PITTSBURGH - Kurt Hess passed for 154 yards and two touchdowns as Youngstown State of the Football Championship Subdivision spoiled Paul Chryst's debut as Pittsburgh's coach in a 31-17 upset on Saturday night in the season opener for both schools.
Andre Stubbs ran for 71 yards and a score, and also added 61 yards receiving and another touchdown as the Penguins beat a Football Bowl Subdivision team for the first time in 12 years. It was the team's first win over Bowl Championship Series opponent in history.
This wasn't a last-second stunner. The Penguins never trailed, controlling the ball and the tempo with a spread offense that kept the Panthers off balance during a soggy night at Heinz Field.
Tino Sunseri threw for 239 yards and a score for Pitt, but the Panthers had no answer for the Penguins while losing to a FCS program for the first time.
The Panthers brought in Chryst in January hoping the former Wisconsin offensive coordinator could bring a sense of calm to a program that went through three coaches in 15 months.
While the straight-talking Chyrst has won over the locker room, winning his first game will take a while longer.
Youngstown State, which won four FCS titles in the '90s, is looking to rebuild under third-year coach Eric Wolford.
Consider the project well ahead of schedule.
The Penguins, who hung tough in last year's season opener at Michigan State, insisted they could hang with the Panthers and went out and proved it with four quarters of nearly flawless football. Youngstown State held the ball for more than 35 minutes, converted 11 of 16 third downs and never turned it over.
Though Chryst was brought in to give Pitt's offense some spark, he was concerned about a defense that features seven new starters. The Panthers certainly looked inexperienced as the Penguins put together a series of clock-chewing, game-shortening drives.
Youngstown State scored the first two times it had the ball en route to a 14-10 halftime lead, putting together scoring drives of 79 and 92 yards.
Then the Penguins got bold.
With Hess deftly taking them downfield to open the second half, Youngstown State faced a fourth-and-1 from the Pitt 23. Hess pitched the ball to tailback Jamaine Cook, who pulled up and hit a wide open Will Shaw for a score to put the Penguins up 21-10.
The Panthers never recovered.
Pitt tried to answer Youngstown State's score with a gamble of its own midway through the third quarter. Only Isaac Bennett stutter-stepped and never came close on fourth-and-1 from the Penguins' 21. Hess responded by guiding another lengthy drive, capped by 13-yard burst by Stubbs that gave Youngstown State a 28-10 lead.
Though the Panthers pulled within 28-17 on a 35-yard strike from Sunseri to Joshua Brinson, they would get no closer. Youngstown State added a late field goal for the final margin as the Chryst era began with a thud.
Chryst suspended six players before kickoff for disciplinary reasons, including freshman running back Rushel Shell, the leading rusher in Pennsylvania high school history. Senior running back Ray Graham returned from a torn ACL in his right knee that cut short his 2011 season to rush for 71 yards on 14 carries, but his fumble in the first quarter cut short a Pitt drive and gave the Penguins all the spark they would need.