Gorillas annihilate Emporia State University at first home game
Garett McCullough | Sports Editor
The Gorillas played to honor past champions Saturday, Sept. 10, and to prove the PSU winning tradition is back, the Gorillas beat Emporia State 38-14.
The 1961, ‘81 and ‘91 championship squads were on hand for the game.
“They represented the past champions right,” ‘61 Gorilla alum Lewis “Homer” Holmes said. They were so pumped from all of the festivities and being around the ‘61, ‘81 and ‘91 players that it took them 5-7 minutes to get used to the game.
Sophomore linebacker Nate Dreiling said he was disappointed with how the game started.
“We started slow,” Dreiling said. “But hopefully we honored the teams of the past and made the future look bright.”
After receiving the opening kickoff, Pitt State lost 10 yards in the first series and punted after three offensive plays. Emporia would not have as much trouble on its opening drive.
Quarterback Tyler Eckenrode and tight end Adam Schiltz, hooked up for a 38-yard pass and catch and Schiltz made it to the Pitt State 6 before he was pushed out. Senior running back Dasor Horton pushed the ball across the plain two plays later. It was the first time Pitt State had trailed this season as Emporia took the 7-0 lead.
The Gorillas were forced to punt again on the next drive, but this time the defense stood firm and Emporia was forced to punt. Waiting for the punt was the reigning Special Teams Player of the Week, John Brown. He did not take this one all the way but he did spark the offense with a 22-yard return.
Pitt State went to its bread and butter and ran the ball in on four plays. Sophomore Solomon Watkins ran it in from 8 yards for his first of three touchdowns on the day. Watkins got the start as dinged-up Briceton Wilson saw limited action.
“It felt good,” Watkins said. “The linemen and the fullbacks were opening up holes and it made getting into the end zone easier.”
The defense livened up after this touchdown. On the following play, Dreiling undercut an out pattern and intercepted the Eckenrode pass.
Pitt State not only took over on offense after the interception, but the game as well. The Gorillas scored 31 unanswered points after the interception. Dreiling was all over the field and would finish the game with 11 tackles, a fumble recovery and the interception.
Pitt State punter Jake Craig was a key factor for the next touchdown. After pinning Emporia deep in its territory, Pitt State forced a three and out. And after a 7-yard punt return by Brown, Pitt State’s offense took over at Emporia’s 31. Six plays later, Watkins crossed into the end zone again for a 3-yard score.
The Gorillas’ defense forced a second-straight three and out as the Hornets were unable to get anything going.
Two more Gorillas, apart from Dickey and Watkins, ran the ball in the next offensive series. Junior Jason Spradling and senior Jon Thomas saw the ball, but it was Dickey who carried it the most with six touches. He drove the offense to the 2-yard line where the Hornet defense locked down and force Pitt State to kick a 20-yard field goal. Chase McCoy knocked it through and put the Gorillas up 17-7 with 3:37 left in the first half.
Emporia received the ball on its 20 after a touchback on the kickoff, but after two penalties and a sack on third down by junior safety Bryant Sanchez, Emporia punted after three plays for the third straight series with just two minutes left.
Pitt State’s offense was on the field for only three plays also, but the third play resulted in a 40-yard touchdown pass from Dickey to junior receiver Andrew Castanada. McCoy added the PAT, extending Pitt State’s lead to 24-7.
Both offenses failed to score on their opening drives in the second half. But just when it seemed both teams were cooling off, Pitt State’s defense came up with another turnover and sparked another touchdown.
One play after Eckenrode converted on fourth down, he was sacked hard as he lost the ball and Dreiling came out of the pile with the ball. This sparked another good drive and was capped with a Spradling 6-yard touchdown run. The Gorillas extended their lead, 31-7.
Eckenrode’s woes would not end there, either. Three play into the next offensive series, he was picked off by junior safety Naeem Forrester.
That turnover would lead to Watkins’ third touchdown of the night, scoring from 12 yards out. Pitt State pushed its lead to 38-7 with 13:52 remaining.
Emporia kept its starters in for the next series, but it put the backups in after the series. Freshman quarterback Anthony Abenoja and running back Jeff Seybold Jr. took over in the backfield for Pitt State. Seybold found some running room, racking up 59 yards on 11 carries. Tice was also productive, running for 43 yards and one touchdown. That would be the last points of the game as Pitt State took the win 38-14.
The Gorillas play at Truman State on Saturday, Sept. 17.