Gorillas run away from Northwest
By BRIAN POMMIER
On October 1, the Pittsburg State Gorillas overcame a 28-6 deficit to beat the Northwest Missouri State Bearcats in the Fall Classic at Arrowhead X.
Last week, the Gorillas trailed 9-0 before rallying to beat the Washburn Ichabods in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs.
So when Northwest jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the opening minutes of Saturday’s quarterfinals game, there was no panic.
“We’ve got a group of guys that just don’t panic,” PSU head coach Tim Beck said. “We’ve had a lot of adversity. We had to come from behind at Truman to win that game and we had to come from behind against Northwest the first time. So we’ve faced a lot of adversity … They aren’t going to panic.”
Instead of panicking, the Gorillas rattled off 34 unanswered points to down their archrival 41-16 and advance to the semifinals at 6:05 p.m. next Saturday against Delta State at Carnie Smith Stadium.
Perhaps the Statesmen should avoid scoring first.
Pittsburg State quarterback Zac Dickey – who had completed just three of 11 passes for 33 yards in the first half – threw three touchdown strikes to John Brown in the second half and finished the game with 266 yards on 12-of-25 passing and added 147 more on 20 carries. Brown ended the day with 174 yards and three scores on six catches. All told, the Gorillas rolled up 527 yards of total offense after finishing the first period with just 36.
“We had it in our game plan to get the ball to the corner and in the air to keep them spread out,” Dickey said. “We weren’t able to do that as much in the first half, but once we were able to see a little more of what they were doing, we were able to attack in the second half.”
Northwest head coach Adam Dorrel had high praise for both Dickey and Brown following the contest.
“When a football team has a talented quarterback making really good throws in this weather and an athlete making plays (like Brown), sometimes you have to tip your hat.
“I wish (Brown) was a senior.”
Meanwhile, the Gorilla defense rose to the occasion, as well. Northwest racked up 125 yards in the first quarter, but could only muster 172 more, ending up with 297 total yards. The Bearcats’ passing game – Northwest’s bread-and-butter – was conspicuously absent. Quarterback Trevor Adams completed just five of 16 throws for 58 yards, while Blake Christopher – a senior who started the season as the starter before an injury sent him to the sidelines – completed six of 11 passes for 94 yards and two interceptions.
“They came out running the ball, and they did it quite well,” said sophomore linebacker Nate Dreiling, who recorded eight tackles and snared one of Christopher’s interceptions. “We missed a couple of gap assignments, but we made some adjustments. … Whenever you hold an offense like theirs to under 300 yards, you’re doing something right.”
Northwest took the opening kickoff and promptly went on a seven-play, 64-yard scoring drive. Two possessions later, running backs Jordan Simmons and James Franklin combined to lead the Bearcats on an eight-play, 55-yard drive that stalled when Franklin was dropped for a two-yard loss on third-and-goal from the 3. Kicker Todd Adolph split the uprights for a 22-yard field goal to make it a 10-0 Northwest lead.
The strong contingent of Northwest fans raised a ruckus while the stunned Gorilla faithful stood in shock.
That would soon change, however, as the Bearcats wouldn’t score again until the fourth quarter.
On its first possession of the second quarter, Pitt State faced a third-and-5 from midfield. Dickey – who had not been crisp with his passes to this point – hit tight end Bristan Kelley for an 18-yard gain that kept the drive alive. The Gorillas got a one-yard run by freshman Mandel Dixon for a touchdown to cut the Northwest lead to just a field goal.
Then, just before halftime, the Gorillas were looking at a third-and-3 with time winding down. Dickey broke off a 30-yard run to the Northwest 5. But after three incomplete passes intended for Brown in the front corner of the end zone, Pitt State settled for a 27-yard field goal to tie the game.
While the Gorillas missed an opportunity to take the lead going into the locker room, it became a moot point in the third quarter. Dickey hit Brown for touchdown passes of 78 and 42 yards in the period to break the game open and then Pitt State added another field goal, a one-yard TD run by Dixon and a 15-yard TD pass to Brown to seal the win.
GORILLAS WILL HOST SEMIFINAL GAME
Now Pitt State turns its attention to Delta State, which came from behind to beat North Greenville 28-23.
The Gorillas found out they would host the Statesmen late Saturday night. The game will kick off at 6:05 p.m. and be broadcast on ESPN3.
"Obviously we are excited for the opportunity to host a national semifinal game in Pittsburg next weekend," PSU athletics director Jim Johnson said. "The NCAA National Football Committee had several variables to weigh when assigning a host site to this contest. This is a testament to the strong fan base the Gorillas enjoy as well as our first-class facilities. We are looking forward to showcasing Carnie Smith Stadium on a national platform next weekend."
Pitt State has reached the Division II national semifinals for the sixth time in school history. The Gorillas captured the 1991 NCAA Division II National Championship and finished as the national runner-up in 1992, 1995 and 2004. PSU also reached the semifinals in 1990.
Ticket will go on sale Monday (Dec. 5) at 8:30 a.m. at the PSU Ticket Office. Reserved seats for Saturday's game are $10 for adults, $5 for children (17 & under) and PSU or Delta students (with proper I.D.). All tickets on game day will be $12.