Ugly second half costs PSU in Classic

Carla Wehmeyer/Pittsburg State University
By: Brian Pommier, Team Kong Contributor
Oct 19, 2013

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Two safeties.


A fumbled punt.


A blocked punt and another that appeared to be.


Five sacks allowed.


Two interceptions.


An offense that put up just 223 yards and constantly left the defense in tough situations.


All of these things went against the No. 7-ranked Pittsburg State Gorillas, and even then they stayed in the game until the final two minutes in a 24-15 loss to No. 2 Northwest Missouri State Saturday afternoon at the Fall Classic at Arrowhead XII.


The Gorillas held a 15-8 lead at halftime, but were only able to muster 52 yards of offense in the second half.


The bottom line … our defense bailed us out several times and offensively we just could not get anything going,” PSU head coach Tim Beck said. “We didn’t get the run game established early on and it forced us to be one-dimensional in the second half, which allowed their defensive linemen to get in a three-point stance and get up field, rush us hard and put a lot of pressure on (PSU quarterback Anthony Abenoja).”


The Gorillas scored first on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Abenoja to Marquise Cushon with 10:51 left in the first quarter.


Northwest broke onto the scoreboard at the beginning of the second quarter when Jeff Seybold was tackled in the end zone for a safety. Ten minutes later, Northwest backup quarterback Brady Bolles -- in for the injured Trevor Adams -- hit Reuben Thomas for a six-yard score to take the lead. The two-point conversion failed, but the Bearcats led 8-7.


Near the end of the half, though, Abenoja led the Gorillas on a nine-play, 80-yard drive -- 51 of those on a strike to Cushon -- that ended with a one-yard run by Seybold. With that, the Gorillas held a 15-8 advantage at the half.


That was as good as it got for PSU.


Northwest’s Bryce Enyard returned the second-half kickoff 46 yards, then Bolles hit Thomas for 42 yards and a first-and-goal from the PSU 8. A play later, the game was tied up at 15.


“Our coaches preach that the most important drive of the game is the first drive of the second half," Bolles said. "We knew that our defense had been playing a great game, and we had to come out and put some points on the board."


The first drive of the second half for the Gorillas, however, was a three-and-out and a pooch punt by Abenoja that was downed at the Northwest 11.


Northwest again drove the field, but this time DeVante Bausby picked Bolles at the goal line.


This time, however, the Gorillas actually lost five yards on the ensuing possession. And, kicking from his own end zone, it appeared that Griffon Knopp’s punt was partially blocked as it flailed out of bounds at the PSU 23. Three plays later, Boles dove over the pylon for a 10-yard score -- and a 22-15 lead.


In the fourth quarter, neither team was able to punch anything across offensively, but the PSU offense was especially anemic, picking up just two first downs.


Time was running out on the Gorillas as they had 1:59 left, and 96 yards to tie the game.


But on second down from the 4, Abenoja was unable to get away from a relentless Northwest Missouri pass rush and was called for intentional grounding in the end zone for the second safety.


“I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of a football game that’s (had two safeties),” Northwest head coach Adam Dorrel said. “It was just a really good pass rush. Those were huge.”


The Pitt State defense kept the Gorillas in the game to the very end, though, and actually played well enough to knock off the No. 2 team in the nation.


That wasn’t enough for senior linebacker Nate Dreiling, though.


We still gave up points,” Dreiling said. “If they don’t score after halftime, we win. So we didn’t play good enough.”


The loss on Saturday means that every game from here out is a must-win for Pitt State if it hopes to make the NCAA Division II playoffs after missing the postseason a year ago.


In fact, it was right after a demoralizing loss to Northwest that the then-No. 1 ranked Gorillas lost to the Missouri Western Griffons, beat Truman and fell to Lindenwood.


And next in line for the Gorillas? The No. 4 Griffons -- at St. Joseph, Mo.


Last year we allowed this game to carry over to the next week and we can’t allow that to happen. We talked about it already today and we’ll talk about it tomorrow. Bottom line is we’ve got to go win the rest of our games and then we’ll have an opportunity to move on. If we slip up, there’s no guarantees.”


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