YOUNGSTOWN - The Penguins insisted they weren't overlooking Morehead State University, and after setting a school record in total yards, it certainly didn't appear they were looking ahead to next week's showdown with Michigan State.
Even if they were, it might not have mattered in a game where Youngstown State thoroughly overmatched the Eagles at nearly every position.
The Penguins racked up 718 total yards in a 67-13 shellacking of Morehead State.
Tribune Chronicle / Nick Mays
Youngstown State running back Torrian Pace (25) breaks a run in the first quarter against Morehead State on Saturday. The Penguins totaled 718 yards of offense in the 67-13 victory. Next, the Penguins take on Michigan State.
It was a welcomed sight for YSU coach Eric Wolford - and quarterback Kurt Hess. Wolford wasn't pleased after the Penguins' lackluster 28-10 victory over Dayton, which plays in the same Pioneer Football League as Morehead State. Hess was a big reason why. The senior connected on just 9 of 19 passes for 73 yards and threw two interceptions against Dayton. Things changed against the Eagles.
"He felt like he had something to prove," Wolford said.
He made his point. Hess played more like the record-setting QB the Penguins (2-0) have come to expect than the off-target one from a week ago. He completed 16 of 19 passes for 282 yards and three touchdowns - all of which came in the first half.
"Offensively, we just wanted to come out and prove what we could do," Hess said. "We weren't necessarily embarrassed by last week, but we were a little frustrated with ourselves. We definitely had something to prove today - we had a chip on our shoulder.
"I had a sharper week of practice," said Hess of his improved accuracy. "It's all about preparation. I spent every day in the film room to see what Morehead was going to do against us, and we got a lot of similar looks today. And I was sharp with my receivers all week to build that confidence up."
Hess didn't even have all his pads off by the time Hess channeled his focus to the Spartans, a perennial contender in the Big Ten. The Penguins of the Football Championship Subdivision felt what it was like to knock off an upper-division school last year when they shocked Pittsburgh, 31-17, at Heinz Field. Hess couldn't help but think about enjoying a similar moment next week.
"I started thinking about (Michigan State) in the locker room," he said. "I can't lie."
If YSU can have balance anywhere close to what it showcased Saturday (359 yards rushing, 359 passing), it will have a chance. The Penguins scored on their first six drives, with Hess throwing touchdown passes on the first three and Torrian Pace, Martin Ruiz and Jody Webb adding rushing touchdowns on the next three. Pace's 3-yard burst gave them a 43-6 halftime lead.
"We felt like, as a supporting cast, we needed to rally around (Hess)," Wolford said. "Kurt Hess is a good football player. If you give a guy protection, if you run the ball well, those are the things that set our scheme up. Then run the right route and catch the ball, and that's what we did today."