Column: A look inside a painful loss

Carla Wehmeyer/Pittsburg State University
By: Brian Pommier, Team Kong Contributor
Nov 20, 2013

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Saturday evening was not a good one for Pittsburg State fans. After having a postseason berth all but locked up, the Gorillas got knocked around by a good Missouri Southern team and lost 35-21.


All of a sudden, a promising season was going to end with no playoffs for the second straight year.


There were fans calling for coaching shakeups. There were fans lamenting that the offensive line was manhandled in the two losses PSU suffered this year. There were fans aggravated at the inability of quarterback Anthony Abenoja to avoid pressure and deliver a strike to his receivers.


Do these gripes have validity? Perhaps. One could argue either way on most of the above statements. But it is easy to say some of these things when you are insulated from the humans who actually were in the arena.


It’s much tougher when you are exposed to the raw emotions following a loss that effectively ends a season that held so much promise.


I sat with the rest of the assembled media in the postgame press conference and watched Abenoja stare off into space as he searched for some explanation for what had just happened. The junior quarterback was hurried for much of the game and not sharp when he was able to set up. Yet he didn’t throw his line under the bus. He tried to shoulder all the blame.


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.”


But if Abenoja was taking all the blame, then how was there any left for senior linebacker Nate Dreiling?


Dreiling badly injured his left elbow on the second Southern possession on Saturday, but finished the game with 14 tackles -- good enough to tie the MIAA career tackles record.


He did this despite having his arm in a full-length brace.


Heroics aside, though, Dreiling tried to stop the buck on himself despite the defense looking almost helpless against the MSSU option.


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


After Dreiling’s interview was over, he walked to every member of the media and shook their hand, telling them that he appreciated what they had done over the last five years.


Not only that, but John Brown -- who wasn’t even being interviewed -- stuck his head into the media room to say thanks, as well.


These are two players who will almost undoubtedly be named among the all-time greats in PSU history. They were two players who played key roles in the Gorillas’ 2011 NCAA Division II national title, but otherwise never made the playoffs.


But on Saturday, they were simply two guys who were unsure if they’d play another football game.


That’s a hard reality.


Is it acceptable at Pittsburg State to miss the playoffs in two consecutive seasons? No, it most certainly is not. But on Sunday the school was invited to play in the Mineral Water Bowl at Excelsior Springs on Dec. 7. While it isn’t the playoffs, it does give the Gorillas more practice time, which is invaluable.


It’ll also give Dreiling a shot --with one more tackle -- to rewrite the MIAA career tackles record.


But it’ll also give a group of seniors who were instrumental in bringing home a national title another shot to go out as winners.


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