Gorillas pull away with 24-point fourth quarter
By Brian Pommier
By BRIAN POMMIER
HAYS – For the first three quarters, the Pittsburg State Gorillas seemed to be following a familiar script: Battle defensively, struggle offensively and either win or lose in the last minutes of the game.
But Saturday afternoon was different as the Gorillas scored 24 fourth-quarter points and came away from Lewis Field with a 38-21 victory against the Fort Hays State Tigers.
“We wanted to play with as much emotion as possible,” said quarterback Zac Dickey, who came in for Jeff Smith late in the third quarter. “At my position, especially, you can’t do that. It was tough, though.”
If Dickey wasn’t playing with emotion, it would be hard to tell, as the junior ran for 125 yards on 14 carries to lead a Pittsburg State rushing attack that amassed 271 yards rushing in the win.
Trailing 21-14 when Dickey replaced Smith under center after a pair of interceptions, the Gorilla offense started clicking. Jon Thomas returned a kickoff to midfield just before the end of the third quarter, and the Gorillas drove to the Tigers’ 17 and freshman kicker Jake Craig hit a 34-yard field goal to cut the deficit to four.
And on the ensuing kickoff, the Gorillas pounced on a short kickoff at the Fort Hays 30 and scored three plays later on a 13-yard run by running back Terrance Isaac.
Unlike other games this season, the Gorillas wouldn’t take their foot off the gas. PSU scored two more touchdowns on 30- and 13-yard scoring runs by Dickey and put away the Tigers.
“Offensively, we were hit and miss at times,” PSU head coach Tim Beck said. “We had hardly any offense at halftime. We did some nice things to rack up the yards and kept the ball out of their hands. I said before the game that the offensive and defensive lines would win or lose this game.”
If that’s the case, both groups of big men definitely won the game for the Gorillas. PSU’s 271-yard rushing effort shows the offensive line’s prowess, while the D-line held the Tigers to 100 yards on the ground and showed a much-improved pass rush.
After the Tigers scored on their first possession, the Gorillas got on the board after PSU safety Alex Kuhlman blocked a Fort Hays punt, setting up a one-yard run by Smith to tie the game at 7.
Early in the second quarter, Fort Hays head coach – and Pittsburg native – Kevin Verdugo decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the PSU 39, but the Gorillas held. In fact, the Gorillas held on four of the five fourth-down conversion attempts by the Tigers.
“We watched Hays over and over and over,” Beck said. “Today they chose to go for it and we did a pretty nice job.”
That first fourth-down stop led to a 10-play, 58-yard PSU drive that ended with a one-yard run by running back Briceton Wilson, giving PSU a 14-7 lead.
But after Fort Hays kicked a field goal on the ensuing drive, PSU was called for a personal foul and Verdugo opted to take the points off the board.
And it paid off as two plays later, Mike Garrison hit O.J. Murdock for an 11-yard TD to tie the game.
Garrison gave the Tigers a 21-14 lead in the third quarter when – after Smith’s second interception of the game –
Garrison turned a busted play into an 18-yard touchdown run.
“What a player,” Beck said of Murdock, who was 21 of 38 for 230 yards and one pick. “We were making him check down. The secondary was doing a good job of making him check down and then going up and getting the tackle.
PSU is now 4-4 overall and 2-4 in the MIAA and will face Nebraska-Omaha next Saturday at Carnie Smith Stadium.