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Youngstown -- Senior quarterback Kurt Hess passed for a career-high 311 yards with four touchdown passes and rushed for another, and the defense forced three turnovers as the Youngstown State football team defeated Illinois State, 59-21, on Saturday evening at Stambaugh Stadium.
With the win, the 16th-ranked Penguins improve to 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference while the Redbirds fall to 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the MVFC. The Penguins have now won nine straight against FCS opponents and six consecutive against MVFC foes dating back to last season.
The 59 points are the most points scored against a MVFC opponent since joining the conference in 1997, and eight different players scored touchdowns for the Penguins.
Hess completed 17-of-21 passes and tossed at least four touchdowns for the sixth time in his career. Each of his four touchdown passes were to separate receivers.
Along with forcing three turnovers, the defense allowed just 168 yards rushing while the offense racked up 569 yards of total offense.
Freshman Martin Ruiz rushed for 85 yards on just eight carries with a touchdown, and Marcel Caver caught three passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. Fellow freshman Jody Webb rushed for 76 yards on seven carries with a touchdown.
After allowing a touchdown on the game's opening drive, the Penguins defense stiffened and forced a punt, recovered a fumble, and intercepted a pass on the Redbirds' next three possessions. Each time, the offense responded with touchdowns.
After tying the game at 7-7 midway through the first quarter, the Penguins scored three touchdowns in the first four minutes of the second quarter.
On the first play of the second quarter, Hess found Andrew Williams on a 40-yard scoring strike to put the Penguins ahead, 14-7, at the 14:53 mark. It was the 66th touchdown pass of Hess' career.
Travis Williams forced a fumble that was recovered by Julius Childs at the ISU 37. Four plays later, Ruiz capped the drive with a 26-yard scoring scamper – his 11th rushing touchdown of the season and 12th overall – that put the Penguins up 21-7 at the 12:23 mark.
On the next Redbird possession, Donald D'Alesio picked off a Blake Winter pass at the YSU 33 and, on the next play, Hess connected with Caver on a 67-yard touchdown pass at the 11:02 mark of the quarter to give the Guins a 28-7 lead.
Illinois State cut the Penguins' lead in half, 28-14, after a 73-yard touchdown pass from Winkler to Cameron Meredith with 10:15 left before the half. Joey Cejudo extended the Penguins lead to 31-14 with a 38-yard field goal with 5:50 left in the second quarter.
The defense denied the Redbirds and forced a third turnover when Dale Peterman picked off Winkler at the YSU nine-yard line. The offense went 91 yards in eight plays capped by a 10-yard touchdown pass from Hess to Jelani Berassa that put the Penguins ahead 38-14 with 30 seconds left before the half. Sophomore Demond Hymes rushed four times for 51 yards on the drive while Hess completed three passes for 37 yards.
After the Redbirds took the opening drive 75 yards to take a 7-0 lead at 11:13 mark, the Penguins answered with their own 75 yard drive capped by a Hess to Sharbaugh 2-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-goal from the ISU two.
The Penguins took the opening possession of the second half 51 yards in five plays to extend its lead to 45-14 at the 12:23 mark of the third. Hymes scored his first touchdown of the season on a five-yard plunge. Andre Stubbs set up the score with a 46-yard kickoff return to the YSU 49.
The Redbirds turned the ball over on downs at midfield on the next possession, and Hess completed a 50-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown rush to push the YSU lead to 52-14 with 7:03 left in the third.
The Redbirds added a touchdown at the 13:50 mark of the fourth quarter on a 23-yard run by Marshaun Coprich to cut the deficit to 52-21.
Webb scored from 21 yards out with 11:02 left in the game to push the YSU lead back to 38, 59-21.
The Penguins host Western Illinois in the annual Homecoming Game, Saturday, Oct. 19, at 4 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.