Thanking the football gods

Photo by Matt Gilmore
By: Brian Pommier, Team Kong Contributor
Dec 15, 2012

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Today is a bittersweet day for Pittsburg State fans.

Today, we watched as Valdosta State hoisted the NCAA Division II trophy at Braly Municipal Stadium in Florence, Ala.

Today is bittersweet because, while we wish it was the Gorillas celebrating at midfield, we also can reflect on the feeling we as fans had when Pitt State brought home the school’s first national title in 20 years last year.

We went into the 2011 season with optimism, but I think any honest PSU fan would agree that the hope was to get into the playoffs and make a little run.

Instead, the Gorillas lost just one regular-season game en route to a magical run to the title that made heroes out of men such as Zac Dickey, John Brown, Nate Dreiling, Gus Toca to name just a few.

This year, expectations were much, much different.

The Gorillas came into the season ranked No. 1 in the nation.

They were defending national champions.

They had most of the key performers returning.

Nothing could stop them.

This is where Pittsburg State fans learned a key lesson: Sometimes a little luck makes the difference between rescheduling graduation to accommodate fans making the trip to Florence and sitting at home since the middle of November.

Am I saying that the only reason the Gorillas won the national title a season ago is that they were lucky? God, no.

But I am saying that we as fans got to watch the football gods smile on a very good football team last season.

For example:

A furious late comeback that led to a road win against Truman State that kept the Gorillas undefeated and set the tone for the team’s never-say-die mentality that served them well throughout the rest of the season.

A head-scratching second half at Arrowhead that allowed the Gorillas to beat Northwest Missouri and knock off the then-No. 1 team in the nation.

Washburn faltering down the stretch and helping Pitt State secure the MIAA title outright.

That same Washburn team pulling a first-round upset that meant PSU would host the Ichabods in the second-round of the playoffs.

Overcoming first-quarter deficits against Washburn and Northwest Missouri in the postseason.

Hosting Delta State in the semifinal game that was televised on ESPN3. The Statesmen (or Fighting Okra) seemed to have the inside track on hosting the game, but the NCAA decided to send the game to Pittsburg. Delta State was ill-prepared for what they found in The Jungle, and PSU was on its way to ‘Bama.

Playing a team in the title game who didn’t expect even to make it into the postseason. Wayne State put together a Cinderella run through the playoffs and pushed the Gorillas to the brink despite everything that could go against them, going against them. Wayne State lost a strong running back and had a field goal blocked that bounced directly into the arms of Arrius Herron and led to a 10-point swing.

I know it sounds like I’m making excuses. It sounds like I’m saying that fans shouldn’t be upset this year because last year was just a fluke. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Yes, I believe that the Gorillas had an inordinate number of things fall their way last season. But, like any good team, Pitt State took advantage of every break that came their way. Sometimes you have to make your own luck. All the great ones do.

I guess my point is this: Sometimes the best team doesn’t win. That’s what makes sports great. Were the 1985 Royals better than the Cardinals that year? (See also Denkinger, Don and Coleman, Vince). There was no way that the New England Patriots, of all teams, could beat the invincible St. Louis Rams in 2000, right? For that matter, wasn’t 2004 supposed to be Pitt’s year with Germaine Race and Neal Philpot?

Today is a day where it’s perfectly acceptable to be disappointed that it wasn’t the red and gold (or possibly black) helmets being raised in victory in Alabama. That’s human nature.

 But it’s also a day to remember what an incredible run it truly was.

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