Eric Wolford, Penguins head football coach, wasn’t making excuses after losing 35-17 to top-ranked North Dakota State University Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium.
Rather, he simply expressed the thought of every Youngstown State University football fan after the Penguins were forced to play their backup quarterbacks.
“It would have been interesting to see if we had Kurt Hess the whole game,” Wolford said. “It really would have been.”
Hess, YSU’s senior quarterback, exited at the end of the first quarter with the game tied at seven. He reinjured his right ankle, which he tweaked in last week’s game at the University of Northern Iowa.
He returned for one series in the third quarter before exiting for good.
“We knew during the week I didn’t progress like we wanted,” said Hess, who finished 4 of 9 for 53 yards and a TD pass to Andre Stubbs. “We wanted to give it a go, see if it would loosen up…but at the end of the day, it just wasn’t ready.”
The Penguins (8-3) were outscored 28-10 over the next three quarters under the guidance of backup quarterback’s Dante Nania and Tanner Garry.
Nania left the game at the beginning of the third quarter with a shoulder injury. He was late-hit at the end of the second quarter.
“It was a cheap shot,” Wolford said. “That’s part of the game I guess, but that was something that I thought was unnecessary.”
Garry, YSU’s third string quarterback, threw a 27-yard touchdown to Nate Adams that cut the Bison lead to 28-17, but completed just 3 of 10 passes.
A 1-yard scoring run by Bison quarterback Brock Jensen with 6:10 left put the game out of reach.
“I felt like we had our opportunities regardless of what our quarterback situation was,” Wolford said. “We kind of had some chances here and there but weren’t able to capitalize.”
NDSU (10-0, 7-0) clinched the Missouri Valley Football Conference title with the victory.
The Bison racked up 483 yards of total offense, led by Jensen’s four TD passes. Meanwhile, Sam Ojuri rushed for 155 yards, John Crocket totaled 120 and Zach Vraa had 101 receiving yards.
“They got a lot of good players and they’re well coached,” Dom Rich, YSU senior linebacker, said. “They’re physical up front, they got good running backs, great receivers and their quarterback’s good…hopefully we get another shot at them.”
First, YSU needs a win next week at home against South Dakota State University to improve its playoff chances.
“If we win next week we’re 9-3 and I think we’re making the playoffs,” Rich said. “So this game next week is huge.”
Hess said he expects to play.
“Very good,” he said of his chances of starting. “I’m gonna be in [the training room] doing everything I can. It’s not that severe, but I’ll be in next week.”