Pitt State football took down the Nebraska-Kearney Lopers 30-17 on Family Day at Carney Smith Stadium.
The win keeps the Gorillas undefeated at 4-0 and moves the team up to No. 10 in in the Division-II football coaches’ poll rankings, as well as giving Pitt a solo lead in the conference following.
10,398 fans in the stands helped Pitt open the game with momentum in building a 16-0 lead in the first quarter.
“A lot of excitement, a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of energy in the stadium at the beginning of the game,” Head Coach Tim Beck said on his weekly radio show, “The Tim Beck Show.” “Our crowd did a great job of helping us out, especially on defense on third downs and stuff, and that’s the home field advantage we love to have.”
Pitt grabbed the game’s first score when senior quarterback John Roderique took in his first of two rushing touchdowns, off zone option keepers, at the goal line.
“He’s always done a really good job on that play, it’s a power read play, and its tough to defend on the goal line,” Beck said. “You’ve got to have pressure on the edge, and we’re pretty good at running that play, and if the guy he’s reading squeezes, he’ll hand it off and if not, he pulls it down. If you don’t defend it properly, he’s just going to smack it in there.”
The defense was also a huge part of the early game lead with Nebraska-Kearney’s first three drives being a three and out, a safety on a sack strip fumble caused by junior Cole Morris and an interception by senior Carnell Lewis.
“Defense, I think we played really well. We had some dumb penalties that we made, we got to fix some of that but overall, I think we did pretty good,” said Morris after the game. Morris was named MIAA Defensive Player of the Week for his performance with five total tackles, including a pair of strip sacks.
After the hot start, things looked different for the Gorillas without Roderique under center. The quarterback sustained a minor injury on a very late hit on his second touchdown run. Coach Beck said after the game that Roderique could have come back into the game, and will play next week, but that he held Roderique out as a precaution.
Without Roderique, the team turned to freshman BJ Bradbury at quarterback as well as relying more on sophomore running back Tyler Adkins. Adkins would carry the ball 15 times for 94 yards and a touchdown to earn the team’s Performer of the Game Award. Bradbury also played well, particularly in the two-minute offense before the half where he led a touchdown drive with four straight completions to setup Adkins for a 23-yard touchdown run. In total, Bradbury would throw for 80 yards on 8-11 passing and a touchdown, as well as having 11 carries for 38 yards on the ground.
A final standout performer was the transfer junior KiAnte Hardin. Hardin had three catches for 42 yards and a touchdown on offense alongside an interception from his cornerback position.
“When he first got in, it took a little while. It took a little time for him to make the adjustment, but he’s done a tremendous job from the spring on and now he’s definitely a Gorilla,” Beck said of Hardin’s process of adapting to Pitt State. “I mean, he has bought in. He has fit in. He works hard and cares about his teammates and we’re obviously extremely happy to have him.”
Next weekend, the Gorillas will travel to St. Charles, Missouri to try and avenge last season’s embarrassing 45-11 loss at home to the Lindenwood Lions. The Lions pack the MIAA’s number one scoring offense at almost 39 points per game against the conference’s best scoring defense in PSU allowing only 11 points per game.