YOUNGSTOWN - It took the Youngstown State University football team 2 minutes to put up its first seven points. From that moment on, everyone at Stambaugh Stadium knew the Penguins were going to do whatever they wanted to do on Saturday against Valparaiso.
On both offense and defense, even special teams, it was all YSU in a 59-0 rout over the Crusaders in the home opener.
"It was good to see our kids come out from the get go and have focus after last week's game and that's a compliment to them and our coaching staff for having them ready to play," YSU coach Eric Wolford said. "Early in the week we had good practices, so I felt good about it. I just wanted to see the result on game day."
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
YSU’s Jeremey Edwards, right, recovers a fumble and runs in the end zone as Valpo’s Mike Gerton, center, tries to push Edwards out of bounds. YSU’s Travis Williams is also pictured.
In the first half, it felt like every time the Penguins touched the ball, they scored. YSU received the ball to start the first half and five plays into the game junior quarterback Kurt Hess connected with Christian Bryan for a 12-yard touchdown pass.
The Youngstown State defense, which played stellar all day, stopped Valpo on a three-and-out on its first possession.
Then on the punt, the special teams stepped up, blocking the Crusaders' punt. Ricardo Dixon picked the ball up, and gave the Penguins possession at the Valpo 11-yard line. Without wasting any time, Hess took the first snap of the series and found Will Shaw in the end zone to take the Penguin lead to 14-0.
By the end of the first quarter, the score was 21-0. And it was time for the starters to take a break.
Getting the replacements in was a needed opportunity for the Penguins, who have depth, but need the backups to get in quality reps, according to Wolford.
"I was encouraged by some of the things I saw from some of our young people," Wolford said. "Hopefully, those guys will continue to grow and we always tell those guys, they are one play away from being in the ball game, and we all know how important every game is around here."
While pretty much every position by the end of the game was being played the by second or third string, the running game was the most notable players seeing reps.
Torrian Pace led all rushers with 146 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns. Adaris Bellamy had 49 yards on seven carries. And then there was Demond Hymes, a 2011 Warren G. Harding graduate, who had 11 rushes for 80 yards and two touchdowns. His touchdown in the second quarter, a 1-yard run, was the first of his career. He made his YSU debut last week in the Pitt game, as he sat out last year and is now a redshirt freshman.
"It was good to get Demond in there," Wolford said. "Demond is an explosive football player. He worked on scout team with me last year against the defense and he's very explosive. Anytime he touches the ball, he has the ability to go house."
Even though the offense put up 59 points, the bigger number of the day was the zero in the score. The shutout was the first for the Penguins in the Wolford era, and the first since Sept. 26, 2009. Strong safety Jeremey Edwards, who picked up a fumble for a touchdown on Saturday, was unaware of what he and the defense accomplished against the Crusaders.
"I was not aware of that, but that is definitely big for us, and hopefully there is more to come," Edwards said. "It's good to see because we are making improvements from last year and we are definitely a better unit and that's thanks to the coaching staff for pushing us very hard."
The game was a needed boost for the defense, who is still adjusting to new defensive coordinator, Joe Tresey. The Penguins held the Crusaders (0-2) to 47 rushing yards, 143 passing yards and didn't let them cross the 50-yard line until 7:22 left in the third quarter. Also, a lot of defensive backups played during the game, which was a great thing in the mind of Wolford.
"I'm just encouraged by seeing how many players we played on defense," Wolford said. "We were able to still go out there and execute, and tackle people and make some plays. At one point, I looked out there and we had two 18-year-old kids playing linebacker for us."
Next for the Penguins (2-0) is Albany, which defeated Robert Morris 35-10 on Saturday. Kickoff is at 4 p.m.