Gorillas win close one, prepare for big one
Trent Johnson | Sports Reporter
The Pittsburg State Gorillas had their first highly contested football game of the season last Saturday at Carnie Smith Stadium, but they walked away with a victory over the University of Central Missouri Mules, 30-21.
We turn now to this week’s contest, which both teams have had circled on their calendars since the schedule was released. The Gorillas will meet with longtime MIAA rivals Northwest Missouri State University for the annual Fall Classic at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
The game is one of the marquee match-ups in Division II football every year and one of these two teams has played in the National Championship game seven of the last eight years. This season’s game has similar implications and both teams are looking to make a run deep into the playoffs at the end of the regular season.
The Bearcats come in with an overall record of 5-1, 4-1 in the MIAA. The lone loss came at the hands of Central Missouri. Since that loss, though, the Bearcats have outscored their opponents by a combined score of 221-36, in only four games.
The Bearcats usually have an excellent offense and this year is no different. The Bearcats throw for nearly 300 yards per game and rush for more than 200 per game, which is a big reason they average 45.8 points per game. The one area that could be exposed by the Gorillas is the Bearcats’ knack for throwing interceptions. They have thrown seven interceptions so far in their first six games.
Defensively, the Bearcats have been just as impressive, allowing just over 10 points per game. They also force opponents to make mistakes; they have caused 17 turnovers on the season.
Pitt State quarterback Anthony Abenoja must stay away from mistakes to be successful on Saturday. Although the Bearcats defense is opportunistic, Abenoja should have plenty of time to throw because they haven’t had much of a pass rush. They have only six sacks this season. As long as Abenoja has enough time to throw and makes the correct reads, the game has the potential to be a shootout similar to the Baylor, W.Va., game a few weeks ago.
The strength of the Gorillas’ defense is the defensive line. Pittsburg State’s defensive line goes six to seven players deep most games. This allows the legs up front to remain fresh for the majority of the game. This bodes well for the Gorilla defense, which has 23 sacks on the year. They will look to pressure Bearcat quarterback Trevor Adams into making mistakes.
In the end, expect a competitive game from both sides and a high-scoring contest. The last seven Fall Classics have seen an average of 59 combined points. If the Gorillas win, that will put them in position to control their own MIAA destiny. If the Bearcats come out on top, look for an absolute whirlwind finish to the MIAA season.