Story and photo courtesy of Youngstown State Athletics
PITTSBURGH, Pa. – In the Youngstown State locker room at Heinz Field hung a sign that read "No Excuses." The Guins took that mantra onto the field and used a complete team effort in a 31-17 victory over FBS and Big East Conference member Pittsburgh on Saturday evening.
It marks Youngstown State's first win over Pitt, the program's 20th victory over FBS schools and the first since a 26-20 win over Kent State in 2000.
The Guins outgained the Panthers (381-369), had more first downs (23-17) and won the time of possession (35:10 – 24:50) while the defense forced two turnovers and had a huge fourth-down stop in the third quarter.
Redshirt freshman Andre Stubbs had 172 all-purpose yards (71 rushing, 61 receiving and 40 kickoff returns) and scored on a 27-yard strike from Kurt Hess in the first quarter and a 13-yard touchdown run in the fourth.
Hess completed 13-of-23 attempts for 154 yards on with two touchdowns and moved into a tie for third with 40 career touchdown passes. He also passed Ron Jaworski and Ray Isaac on the career passing yards list and is now fifth all-time with 4,731 yards.
The game's turning point came early in the third quarter with the Guins leading 14-10. Facing a 4th-and-one at Pitt's 23-yard line, senior Jamaine Cook took a toss to the right then stopped and fired a halfback pass to a wide open Will Shaw to extend the Guins' advantage to 21-10 at the 12:07 mark. The Guins took the opening drive of the second half 71 yards in six just plays.
After an exchange of punts, the Penguins' defense, which allowed just two third-down conversions in the second half, made a statement and stopped the Panthers on a 4th-and-1 at the YSU 21.
The offense carried that momentum and went 78 yards in 15 plays and extended their lead to 28-10 when Stubbs scored from 13 yards out with 12:21 left in the fourth quarter.
Stubbs' scamper capped a 15-play, 78-yard drive that took 8:34 off the clock.
Pitt's lone touchdown of the second half came with 9:17 left in the fourth quarter to cut the Guins lead down to 11 , 28-17, on a 35-yard pass from Tino Sunseri to Joshua Brinson on a 3rd-and-10.
David Brown added a 25-yard field with 3:02 left for the game's final score.
The defense ended the game the way it began - forcing a Pitt fumble. Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri hit Devin Street for a 17-yard gain, but Julius Childs forced Street to cough up the ball and Twin Fernadez recovered at the YSU 22 to seal the victory.
On the game's opening drive, Pittsburgh was methodically moving the ball before the Guins force Pitt's first fumble of the game. Dubem Nwadiogbu forced the ball loose and Jeremey Edwards recovered at the YSU 21.
YSU marched 79 yards in 10 plays to take a 7-0 lead when Kurt Hess, who three for 127 yards on 10-of-17 attempts in the first half, connected with Andre Stubbs on a 27-yard touchdown completion.
The Guins converted two crucial third-down situations to prolong the drive, including a 14-yard pass to Stubbs on 3rd-and-6 and an 11-yard run by Hess on a quarterback draw on 3rd-and 10.
Pitt knotted the game at 7-7 when Isaac Harper scampered in from four yards to cap an 11-play 75-yard drive.
The Guins regained the lead after a 92-yard, 15-play drive that ended on a 14-yard TD pass from Hess to Will Shaw.
Forced to start from their own 8-yard-line after an illegal block penalty on the kickoff, the Guins were clutch on third down converting three during the drive. Hess hit Shaw for 14 yards on a 3rd-and-7, found Stubbs for 14 yards on 3rd-and-8 and hit Nate Adams for 16 yards on 3rd-and-4 to move down to the Pitt 20.
After a 16-yard completion to Cook down to the Pitt four, Hess fumbled and lost 10 yards back to the Pitt 14 to set up the Hess-to-Shaw touchdown pass.
A 27-yard field goal by Kevin Harper with 6:13 left in the second to cut the YSU lead to 14-10.
The Guins host Valparaiso, Saturday, Sept. 8, at 4 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.