6-1 PSU hits the road to face MWSU in crucial MIAA match up
| Michael Bauer sports editor |
Tim Beck and his team don’t need the reminders.
Pittsburg State’s defense doesn’t have trouble remembering how many points they allowed against Missouri Western last year.
The entire football team knows that last week’s loss to Northwest Missouri must not be allowed to be a blow to the rest of this season.
This Saturday, the 6-1 Gorillas takes on the undefeated and No. 4 ranked Missouri Western Griffons in St. Joseph, Mo. They say they are not going to let the Fall Classic loss bother them.
“Practice has been great this week,” Jeff Seybold Jr., sophomore running back, said. “We’re not thinking about the past. We’re looking good.”
Despite the loss, the Gorillas’ defense limited Northwest Missouri to only 25 points, the Bearcats’ fewest points of the season. Junior linebacker Tyler Disney says that defensively, practice has been the same this week as in the past.
“Defensively, our heads are up,” Disney said. “Since Tuesday, it’s been high paced and physical.”
The offense’s morale isn’t damaged either, even after quarterback Anthony Abenoja was held to 12 of 26 for only 196 yards, coupled with two safeties as the Gorillas generated only 27 yards on the ground, their lowest rushing total of the year.
“(Last week) was frustrating but we’ve got to move forward,” Seybold said.
Déjà vu all over again?
The current situation surrounding Pitt State is similar to last year.
After losing the 2012 Fall Classic for their first loss of the season, the Gorillas’ hangover continued with their worst Homecoming loss ever. The Griffons easily beat them, 63-14.
In two weeks, PSU went from No. 1 in the country to No. 22, and their hopes of a repeat national title went down the drain. They ended up missing the playoffs entirely.
Do the Gorillas fear déjà vu? Not a chance.
“There have been a few subtle reminders of how things went (last year),” Beck said. “But stats and scores aren’t important until the game is over. What happened last year has no effect on this game.”
The coaches may not be afraid of what happened in 2012, but some of them have taken to different measures to remind the players of what happened.
Disney pointed out that Defensive coordinator Dave Weimers has been wearing the number “63” on his back this week, referencing the amount of points his team allowed against the Griffons last time.
“It’s not forgotten, but we’re not worried about it at all,” Disney said.
Without Michael Hill, Western still deadly
Pitt State will be thankful that they won’t have to face running back Michael Hill again.
Last year, he torched the Gorillas, scoring three touchdowns off of 116 yards and was a Harlon Hill finalist. He has since graduated and now plays for the Green Bay Packers.
Yet, quarterback Travis Partridge, who compiled 213 yards through the air in last year’s blowout, has the chance to do so again and this time on his own turf.
This year, he has completed 108 of 187 passes for 1,404 yards and 14 touchdowns. His go-to receiver is Stephon Weaver, who has caught 24 passes for 259 yards and five touchdowns.
“They’re a talented team. They execute well,” Disney said. “We have to limit mistakes.”
Don’t think the Griffons haven’t found a solid replacement for Hill, either.
Running back Raphael Spencer is the leading rusher in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA), with 866 yards on 119 carries and nine touchdowns. He rushed for 221 yards against Central Oklahoma on Oct. 5.
“They’re more permitted to the run which makes them more dangerous,” Beck said. “Travis is in control of what they’re doing and has great command. His pass game is good.”
The end of Red October
The Gorillas are nearing the end of their tough slate in the 2013 schedule.
PSU held Division I Abilene Christian, 28-20, and then survived a late University of Central Missouri rally in a win, 31-21, over the Mules prior to last week’s loss. Missouri Western is the last nationally ranked team on PSU’s schedule for the regular season.
“We’ve played big guys the last few weeks,” Seybold said. “It doesn’t change this game’s mind set.”
MIAA: conference of death
The Gorillas have since fallen from No. 7 in the rankings to No. 11. The MIAA has four other teams in the rankings in the form of Emporia State, Washburn and Northwest Missouri along with PSU and Missouri Western.
All of this concentrated football power means absolutely no room for error. The Gorillas will not be able to test Emporia State and Washburn in the regular season, and Pitt State’s loss makes it the only team in the top 25 to see defeat so far.
If Missouri Western beats them, their eligibility for the NCAA playoffs could once again be in danger.
“I think what we have going for us isn’t broken,” Disney said. “We’re still going with what we know is best and just as long as we’re playing our game, we’re fine.”
The Griffons have not lost an MIAA game since last October when they were upset by Missouri Southern State, 31-30. Interestingly, that was before they came to Carnie Smith to crush the Gorillas.
Home is not where the heart is?
Yet, the Gorillas know how to win in St. Joseph.
The memory of last year’s disaster is clear, but many on the team also remember what happened the last time they battled the Griffons on the road. That game ended in a PSU blowout, 34-7, at the start of what turned out to be a national championship season.
Kickoff is on Saturday, Oct. 26, at 1:30 p.