Youngstown, Ohio – Sophomore Kurt Hess accounted for five touchdowns, threw for a career-high 293 yards completing 21-of-29 pass attempts and tied a school record with four touchdown passes to lead the Youngstown State football team to a 34-27 win over Missouri Valley Football Conference foe Illinois State in front of 18,543 fans on Saturday afternoon at Stambaugh Stadium.
The Penguins improve to 2-1 overall and 1-0 in the MVFC while the Redbirds fall to 1-2 overall and 0-1 in the conference.
Junior tailback Jamaine Cook rushed for 122 yards on 30 carries, and senior Andre Barboza had three receptions for 74 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman Christian Bryan led the receiving corps with five receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown while Kevin Watts caught four passes for 60 yards and a score.
The Guins, who scored on their first five possessions of the game, led 28-13 at the half. But on the first drive of the second half, the Redbirds marched 67 yards on 12 plays and scored on a 4th-and-goal from the Guins' one-yard line to get within 28-20.
The Guins were able to extend the lead to 14, 34-20, when Hess connected with Barboza on a 44-yard scoring strike with 8:05 left in the third.
ISU's Matt Brown engineered a 12-play, 67-yard scoring drive, including a 4th-and-1 conversion at the YSU 14-yard line to start the fourth quarter, capped by a seven-yard touchdown pass to Marvon Sanders to cut the deficit to 34-27 with 13:18 left in the game.
Both defenses tensed up in the fourth quarter as ISU forced the Guins to punt on four straight possessions while the Guins made the Redbirds punt on their last three possessions.
In the first half, the Guins converted all six of their third down situations, but they were only 1-of-6 in the second half. That lone conversion sealed the game for the Guins, who were facing a 3rd-and-8 from their own 26 yard-line. That's when Hess hit sophomore Jelani Berassa for 35 yards to the Redbirds' 39.
After Cook carried for a two-yard gain, ISU was forced to call its last timeout, and the Penguins ran out the clock.
The Guins scored touchdowns on their first four possessions of the first half on drives of 77, 77, 76 and 78 yards.
Hess, who completed 16-of-20 pass for 189 yards in the opening half, accounted for all four Penguins first-half touchdowns – three through the air and one on the ground.
The Guins took the opening drive 77 yards in 5:17 as Hess hit Bryan on a 25-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-8 with 9:43 left in the first. The Guins also made another crucial third down conversions on the drive when Hess scampered for 10 yards on a 3rd-and-9 to the YSU 34-yard line on the game's third play.
For the half, the Guins converted all six of their third downs.
The Redbirds took their first drive 85-yards, capped by a Brown to Tyrone Walker touchdown pass at the 6:12 mark, but YSU's Obinna Ekweremuba blocked the point-after attempt.
Hess then led the Guins on another 77-yard drive, hitting Watts on an 11-yard touchdown pass with seven seconds left in the first stanza to put the Guins up 14-6.
After forcing a Redbird punt, Hess rushed in from one-yard out to cap an 11-play, 76-yard drive to extend the Guins lead to 21-6.
ISU cut the deficit to 21-13 on a Brown to Matt Younger five-yard pass with 2:25 to go in the half.
Hess then led the Guins on a nine-play, 78-yard touchdown drive in just 2:05 to give the Guins a 28-13 lead after hitting Barboza on a 20-yard touchdown pass with just 13 seconds remaining before halftime.
Hess tied the school record for touchdowns in a game with four. He became the eighth Penguin quarterback, and the first since Brandon Summers in 2009, to throw for four scores.
The Guins visit Indiana State, Saturday, Sept. 24, in their first MVFC road game of the season at 2:05 p.m. EDT in Terre Haute, Ind.