YSU QB Kurt Hess still looking for a playoff berth
By Joe Scalzo
Youngstown State senior Kurt Hess is on pace to graduate with every major passing record in Penguin history, but he’s still tied at the bottom in the most important statistic: playoff games.
“My career would be kind of a disappointment to me if we didn’t make the playoffs,” Hess said. “It would be something I would always regret. It wouldn’t be as memorable if I didn’t make it to the dance.”
Added YSU coach Eric Wolford, “Kurt Hess does not want to walk out of here and have any regrets.”
Hess ranks first among YSU passers in career touchdown passes (53), passing yards per game (202.9), passer rating (141.78) and 200-yard passing games (18) and needs about 950 yards to pass Tom Zetts (2003-07) for career yardage.
But he’s fallen one win short of the playoffs each of the past two years, and he knows how important this fall is.
“I woke up before camp [on Wednesday] and said, ‘Shoot, this is my last turn, my last go-round,’” he said. “Whatever I don’t do this year, I want to make it as memorable as I can.”
After a solid freshman year, Hess earned first team all-conference honors as a sophomore, throwing for 2,500 yards and a school-record 26 touchdowns, helping YSU’s offense set several single-season records.
The offense took a step back last year as Hess struggled during a four-game losing streak midway through the season.
He eventually earned honorable mention All-Missouri Valley, but set career lows in attempts, completions and yardage.
“We’ve had a very productive offense the last few years and last year we let down a little bit, I think,” he said. “We didn’t maximize our potential.”
With YSU’s offense graduating its biggest security blanket in running back Jamaine Cook, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Hess set career highs in attempts. The Penguins have a talented and experienced group of receivers led by juniors Jelani Berassa and Christian Bryan and sophomore Andrew Williams.
“You can go down the line, we’ve got speed, we’ve got possession [receivers], we’ve got it all,” said Bryan. “I think last year we took a step back but we learned from that.
“I think the offense can really rely on us this year.”
With an expanded playoff field and a favorable schedule that includes home games against three of the top four preseason MVFC teams, Hess has maybe the best opportunity of his career to make the playoffs.
“It’s the standard around here,” Hess said. “We don’t want to leave any doubt. We don’t want to leave it up to a playoff committee.
“The last two years we felt like we were one game behind. This year, we want to know when we wake up that Sunday morning that we’re in.”