Records fall in Gorilla win
Abeline Christian will battle the Gorillas at Carnie Smith Saturday
Michael Bauer | sports editor
The Pittsburg State Gorillas ended an easy September undefeated. But now, October is here and just as night is different from day, so too will this month when compared to September.
After cruising to double-digit victories over Northeastern, Central Oklahoma, Southwest Baptist and Lincoln (all of whom have a combined 1-13 record so far), a difficult October is around the corner.
The Gorillas face a tough slate that includes Abilene Christian, Central Missouri, Northwest Missouri and Missouri Western. Both NMSU and MWSU are undefeated and are ranked in the top 10 in the NCAA Division II rankings. But first up on the menu, is Division 1 opponent, the Abilene Christian Wildcats.
The former Lone Star Conference team is currently in year one of playing at the upper level and enters the contest with a 3-2 record.
The Wildcats are coming off a 41-34 double overtime loss to Tarleton State, which is ranked 25th in the Division II rankings.
The Wildcats started the season with an 84-6 blowout win over Concordia College and then followed it up with a 60-17 victory over McMurry University and a 52-28 beating of New Mexico Highlands before starting their two-game losing skid with a 31-17 loss to Illinois State and Tarleton State.
Going into the season, quarterback looked to be a concern for the Wildcats after losing Mitchell Gale but John David Baker has shown to be a stable leader, passing for 1,388 yards so far by going 103 of 158 and one interception. He has averaged 277.6 yards per game.
Baker can also run the ball as he has 47 carries for 141 yards and has scored twice on the ground this season.
On the receiving end, Darian Hogg is the leader with 26 catches for 464 yards and five touchdowns. Taylor Gabriel is another target of Baker, who has 21 receptions for 317 yards.
Leading the rushing category, Charcandrick West has carried the ball 74 times for 402 yards and eight touchdowns. He is averaging 80.4 yards per game.
Darr Cantu-Harkless has 183 yards of rushing with two touchdowns.
In last week’s heartbreaking loss, Baker went 24 of 42 for 209 yards. He rushed 17 times for 87 yards but threw a pick-six in the first quarter en-route to a 14-point deficit before the Wildcats came back. The Wildcats almost won in regulation but a 29-yard field goal by Tarleton State’s Blake Barnes sent the game into overtime.
Pittsburg State’s answer to West is running back Jeff Seybold Jr., who has 57 rushes for 482 yards total and eight touchdowns. Running back Dre Holman has compiled 209 yards off of 46 carries for the Gorillas.
Wide receiver and Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) offensive player of the week John Brown broke the PSU record for receiving yards in a career in last week’s 59-36 win over Lincoln. He has put together 533 yards of receptions so far this season and seven touchdowns. Brown is averaging 133.2 per game. He had nine catches for 237 yards and four touchdowns against Lincoln this past week in the Gorillas’ 59-38 win.
“We kept saying that there’s going to be one of these days where he had eight or nine catches for 200 yards and that happened today,” head coach Tim Beck said in an interview with Eddi Lomshek of KKOW. “He can do so many things when he gets released well but the bottom line is that he can run well. He’s so elusive.”
Brown attributed his performance to his teammates, especially his offensive line.
“It means a lot to me. It feels really good but there were guys on my team that helped me,” Brown said. “There was good blocking by the offensive line and good throws by the quarterback.”
PSU quarterback Anthony Abenoja is fresh off a career-passing day at Lincoln where he threw for 442 yards after going 28 of 36 and is averaging 293 yards per game.
“Almost flawless but not quite,” Beck said. “He’s done a nice job of taking care of the ball but we had two or three turnovers that could’ve extended some drives.”
Still, it was an offensive firework show for both teams as the game featured 1,295 combined yards of total offense.
The Gorillas took care of business in the first half by cruising to a lead, 21-0, with yards, respectively and a one-yard touchdown run by running back Seybold.
Lincoln, however, showed how dangerous their offense was with quarterback Jacob Morris connecting with wide receiver Khirey Draine for 55 yards.
Morris went 15 of 19 for 266 yards and one interception. Henderson had 157 yards rushing off of 14 carries.
In the second half, it seemed like Pittsburg State would score every time the offense touched the ball. But the same was also true for the Blue Tigers
What was left of Lincoln’s last-second comeback attempt evaporated with a Seybold 56-yard touchdown run with 13:36 left to put the Gorillas in front by 19 and a late touchdown by the Blue Tigers wasn’t enough.
Saturday’s game will mark the first meeting between the Wildcats and the Gorillas.