Southern breaks Miner's Bowl streak, topples PSU

Carla Wehmeyer/Pittsburg State University
By: Brian Pommier, Team Kong Contributor
Nov 16, 2013

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Sometimes irony walks up and punches you in the eye.


After years of beating teams by employing the option offense, the Pittsburg State Gorillas were on the other end Saturday afternoon at Carnie Smith Stadium.


Missouri Southern came in as the leading rushers in the MIAA, and that held true as they amassed 372 yards on the ground by running the option and confounding the Pitt State defense.


The 35-21 loss effectively eliminates the Gorillas from playoff contention and puts them in the running for the Mineral Water bowl in December in Excelsior Springs, Mo.


PSU senior linebacker Nate Dreiling tied the MIAA career tackles record with a 14-stop performance despite being in a brace and heavy tape job on his left arm.


But just minutes after playing the last game of a storied career at Carnie Smith Stadium, Dreiling placed the blame squarely on himself.


“I feel bad that I let them down,” said Dreiling, who came into the media room with a sling on his left arm. “I don’t know it if was dislocated or whatever, but that definitely hurt my style. I couldn’t get off of blocks as well. But still, I’ve got to make those plays.”


Two of Pitt State’s touchdowns came during big-time breakdowns by the Southern defense. Leading 14-0, the Lions had two kickoffs roll out of bounds, giving the Gorillas a first down in their own territory.


But on third-and-10 from the MSSU 45, PSU quarterback Anthony Abenoja was intercepted, and it looked like Southern was in position to go up by 21 before halftime.

Fortunately for the Gorillas, Southern was offside, and Pitt State had a new lease on life. This time, Abenoja hit Marquis Cushon for a 29-yard strike and then a 3-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-7 at the end of the first half.


Then, after Southern tacked on another score for a 21-7 lead in the third quarter, the Lions forced Pitt State into one of their many three-and-outs on the day. But on their first play, Taye Irvin forced a fumble and the Gorillas recovered at midfield.


Suddenly, sophomore running back Jeff Seybold was able to get loose, catching a screen pass and taking it 15 yards to the MSSU 37. Then, after a 24 yard Seybold run and two penalties on the Lions, Abenoja was able to score from four yards out.


Southern, however, was always able to answer. Jocqui Davis ran for a 52-yard touchdown just three plays later to make it a 14-point game again, and two more Southern scores put things out of reach.


PSU’s offense never got into a rhythm on Saturday -- they only had 95 yards rushing and 134 through the air -- partly because of a strong wind, but also because of sloppy play. Four snaps either went over Abenoja’s head or rolled back to him. The junior quarterback missed several open receivers, while his receiving corps also dropped the passes he did put on target. And Abenoja certainly saw his share of gold jerseys in the backfield on Saturday.


Still -- as Dreiling did -- Abenoja took responsibility.


“No, the O-Line did a good job. It’s really on me. We didn’t do what we needed to do. We made the mistakes, they didn’t do anything to stop us.”


The Gorillas came into the game ranked fifth in Super Region 3, which meant a win most likely would have put them into the playoffs, and with Henderson State losing, the possibility of a home playoff game wasn’t out of the question.


Now, however, the Gorillas’ playoff hopes are dashed, and they must wait to find out if they will be playing in the Mineral Water Bowl.


Pitt State fans have kind of taken the Miner’s Bowl for granted, and for good reason. The Gorillas haven’t lost to Southern since 1993, and the Lions haven’t won in Pittsburg since 1983.


So while PSU fans bristled seeing the celebration coming from the visitor’s section, Abenoja summed up the feeling.


“Honestly, it’s kind of like I’m in shock,” he said. “I don’t believe that this just happened. I’m just in shock.”


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