Gorillas end 2013 in style

Carla Wehmeyer/Pittsburg State University
By: Brian Pommier, Team Kong Contributor
Dec 7, 2013

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Since the beginning, it was obvious that a very good football team would be left out of the playoffs from Super Region 3.


That team was Pittsburg State, which instead of earning a trip to the NCAA Division II playoffs, ended up in the Mineral Water Bowl at Excelsior Springs, Mo. after two tough losses.


Some view the bowl game as insult to injury. Some say they’d rather PSU sit at home than play in a postseason game that doesn’t lead toward Florence, Ala.


The Gorillas, however, used their third appearance at Excelsior Springs to make a statement.


A loud statement.


PSU scored 90 points -- almost double the record scoring output for this bowl game -- in destroying Southwest Minnesota State 90-28.


It’s a bitter pill to swallow, as it shows that the Gorillas likely would have made some noise in the playoffs. But at least it means the players -- especially the seniors -- get to end the year on a positive note.


Pitt State head coach Tim Beck acknowledged as much after the game as he talked about the team picking up that magical tenth win.


“Getting 10 wins is huge,” Beck said. “My gosh, in college football, 10 games is quite a bit. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get into the playoffs, but it is what it is. We got the opportunity to play, and our guys got ready for it and got it done.”


Did they ever.


Quarterback Anthony Abenoja broke a Mineral Water Bowl record with five touchdown passes -- two to John Brown and one each to Gavin Lutman, Conner Combes and Austin Daniel. Abenoja completed 17 of 24 passes for 323 yards and -- in addition to the five touchdown throws -- scored a rushing touchdown and amassed 51 yards on the ground.


Beck said that because of the forecast, Abenoja practiced and played with gloves on.


“I’m not sure I’m ever gonna let him take them off,” Beck quipped.


Pitt State also amassed 343 yards on the ground -- including 185 yards and a touchdown by sophomore running back Jeff Seybold. Ramsay Hamilton added two more rushing scores.


Kicker Conner Frazell got in on the action as well, kicking field goals of 23 and 27 yards, as well as booting all 12 PATs.


But apparently the domination of an inferior opponent was not complete until the Gorillas’ defense got in on the action. Less than a minute into the game, Joe Uzzel picked up a third-down fumble and returned it for the first score of the game. Then, late in the second half, linebacker Tyler Disney stepped in front of a pass at the PSU 1 and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown.


The destruction was thorough.


Disney -- the defensive player of the game -- also recorded 12 tackles, which meant that the Gorillas had a two 100-tackle linebackers for the first time in memory. Disney finished the season with 101 tackles and joined Nate Dreiling in the 100-tackle club.


Dreiling, however, also achieved an elite level. Though he only recorded two tackles on Saturday, he set the MIAA tackles record with 491.


“How long has it been since we’ve had two linebackers with more than 100 tackles,” Beck asked. “That’s a phenomenal feat.”


It also gives hope for the future, as Disney will return for his senior season, while Dreiling exits as the most decorated linebacker in Pitt State history.


“Tyler is going to be great for us. He’s a great leader … a great kid,” Beck said. “There are a lot of expectations for him next season.”


There were high expectations for the Gorillas this season. Anything short of a playoff berth was not going to be met with praise. But a bad second half against Northwest Missouri and a terrible game against Missouri Southern was enough to keep the Gorillas on the outside looking in.


So a team can either pout, or they can make the best of their situation.


The Gorillas gained a couple of extra weeks of practice time -- which is invaluable. They sent their seniors off in a grand way.


And they sent off the 2013 season playing Gorilla football.


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