Aronde Stanton. “I was out with cramps, [senior defensive tackle Nick] DeKraker was out with a knee injury and sophomores came in and stepped up.”
YSU then put together a 15-play, 78-yard drove that chewed up 8:34 off the clock and finished with a 13-yard touchdown run by Stubbs. Pitt answered with a touchdown drive of its own to cut the deficit to 28-17 with 9:17 left.
Then the Penguins did something they’ve been unable to do for much of the Wolford era — they put the game away.
Offensive coordinator Shane Montgomery, whose creative play-calling kept Pitt off-balance all night, called 11 straight running plays, mixing things up between Stubbs, workhorse senior Jamaine Cook and bulldozing junior Torrian Pace. The drive ate up more than six minutes and ended with David Brown’s 25-yard field goal.
“That was a championship drive,” Hess said. “Obviously, we would have liked to have punched it in but the defense had our backs.
“They got us the ball back and I told them I wanted to take the knee [to end the game]. They let me take a couple knees.”
Stubbs, who suffered a season-ending collarbone injury in Week 3 last year, caught four passes for 21 yards and a touchdown and ran six times for 71 yards and a TD for the Penguins, who became the first FCS team in history to win 20 games over FBS opponents.
“Andre Stubbs is a guy who is probably too short [5-foot-6] for most people to recruit,” YSU coach Eric Wolford said. “A lot of people get caught up in measurements and we don’t do that.
“We go by film and he’s an explosive player.”
Quarterback Kurt Hess completed 13 of 23 passes for 154 yards and two TDs while Cook ran 21 times for 84 yards. Cook also threw for a touchdown, hitting tight end Will Shaw (three catches, 51 yards, two TDs) for a 23-yard completion on fourth-and-1 early in the third quarter.
Add in two forced fumbles by YSU’s defense (including one with 1:10 left) and a 20:46-9:14 edge in second-half time of possession and it’s easy to see why the Penguins were able to get their first win over a BCS opponent since they started the annual games in 2005.
“My hat goes off to Youngstown State,” Chryst said. “They are very well-coached. They’re a good team. Tonight, they were the better team.
“They beat us tonight.”