BRING IT ON
Big-time programs not strangers to the spotlight
Garett Mccullough | Collegio Reporter
Two teams that know a thing or two about playing in big games will square off in a national championship semifinal this Saturday.
Pitt State has been to the semifinals six times and will attempt to secure a trip to the National Championship against a Delta State team that has been in this situation four times. Pitt may have the historical edge but Delta State was in the championship game last season and is a perennial contender. Delta State is 11-2 with losses coming to Northwestern State (La.) and West Georgia and was ranked eighth in the final AFCA poll.
Pitt State is 11-1, its only loss coming at the hands of conference foe Washburn and was ranked seventh in the final poll. Pitt has gotten its revenge and proved that it is the true conference champion after beating both, Washburn and Northwest Missouri State in the playoffs. Both games were won in a dominant fashion by Pitt State. Washburn’s, Dane Simoneau, a player of the year nominee, was shut down by the Pitt State defense, while Northwest never seemed to have a chance.
Delta State handled its first opponent in round two of the playoffs. North Alabama hung with the Statesmen in the first half, but Delta dominated the second half for a 42-14 victory. The next game was closer and gave them some needed experience. Delta trailed 17-14 at half against North Greenville, but Statesmen took over in the second half and won the game 28-23.
Delta State is 14-5 in postseason play and the Gorillas are 22-15. History is on Delta’s side as they won the only prior meeting with the Gorillas, 44-31 in 2005. Pitt is also 1-3 against the Gulf South Conference in postseason play, which the Statesmen won this year. Both the Gorillas and the Statesmen are great in the semifinals historically, posting 4-1 and 5-2 records respectively.
Those are all just numbers, though. Aside from Delta State being in the championship game last year, neither of these current teams have much to do with those statistics. What this game will come down to defense. Both teams have proven they can score quickly in the playoffs and both have proven they are not one-dimensional on offense. To continue with the similarities, it seems both teams’ defense tends to take a quarter to start playing.
Pitt and Delta State have dominated on defense in the second half and each will get its share of stops. The winner of this game will be the winner of the turnover battle and I include three-and-outs in this category because they are almost more demoralizing for an offense than a turnover. Stopping John Brown of Pitt and Statesmen quarterback Micah Davis will be the focus of the defenses.
If Pitt’s defense can gather its intensity early instead of waiting a quarter and play like they did against Washburn and Northwest, then the Statesmen will have an extremely tough time scoring.
The scheme against the Gorilla offense at one point this season was to stop the run and make Zac Dickey pass. He continuously reminds opponents that when he has to pass, they have to guard, well attempt to guard, John Brown, who may be the fastest player in Division II.
This game could be one for the ages, but with the caliber of offenses in this game one team could get rolling and put up a ton of points. Expect the home-field advantage of the Jungle to play a factor as the Pitt State faithful are expected to be out in full-force for this game. Pitt is slightly favored in the game by 1.5 points so if the experts are right we are in for some good football as Pitt tries to even the series against the Statesmen.