Despite committing four turnovers and surrendering more than 300 rushing yards, the 15th ranked Gorillas ultimately overpowered the winless Lincoln Blue Tigers 56-14 to improve to 5-0.
The Gorillas got off to a fast start as Sophomore quarterback Brandon Mlekus finished a 6-play 53-yard drive, that saw all three signal callers mixed in, with a six yard touchdown run to give the Pitt the early 7-0 lead.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, the Gorillas committed their first turnover of the day when sophomore wide receiver Elijah Harris fumbled the punt, giving Lincoln possession near midfield.
The Gorilla defense responded to the turnover, forcing Lincoln to settle for a 23-yard field goal attempt by freshman kicker Javier Moreno that sailed wide left. After the miss, what had been a light rain, became a downpour with multiple lightning strikes, which forced officials to impose a one-hour weather delay.
“It’s always important to stay focused during those moments, I think everybody is always had at least one of those where it’s a factor,” said senior defensive lineman Cole Morris. “It’s important that you go into the locker room, stay focused on what you have to do, come back out and get yourself prepared.”
After another missed field goal by Moreno, and a couple of Gorilla punts, The MIAA’s leading rusher sophomore Hosea Franklin busted loose for a 54-yard touchdown run to tie the game 7-7 with 12:39 to play in the first half.
The Gorilla offense came back to life, responding with 21 points in the second quarter. Redshirt freshman Mak Sexton connected with senior Lorenzo West for a 22-yard scoring strike to give Pitt a 14-7 lead. A few possessions later, Sexton hit sophomore wideout Bryce Murphy for a 36-yard touchdown to push the lead to 21-7. After a fumble recovery, Sexton hit Harris for his third touchdown of the day, a 19-yarder, to push the lead to 28-7 as time expired in the first half.
Sexton finished 14 of 17 passing for 244 yards and three touchdowns. Mlekus, who had a first half interception, connected with West for a 45-yard touchdown on the Gorillas’ first drive of the second half effectively putting the game out of reach 35-7.
From there, the Gorillas were able to run away with the game, holding Lincoln to only one more touchdown in a dominant 56-14 victory.
“We obviously came out a little flat, there’s a lot of things we need to work on but I think the way we responded spoke volumes about everybody all eleven of us across the board,” said junior linebacker Kaden Roy.
Although the Blue Tigers had success on the ground, they were held to just 55 yards passing. Senior defensive end Cole Morris highlighted the defensive side of the ball as he finished the game with two tackles for loss, two sacks, and a 79-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Pittsburg State had a productive day passing the ball as their three quarterbacks Sexton, Mlekus and Harman combined for 354 total yards and four touchdowns.
“We had a good game-plan for them all week, we studied film and thought we could run some plays to beat their coverage then we went out and executed,” said Sexton.
Sophomore Bryce Murphy led the Gorillas in receiving with 7 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. West had 3 receptions for 72 yards and two touchdowns.
The Gorillas now prepare for a matchup with undefeated #7 Northwest Missouri State at Arrowhead Stadium Oct. 12. Northwest and Pittsburg State met in the ‘Fall Classic’ for 12 consecutive years from 2002-13 with Northwest holding a 9-3 advantage in those games.
“It’s a big deal for everybody and I think it’s important for us obviously recruiting in the Kansas City area to showcase both teams there,” said Head Coach Tim Beck. “Once the ball is kicked off, it’s just a regular field to everybody and so we have to have a good week of preparation.”
The Gorillas look to avenge their 31-7 loss from last season. The Bearcats are 5-0 after a 34-23 victory at Emporia State.