East Lansing, Mich. – The Youngstown State football team got off to sluggish start and could never recover and dropped a 55-17 decision to Michigan State in front of a crowd of 71,626 on Saturday at Spartan Stadium.
With the loss, the Penguins fall to 2-1 overall and the Spartans improve to 3-0.
The Penguins, who posted just eight first downs, were held to 172 total yards while the Spartans totaled 547 yards, including 302 yards in the first half.
Senior quarterback Kurt Hess threw for 121 yards on 11-of-27 passing with a touchdown. Hess now has 57 career touchdown passes, an ongoing school record.
Freshman running Martin Ruiz had a rushing and receiving touchdown, ran for 36 yards on 36 carries and caught four passes for 57 yards.
Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook completed 15-of-22 passes for 202 yards and four first-half touchdown passes.
The Spartans scored touchdowns on their first three possessions and led 21-3 midway through the second quarter before the Penguins gathered some momentum.
YSU, then, forced the Spartans into a three-and-out, but Ruiz fumbled at the YSU 24 and turned the tide back over to the Spartans. On the next play, Cook hit Macgarrett Kings for a 24-yard touchdown reception to take a 28-10 lead with 3:30 left in the second.
The Spartans scored the next 21 points to take a commanding 49-10 lead before the next Penguins score in the third quarter.
The Penguins could not handle the opening kickoff and were forced to start from their own five-yard line. Two dropped passes led to a three-and-out, and a 15-yard face mask penalty on a 23-yard punt return set up the Spartans at the YSU 24 for their first drive.
Five plays later, Jeremy Langford plunged in from three yards to give the Spartans a 7-0 lead with 13:58 left in the first quarter.
The Penguins answered with an eight-play 58 yard drive that resulted in a 34-yard Joey Cejudo field goal that cut the Spartan lead to 7-3 at the 8:38 mark of the first quarter. On 3rd-and-8, Hess was forced out of the pocket and connected with an outstretched Andre Stubbs on a 35-yard gain to the MSU 36. A 14-yard pass to Stubbs moved the ball to the Spartans 22, but the drive stalled setting up Cejudo's field goal.
Michigan State took a 14-3 lead scoring on its second straight possession when Cook hit Andre Sims, Jr., on a crossing pattern for a 13-yard touchdown. The Spartans went 76 yards in just six plays, four of which went for more than 13 yards. Cook hit Kings on a 20-yard reception and followed that with a 20-yard rush. After a six-yard run by Langford, he burst for 17 more yards to set up the scoring play.
MSU's third touchdown came on a 12-yard pass from Cook to Trevon Pendleton at the 1:11 mark of the first quarter to put the Spartans up 21-3.
The Spartans took a 35-10 lead, going 70 yards on five plays capped by a Cook to Bennie Fowler 17-yard touchdown pass with 2:34 left before the intermission.
The Spartans continued their impressive play after halftime taking the opening drive of the second half 75 yards for a touchdown to take a 42-10 lead with 12:12 left in the third quarter. Running back Nick Hill capped the drive with a 35-yard touchdown run to give the Spartans a 32-point advantage.
The Spartans added another third quarter touchdown at the 3:58 mark to extend the lead to 49-10.
Late in the third, Hess connected with Ruiz on a crossing route that turned into a 34-yard touchdown pass to cut the Spartans' lead to 49-17 with 1:36 left.
The Spartans also added two fourth-quarter field goals.
The Penguins return home to host Duquesne, Saturday, Sept. 21. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.