Lions stand in the way of possible postseason berth

By: Brian Pommier, Team Kong Contributor
Nov 15, 2013

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With the Pittsburg State Gorillas -- ranked No. 6 in NCAA Division II -- moving up to fifth in the regional rankings this week, it now appears that as long as they win Saturday, they will advance to the NCAA Division II playoffs for the first time since winning the 2011 national title.


All that is standing in the way is traditional rival Missouri Southern, who will come to Carnie Smith Stadium Saturday for a 2 p.m. kickoff in the Miner’s Bowl.


History is on PSU’s side, as the Gorillas haven’t lost to MSSU since 1993.


The Gorillas’ sole blemish on their record came in a nine-point loss to the No. 2-ranked Northwest Missouri State Bearcats last month at the Fall Classic at Arrowhead. But with Super Region 3 containing most of the top 10 teams in the country, a very good team will be left out of the postseason.


Pitt State struggled against Northwest in part because of some offensive line issues and the Gorillas’ inability to establish the running game. In the three weeks since that loss, however, things have changed considerably. Sophomore running back Jeff Seybold is now the second-leading rusher in the MIAA with 1,169 yards and 20 touchdowns on 168 carries.


It won’t be easy sledding for Seybold, as the Lions are fourth in the conference in rushing defense, allowing 124 yards a game on the ground.


When Seybold is rolling, it opens things up for quarterback Anthony Abenoja and his receiving corps. Abenoja comes into the game with the third-highest quarterback rating in NCAA Division II and the Gorillas put up the tenth most yards per game in the country.


The key to this game, however, is going to be how well Pittsburg State can defend against an offense much like the one the Gorillas ran so well for so long -- the option.


The Lions boast the MIAA’s best running game, amassing 368 yards per game on the ground -- good for third in the nation. Running back Chris Barnwell leads the team with 836 yards and seven touchdowns. Giresse Forchu has added 515 yards and five scores, while JJ Jones has just 296 yards, but leads the team with eight touchdowns.


Quarterback Jay McDowell has completed 45 of 78 passes for 812 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions. McDowell has also rushed for 669 yards on 119 carries with seven more touchdowns.


Record watch


PSU senior linebacker Nate Dreiling makes his return to Carnie Smith Stadium for the first time since setting the school tackle record. Dreiling made 13 tackles against Lindenwood and now has 475 for his career -- five more than former record-holder Chris Brown.


Next up for Dreiling is the MIAA mark of 489, which could be in play against Missouri Southern. If not, there is the potential for a playoff game that would give Dreiling another chance at the record.


Heavy hearts


Both schools will be playing Saturday with heavy hearts after a pair of separate tragedies. Missouri Southern assistant coach Derek Moore was shot and killed two weeks ago outside of a movie theatre in Joplin, Mo., which resulted in the Lions postponing and eventually cancelling their contest the next day against Lindenwood.


A fund has been set up for Moore’s young son, and memorials may be designated to the Elijah Moore Fund Attn: MSSU Foundation, 3950 E. Newman Rd. Joplin, MO 64801.


The Gorillas, on the other hand, are dealing with the loss of SFC Forrest Robertson. Robertson was a former ROTC instructor at Pitt State, and was killed on Nov. 3 in Afghanistan when his unit was attacked by small-arms fire.


A scholarship has been set up in Robertson’s name, with proceeds from this year’s “Gorilla Warfare” shirts going to that fund. Shirts can be purchased at the game, at Jock’s Nitch or online at


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