The Eric Wolford era at Youngstown State from 2010 to 2014 was very up and down. They did have Kurt Hess, who was one of the best quarterbacks at YSU. The defense often struggled. Yet, there was a special moment to come. We take a walk down memory lane with YSU’s 2012 Win Over Pitt.
Coming into 2012, fans did not know what to expect. They were hyped up for the last few seasons, only to fall off a cliff. For their first game, YSU had to face off against an FBS Pittsburgh Panthers team that finished with a disappointing six and seven record.
Plus, Pitt had to regroup with new head coach Paul Chryst. The year before, they were under coach Todd Graham who resigned and took the head coaching job at Arizona State. The Panthers hoped that this good start to the 2012 season would get off to a fast start. However, their first game not only had an impact on their season, but shocked the college football world.
Like most FBS vs FCS games, the betting lines and experts picked Pitt to blow out Youngstown State. In their first meeting in 2005, the Panthers took care of the Penguins 41-0. The second time, YSU did get on the board with a field goal, but still lost 38-3.
Youngstown State finished their 2011 season 6-5, which was an improvement from the 3-8 they had in 2010, but still work needed to be done.
Pitt meanwhile had to suspend six players right before the game because of disciplinary reasons. Even so, Pitt was confident that they would come into this game taking care of YSU.
Pitt came right back however as quarterback Tino Sunseri three some passes to Hubie Graham and Mike Shanahan for some big gains. They finished the drive off with a four-yard touchdown run by Isaac Bennett tying it at seven.
The Penguins started the second the same as the first. Kurt Hess found Nate Adams for a 16-yard pickup and then a nice pass to talented running back Jamaine Cook all the way down to the Panthers four.
YSU had to regroup however after they nearly lost the ball. That’s when Hess found Will Shaw making it 14-7 and Pitt fans had to question if the players being suspended was the reason for this being a close game. They kept their cool however, as they thought their Panthers would come back and win 40-14.
Well, Pitt did get a field goal on their next possession for a little momentum. But they were unable to score any other points before the end of the second quarter, making it 14-10 at halftime. This was unfamiliar territory for the Pitt Panthers as they had been known to blow teams like this out.
Meanwhile, all of the Penguin players were celebrating what was going on, but they could not let up. They had to keep on grinding and stay focused on the second half and to see if this lead can extend.
YSU received the kickoff at the start of the second half and the scoring did not stop. On the opening play of the second half, Hess found Kintrell Disher for an 18-yard pickup. A few plays later, on a fourth and one, that talented Penguin’s offense did the classic halfback pass as Jamaine Cook found tight end, Will Shaw, for a 23 yard touchdown and you could hear the boos coming from the Pitt faithful.
YSU was now up 21-10 and Pitt needed to have some sort of strategy, or else SportsCenter would be on them and they’d be known as the laughing stock in college football. A few possessions later, Isaac Bennett drove the Panthers all the way down to the Penguins 21, looking to cut the deficit to four.
They would have to go for it on a fourth and one but were stopped short by Travis and Teven Williams, ending the third quarter and the stadium was becoming emptier by the second. Fans could not believe what was happening. To them, this was a disgusting act that brought shame to every single Panthers fan.
Just like before, Youngstown State had another hot start, but now it was crunch time and they couldn’t afford a mishap. Cook rushed for a 13-yard pickup on his first carry and decided to give him the rock more. Andre Stubbs got some carries as well and would actually give the penguins their final touchdown of the night, making it 28-10.
Pitt got one more touchdown before the game’s end when Tino Sunseri threw a 35-yard touchdown to Joshua Brinson. After a Penguins field goal, they got the ball back, but Julius Childs forced Devin Street to fumble the football and Twin Fernandes recovered, making the final from Heinz Field 31-17 Youngstown State.
Rest of the season
YSU‘s 2012 win over Pitt gave them their first win over a big-time FBS football program and started out with four straight wins. They even broke a winless streak against the Northern Iowa Panthers. However, the Penguins then lost four straight to North Dakota State, Illinois State, Southern Illinois, and South Dakota State. They missed the playoffs for the sixth straight year, finishing with a record of seven and four and four and four in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
Meanwhile, Pitt would go on to finish with a record of six and seven in Chryst’s first year as head coach. They bounced back from an early embarrassing loss to make it into the BBVA Compass Bowl where they lost to Ole Miss 38-17. The Panthers finished fifth in the Big East’s last season as a conference. Their record that year against Big East teams was three and four.
Youngstown State: Kurt Hess 13-23 154 yards, two touchdowns. Jamaine Cook 21 carries 84 yards. Andre Stubbs four receptions 61 yards and one touchdown.
Pitt: Tino Sunseri 19-30, 239 yards, one touchdown. Ray Graham 14 carries for 71 yards. Mike Shanahan six receptions 54 yards.