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Youngstown, Ohio – Senior quarterback Kurt Hess threw for 292 yards with two touchdowns and freshman running back Martin Ruiz had three rushing touchdowns while the Youngstown State defense forced four turnovers in a 59-17 win over Duquesne on Saturday afternoon at Stambaugh Stadium.
With the win, the Penguins, who had 501 yards in total offense, improve to 3-1 overall while Duquesne falls to 1-2.
The staunch defensive effort was highlighted by three forced fumbles and an interception return for a touchdown. The Penguins also allowed just 39 yards rushing.
Hess completed 15-of-25 pass attempts and passed for more than 200 yards for the 20th time in his career.
Trailing 24-0 at the half, Duquesne scored on its first two possessions of the second half to get within 10, 24-14, with 9:12 left in the third quarter.
The Dukes took the opening drive of the second half 74 yards in eight plays capped by Ethan Dorsey's one-yard run. On the next play following a YSU punt, Duquesne quarterback Dillon Buechel hit Gianni Carter on a 63-yard bomb to cut the deficit to 24-14.
The Penguins answered with touchdowns on their next three drives to take a 45-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Hess and Pace engineered an 11-play, 84-yard drive that resulted in a four-yard touchdown scamper by Ruiz with 4:10 left in the third. Pace carried seven times for 35 yards while Hess completed three passes for 45 yards on the drive.
On the next YSU possession, Hess' 24-yard scamper highlighted a seven-play drive capped by a five-yard touchdown run by Ruiz to give the Penguins a 38-14 lead with 30 seconds left in the third quarter.
To start the fourth quarter, Hess connected with Caver on a 55-yard touchdown pass at the 14:10 mark to push the Penguins advantage to 45-14.
After a 30-yard field goal by Duquesne's Austin Crimmins cut the lead to 45-17, YSU's Kevon Caffey forced a fumble at the Dukes 46 and set up freshman Jody Webb's with 10-yard touchdown rush to give the Penguins a 52-17 lead with 5:20 left.
David Rivers' 43-yard interception return for a touchdown with 2:28 left was the game's final score.
The Penguins' offense sputtered on its first two possessions before the defense provided a much needed spark. Sophomore Tre Moore forced Duquesne fumble that was recovered by senior Ali Cheaib at the YSU 45 with 6:17 left in the first.
On the next play, Hess connected with Christian Bryan for a 16-yard gain plus a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty set the Penguins up at the Duquesne 24.
The drive stalled and Joey Cejudo nailed a 40-yard field goal to give the Penguins a 3-0 lead at the 4:16 mark of the first quarter.
The defense forced a Dukes three-and-out and Aaron Fleck's punt sailed out of bounds at the Duquesne 30-yard line as the Penguins regained possession with 2:55 left in the first.
After five-yard loss by Ruiz and a 12-yard pass from Hess to Andrew Williams, Pace carried the load on the next five plays and scored on one-yard plunge to give the Penguins a 10-0 lead with 14:21 left in the second.
The offense found some more consistency late in the second quarter scoring two touchdowns to take a 24-0 lead at halftime.
The Penguins defense forced a fumble and two punts on Duquesne next three possessions. However, the offense stalled twice within Duquesne territory before scoring twice in the final 5:29 of the quarter.
Ruiz capped a 37-yard drive with a Ruiz run for a TD put YSU up 17-0 with 3:17 left in the second quarter. Hess hit Stubbs on a critical 20-yard pass on 4th-and-5 from the Duquesne 32. Two plays later, Ruiz found paydirt.
Duquesne pinned the Penguins back at their own 17, but after a six-yard run by Ruiz and a 20-yard pass play from Hess to Adams, the two connected again on a 52 yard TD pass to give the Penguins a 24-0 lead with 46 seconds left before halftime.
In the first half, the Penguins limited Duquesne to five first downs and 13 yards rushing. The Youngstown State offense accumulated 236 total yards, including 163 yards passing.
The Penguins open Missouri Valley Football Conference against Southern Illinois, Saturday, Sept. 28. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. in Carbondale, Ill.