7-1 PSU fends off Griffons, prepares for Northwest Oklhaoma State
Michael Bauer | sports editor
After battling through a month of fixtures that included two ranked opponents and three consecutive games on the road, the 7-1 Gorillas will return to the confines of Carnie Smith Stadium to take on non-conference foe the Northwestern Oklahoma State Rangers this Saturday.
It’ll be the first meeting between the two schools.
This game will mark the start of PSU’s final stretch (one that’ll feature softer opponents than in October) in the regular season and for some players, it couldn’t come soon enough as the Gorillas saw their undefeated start come to an end with a loss in the Fall Classic before grinding out a 34-14 win over previously unbeaten Missouri Western.
“It’ll be really nice to be back home. We’ve been grinding it out really hard these last few weeks,” said head coach Tim Beck in an interview with Eddie Lomshek of KKOW. “We’re 3-1 against four really good teams.”
Pitt State’s victory over the Griffons puts it back to seventh in the country. This week, the NCAA Division II Super Region rankings were released for the first time this season, with the Gorillas ranked sixth out of the 10 teams in their region. The top six teams qualify for the playoffs, which means PSU controls its own destiny. Other teams in the Gorillas’ region include Mid-Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) schools Northwest Missouri, Washburn, Missouri Western and Emporia State. Northwest Missouri, Washburn and Emporia State are undefeated but changes are likely to occur in the rankings with ESU, Washburn, Northwest Missouri and Missouri Western all playing each other in the upcoming weeks. Northwest Missouri is second in the region as well as in the nation.
Other teams in the region include No. 1-ranked Minnesota State-Mankato, Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud, Henderson State and Harding.
Northwestern Oklahoma State
The Rangers are coming off their first win of the season after beating Southeastern Oklahoma State 25-21.
Northwestern Oklahoma has recently completed its transition to D-II football after playing as an NAIA school for many years.
Quarterback Reid Miller has been starting six of the last seven games for the Rangers and has gone 73-159 and six interceptions for 765 passing yards. His favorite target has been Mervin Stewart, who has caught 23 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns. Another target is Jeremi Anderson, who has caught 18 passes for 151 yards.
Jarion Tudman rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns in the Rangers’ win. He has rushed for 284 yards total this season. Javari Liggins leads the rushing attack with 112 rushes for 359 yards.
L.T. Pfaff is another quarterback who has thrown for 510 yards total, but has seen little playing time in recent weeks and did not play in last week’s game.
On defense, Alex Hemberger leads the team in tackles with 60 total, while Kollin Retter has 59.
Back on track
PSU is coming off a 20-point victory over Missouri Western.
Junior quarterback Anthony Abenoja went 13 of 25 for 191 yards passing, while MWSU quarterback Travis Partridge went 16 of 32 for 193 yards. He threw one interception.
Junior wide receiver Gavin Lutman had three catches for 88 yards.
Sophomore running back Jeff Seybold Jr. carried the ball 24 times for 179 yards and three touchdowns and was named MIAA Offensive Player of the Week.
“Our offense did great. Our o-line helped us establish the run game,” Seybold said. “It was great to get our offense rolling and let everyone know we’re back.”
The Gorillas got on the board first with a 41-yard field goal by senior Connor Frazell.
Later, Seybold found the end zone on a 23-yard run.
The Griffons climbed back into the game with a 67-yard pass from Partridge to Reggie Jordan to come within three.
A field goal by senior Connor Frazell gave PSU a 13-7 lead at the half.
PSU defense contains Partridge
The Gorilla defense held the Griffons to their lowest point-total of the season.
PSU directed Partridge to the ground with four sacks for a loss of 25 yards.
“Outstanding job by our defense,” Beck said. “To hold them to as many points as they have scored in the first half was big.”
After a blocked field goal turned into a PSU touchdown, PSU marched down the field for 71 yards in eight plays to score on a Seybold run of three yards to extend the lead to 27-7.
It’s not over
But it wasn’t quite over as Jordan caught a 14-yard touchdown pass to close the deficit to 27-14 with nine minutes, 35 seconds remaining.
However, PSU needed only three plays in 75 yards to answer back on a scoring drive with Seybold rushing in on a 6-yard carry.