Pitt State escapes with mind-boggling win
By Brian Pommier
KIRKSVILLE, Mo. – The Pittsburg State Gorillas may be limping a bit after escaping with a 27-26 win over the Truman State Bulldogs on Saturday.
They may be limping from an abundance of self-inflicted gunshot wounds to their feet.
The Gorillas committed five first-half turnovers, had a punt blocked for a touchdown, gave up a late, apparent game-winning touchdown on a long pass and lateral and kicked the ball out of bounds twice.
And yet, they left Kirksville with an unblemished 3-0 record.
“It was scary,” said PSU running back Briceton Wilson, who rushed for a game-high 140 yards on 29 carries a week after an injury kept him out of most of a win over Emporia State. “It was very scary.”
While the Gorilla offense sputtered most of the evening, PSU quarterback Zac Dickey led Pitt State on a nine-play, 65-yard drive with 56 seconds remaining that ended when Dickey plunged into the end zone from three yards out with 16 seconds on the clock.
Dickey – who finished the day completing 14 of 19 passes for 140 yards and an interception – completed three big-play passes on the final drive.
“It was really wild at the end,” PSU head coach Tim Beck said. “That was awesome at the end. It was a great drive by our guys. There’s a lot to be learned from this win.”
Like how a team can have everything go wrong that could possibly go wrong and still pull out a conference road win.
Pitt State’s first five offensive drives ended in a punt, two consecutive fumbles, an interception for a Truman State touchdown and another fumble before PSU’s Jon Thomas returned a kickoff 91 yards for PSU’s first score.
And after all that, PSU still went into the locker room trailing only 13-10.
“It was amazing,” Beck said. “We could have easily been down 21 or 28 there. It was amazing we were only down three.”
Part of the reason the Gorillas trailed by just a field goal was the play of the defense, which got first-quarter interceptions by safety Chas Smith and linebacker Nate Dreiling to keep PSU in the game. Both added a second interception before the night was over.
“Our defense did some really good things,” Beck said. “We turned them over ourselves, and that helped offset things.”
And after a scoreless third quarter, the Gorillas grabbed their first lead with 10:26 left in the game after a 12-play, 66-yard drive that was dominated by Wilson runs up the middle and ended on a one-yard run by Dickey. After the PAT, the Gorillas led 17-13.
The Gorillas seized on the momentum as seven plays later, Dreiling stepped in front of a J.B. Clark pass for his second pick of the night and gave PSU the ball at their own 29.
But after a three-and-out, Truman sliced right through the middle of PSU’s line on a punt and got a hand on the ball before recovering it in the the end zone to retake the lead.
“We needed to drive it out of there,” Beck said. “We needed to get first downs and get out of that hole. We just couldn’t do it.”
Derek Koon’s PAT attempt was no good, and it gave the Gorillas a little life.
Then Brown – who was spectacular all night, returning two kickoffs for 94 yards and catching five passes for 51 more – returned Koon’s kickoff 50 yards to the Truman 40 with 5:38 remaining and trailing by two.
Six Briceton Wilson rushes later, PSU kicker Chase McCoy booted a 24-yard field goal with 1:20 left.
Game over, right?
Not so much.
Truman took over on its own 36, but on just the second play of the drive, Clark hit Donald Harvey for a 48-yard gain to the PSU 15, then Harvey pitched to Andy Mundwiller for the final 15 yards as the Bulldogs gashed the PSU defense – which had been keeping the Gorillas in the game all night – for the go-ahead score.
But instead of going for two to make it a seven-point lead, the Bulldogs opted for the PAT, again giving PSU some life.
Still, down 26-20 with just 53 seconds remaining, the game was over, right?
Again, not so much.
This time, the Gorillas took over at their own 35, and Dickey wasted no time hitting Andrew Castaneda for 15 yards to the 50, then spiking the ball to kill the clock.
Then a 24-yard pass to Thomas to the Truman 26 and another clock-stopping spike.
Then a 12-yard scamper by Dickey that took the Gorillas to the 14 before another spike.
Then a 10-yard toss to Thomas that took the Gorillas all the way to the Truman 4 with 16 seconds left.
PSU still had a timeout in its back pocket, but opted not to use it. Instead, the Gorillas stopped the clock one more time, then decided they had enough time for a good running play.
This time, Dickey put the ball in Wilson’s belly, pulled it and slipped into the end zone for the game winner.
“We made the decision to keep them spread out and run an inside zone read,” Beck said. “If we get stuffed, we’d have to take a timeout, but Zac was able to read it and get in there. Then we had the extra point to deal with, and it wasn’t a gimme either.
“We’ve gotta make everything exciting, I guess.”