AFTER Saturday night's victory over the Pitt Panthers at Heinz Field, Youngstown State University quarterback Kurt Hess was asked how the win felt.
"It hasn't even hit me yet," the junior said.
I guarantee that when Hess woke up Sunday morning, the victory hit him. And that it felt pretty darn good.
For the first time since 2000, the Penguins defeated a Division I, FBS, school. The 31-17 victory over the Panthers also was the first defeat Pitt had ever suffered from a FCS, or Division I-AA, school.
The best part of the victory for YSU is that it didn't happen by a fluke or by some combination of miracles. The Penguins simply outplayed the Panthers from top to bottom, and Pitt knew it.
"You've got to give credit to Youngstown State," Pitt running back Ray Graham said. "That just goes to show that you can't sleep on any opponent. Not to say that we did or that anyone in the locker room did, it's just that you have to give credit. They're on scholarship, just like we're on scholarship. They did their job to a 'T' and that was it."
A person in the press box said it the best, "It was the upset that didn't look like an upset." If someone who didn't know which team was which, the case could have been made that YSU was supposed to win this game.
For one, the Penguins were downright good on third-down conversions, as they converted 11 of 16. Pitt was 7 of 16.
But the biggest stat of the night was the time of possession. YSU controlled the ball for 35 minutes and 10 seconds. The Panthers had the ball for 24:50.
And upon further review the Penguins never trailed. Against a Big East school. On its home field. Like I was saying in the press box Saturday night, "This is happening." Well it happened, and the Penguins won't soon forget it.
For Youngstown State, the formula they used Saturday night is the one that needs to be used throughout the season. Keep the offense on the field and get an early lead to put pressure on the opponent. Also, the defense is still going through a transition with a new coordinator, so if the offense can take the pressure off of the defense and give them a few games to get adjusted, this could be a very dangerous team.
The YSU defense did show improvement Saturday night, but they still have a ways to go. There were at least three plays that come to mind that the Pitt receivers had beat the Penguins' defensive backs. If Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri would have been able to connect with them - he missed the targets each time - this game would have not been a 14-point game. Also in the first half, the Penguins gave up their fair share of third-down conversions, and I'm talking third and long, not a quick punch up the middle conversion.
There are always things to improve on after the first game. I'm sure Wolford will say there are things on offense that he and his staff need to improve on as well. But I do know this, there wasn't a better way to start the 2012 season.
After a win like that, it will take leadership and discipline from the coaching staff and upperclassmen to make sure the Penguins stay focused on the next opponent - Valparaiso. Last season, the Penguins beat the Crusaders, 77-13, and a score like that is expected again.
The Penguins say they are under the mindset to go 1-0 every week. After opening the season with a victory like that, that goal might be attainable.
Sulonen covers YSU football for the Tribune Chronicle. E-mail her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @DanaSulonen26