Senior QB needs only 5 yards to match Zetts’ career mark
By Joe Scalzo
Back in August, when former Youngstown State quarterback Tom Zetts was asked about Kurt Hess breaking all his passing records, Zetts said the only one that holds special meaning is the one for career starts: 47.
“The rest of them are just numbers,” Zetts said.
Like Hess, Zetts piled up a lot of statistics through his first three seasons, only to fall short of a playoff berth. (Although Zetts did win a share of the conference title as a junior.)
The biggest difference in their careers — so far — is Zetts broke through as a senior, leading the Penguins to the national semifinals before falling to eventual champion Appalachian State.
“That 47 means I played three playoff games,” said Zetts, who started every game of his career. “Otherwise, it would have been 44.”
Hess, who is just five yards short of Zetts’ career passing mark, has started 38 straight games. Because YSU plays 12 games this season, he would only need to advance to the second round of the playoffs to match Zetts.
“I’d like to get that one,” Hess said. “We’re definitely going to have to get to where I want to go if I’m going to get that one.”
Hess is coming off one of the best games of his career, throwing for 258 yards and four touchdowns in a come-from-behind win over Southern Illinois to earn Missouri Valley Football Conference offensive player of the week.
While Hess is well known in the MVFC, he was singled out by Indiana State coach Mike Sanford when he previewed Saturday’s game against YSU in this week’s teleconference.
“Probably the individual person that jumps out the most is their quarterback, bringing their team from behind to get a one-point win against Southern Illinois,” Sanford said.
Hess was particularly good in the fourth quarter, leading YSU on scoring drives of nine plays, 74 yards and 16 plays, 83 yards.
“Kurt is a guy who has been around here for a long time,” YSU coach Eric Wolford said. “He manages the game well, he’s a tremendous leader but at the same time, he realizes there are guys around him to help him with the football game. He’s realizing he doesn’t have to go out and win the game himself.
“At the same time, when things do break down, he has the ability to scramble, keeps plays alive and make things happen. That’s what we expect from a fourth-year starter.”
Hess, who also trails Zetts for career passes (997-1,094), career completions (618-654) and total offensive yards (8,206-8,277), said he feels blessed to be in this position.
“It’s a credit to a lot of the people I’ve played with,” Hess said. “I’ve been healthy, knock on wood, and coaches have let me play a lot of ball, playing with a lot of good players who have made some great runs, made some great catches after.
Wolford likes to say that people are judged by championships and playoff berths at YSU, but when asked if Hess needs to make the playoffs to go down as one of the all-time greats, he did something he hates to do.
“You guys are the judges, you guys hold that little hammer [gavel] they bang around,” Wolford said. “We’ll see where he is at the end of the year.
“Records and all that kind of stuff, he’ll tell you, that stuff don’t matter. Who cares about records. That’s something when you’re old you’ll tell your kids about. Right now it’s about preparing today to beat Indiana State.”