By Joe Scalzo
So, there probably won’t be any questions about Youngstown State’s offense this week.
Nine days after a lackluster win over Dayton, quarterback Kurt Hess and Co. took out their frustrations on non-scholarship Morehead State, piling up a school-record 718 yards en route to a 67-13 victory Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium.
“We weren’t necessarily embarrassed last week, but we were definitely frustrated with ourselves and we definitely had something to prove today,” said Hess, who completed 16 of 19 passes for 282 yards and three TDs before giving way to Dante Nania in the second half. “I told the guys and some of the leaders on the offense got together and said, ‘We’ve got to play a lot better on offense, because we can.’”
YSU (2-0) scored on its first nine possessions — eight of those touchdowns — and gained 359 yards rushing and 359 passing to surpass the previous yardage record of 657, set in 2011 against Valparaiso. The 67 points were the second-most in school history, trailing the 77 from that Valpo game.
Hess completed 7 of his first 8 passes for 90 yards and two TDs on Saturday, surpassing last week’s numbers (9 of 19 for 73 yards, no TDs) in just 81/2 minutes.
“I think [Hess] felt like he probably had something to prove,” Wolford said. “Last week, he was probably disappointed with what happened during the game. We felt like his supporting cast needed to rally around him and gave him an opportunity to be successful.”
Freshmen tailbacks Jody Webb (11 carries, 122 yards, three TDs) and Martin Ruiz (six carries, 117 yards, two TDs) carried the load in the second half and junior Joey Cejudo made his first collegiate field goal, a 37-yarder in the third quarter.
Marcel Caver caught five passes for 113 yards — both career highs — and Andrew Williams added five receptions for 82 yards and a TD. Also, junior wideout Jelani Berassa caught a 12-yard pass — his first reception since 2011 after missing last season with a torn ACL.
“Some of the receivers came up to him [Berassa] and said, ‘Hey old man, you still got it, you still got the game,’” Hess said, grinning. “It’s good for him. He’s progressed and he’s still progressing and he knows that. He’s a fighter and he’ll be out there soon, having some significant playing time and some significant catches.”
YSU’s defense was nearly as dominant as its offense, forcing the Eagles to punt on their first four possessions as the Penguins rang up a 36-0 lead.
Junior linebacker Travis Williams had two tackles for loss, including the type of first-quarter sack that can leave quarterbacks like Logan Johnson wondering why they decided to play college football for free.
“We don’t take nobody lightly,” Williams said. “We played Morehead like they was North Dakota [State] or a Division [FBS] team. We ain’t trying to play with people. We ain’t trying to give them no air to breath.”
Backup QB Austin Gahafer went 16 of 23 for 148 yards, a TD and an interception for Morehead State (0-2), which lost to NAIA member Pikeville last weekend. YSU improved to 9-6 all-time against their former Ohio Valley Conference rivals, who were meeting for the first time since 1987 — Jim Tressel’s second year.
“We weren’t perfect today, by no means,” Wolford said. “But we are making progress and we are gaining confidence.”