The Youngstown State football team finally got over the hump last season against BCS opponents, beating Pittsburgh 31-17. Now, as they prepare to go up against another, the Penguins will pull from that upset.
“Getting the win against Pitt last year definitely gave us confidence,” senior nose tackle D.J. Moss said. “Lets us know that we can play with teams of that calibur.”
“As a senior group and some of the younger guys that were there last year, it’s going to be that much more important to believe in each other even more this year taking on a Big Ten opponent like Michigan State,” senior quarterack Kurt Hess added.
YSU will face Michigan State for the second time in three years. The Penguins fell to the Spartans 28-6 in 2011. And with 17 players from that team still on the roster, there is plenty of experience returning to East Lansing.
“We were a really young football team then,” head coach Eric Wolford said. “And when you have a really young football team, a lot of those guys that were freshman or sophomores in that game are still out there on that field.”
One of those is Hess, who went 17-35 for 126 yards, a touchdown and an interception against the Spartans in 2011.
“I know the stadium. I played there. I know how loud it gets. I know what it’s like. It’s a great environment. I’m obviously blessed to play in a place like Spartan Stadium,” Hess said.”
And when reflecting on how he has grown from then to now, it is all in how he looks at the magnitude of the game.
“Going to a big place like that, you really get excited for the big matchup. National television. You want to make big plays. You want to do this. You want to show yourself. You want to prove yourself a little bit more. Being a senior, it’s just a game.”
YSU went toe-to-toe with the Spartans two years ago, with the deficit just 14-6 midway through the 3rd quarter. While there was some satisfaction in the way they competed then, this Saturday, there is only one ending that the Penguins will take.
“We like to expect to win, that’s what our team does,” Hess said. “That’s what we’re built upon. We’re built upon going there with the expectation to win, no matter the game. Whether it be Dayton. Whether it be Duquesne in a couple of weeks. Michigan State. Any type of opponent, we’re built on the expectation to win.”
Youngstown State and Michigan State kick-off from East Lansing, Michigan Saturday afternoon at two o’clock.