Adams, Hess help Penguins pull away
By Joe Scalzo
Steel Valley 2, Steel City 0.
Thanks to a dominating finish over the final 25 minutes, Youngstown State coach Eric Wolford stayed perfect against Pittsburgh-area teams on Saturday with a 59-17 drubbing of Duquesne at Stambaugh Stadium.
“We came out a little sluggish, which can’t happen, especially coming into conference play,” said junior tight end Nate Adams, who had a career-high 108 yards on four catches with a 52-yard touchdown. “Just got to find a way to win. One game at a time now and that’s what we’re going to do the rest of the season.”
Fresh off a disappointing loss to Michigan State, YSU (3-1) was expected to have its way with Duquesne, which offers just 35 athletic scholarships — 28 fewer than the Penguins. But the Dukes made things interesting for the first 35 minutes, opening the second half with two straight touchdown drives to pull within 10 points, 24-14.
YSU answered with three straight touchdown drives — holding the Dukes to two straight three-and-outs in the interim — to end the suspense.
“I think we were resilient tonight,” Adams said. “Having confidence going into conference play is huge.
“We’ve just got to start rolling them together.”
Kurt Hess completed 15 of 25 passes for 292 yard and two TDs — the other came on a 55-yarder to Marcel Caver — to pull within 178 yards of Tom Zetts’ career yardage mark (7,643). True freshman running back Martin Ruiz added 65 yards rushing and three TDs as the Penguins outrushed Duquesne 173-39.
Youngstown State’s pass defense wasn’t nearly as good as the Dukes’ mobile and strong-armed freshman quarterback Dillon Buechel completed 21 of 38 passes for 362 yards and a TD.
“He’s got a good career ahead of him,” YSU senior cornerback Dale Peterman said of Buechel.
The Penguins did force two fumbles — recovering both — and redshirt freshman David Rivers returned an interception 43 yards for the game’s final score.
“I would like it to be 51-0, but, you know, going into the conference, that’s good,” said Peterman, who saw his first action of the season after missing the first three games with an ankle injury. “That’s good momentum. A good win against a solid Duquesne team.”
YSU’s non-conference schedule went as expected — the Penguins’ other two wins came against non-scholarship FCS schools — and now the fun begins. Next week’s opponent, Southern Illinois, is 2-2 with losses against Illinois (42-34) and nationally ranked Eastern Illinois (40-37 in 2OT).
“It’s kind of like a new season, really, for us,” Wolford said. “I think our team understands the depth of our conference. I think they understand how good our conference is. That’s what our primary focus is.”