Following back-to-back losses, the Pittsburg State Gorillas looked to recuperate as the team traveled to Warrensburg, Mo to face undefeated number 11 Central Missouri (7-0).
The Mules jumped out to a 13-0 lead to open the first quarter, but the Gorillas fought back to take a 14-13 lead on a 25-yard touchdown run by junior running back Tyler Adkins and a 27-yard scramble by sophomore quarterback Brandon Mlekus.
Headed into halftime, the Gorillas defense held their own against the number one offense in the conference averaging 500 yards of offense per game. At halftime, PSU held the Mules to 105 total yards while the Gorillas offense accumulated 112 total yards.
“I felt like all week our kids were excited to go play this game and we just kind of came out flat,” said head coach Tim Beck in a post-game interview with Eddie Lomshek. “Our first series was three and out, you just can’t do that. You have to get some plays in the beginning offensively but the thing is we bared down and realized that they weren’t an overly physical team and we had the opportunity to be aggressive with them and get after them.”
In the third quarter, neither team became able to produce any kind of offense. Pittsburg State maintained their lead until there was 1:48 left to play in the third when UCM junior linebacker Deven Smith returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown. Unable to execute on the two-point conversion, the Mules led 19-14 heading into the final quarter.
UCM extended the lead further on a 43-yard field goal by freshman kicker Samuel Knowlton to put the Mules up eight, 22-14, with 12:21 to play in the game.
The Gorillas remained unphased, responding with a 26-yard end-around to sophomore wide receiver Bryce Murphy trimming the margin to 22-20 with 9:42 to go in the game, but Mlekus was stopped on the Gorillas’ two-point conversion.
UCM took their time following the next drive on offense and brought it back to a two-score game, 29-20, as junior running back Devante Turner rushed in from seven yards out.
Three plays later, the UCM defense came up big again as junior linebacker Kolesen Crane secured an interception and returned it to the Gorillas six-yard line. Taking advantage of PSU’s mistakes, senior quarterback Brook Bolles rushed up the middle, finding the way into the endzone from six yards for a 36-20 lead.
Fighting back into the game on a 17 play and 68-yard drive, freshman quarterback Mak Sexton connected with senior wide receiver Lorenzo West who reached out to the pylon scoring for the Gorillas. Mlekus converted on the two-point conversion jump passing the ball to freshman tight end Kaizer Newell and trimming the lead to 36-28.
The Gorillas chose to try an onside kick which went right into the arms of the Mules. Central Missouri picked up the two first downs and never gave them back to PSU as UCM went on to win 36-20. The Mules secured their undefeated streak of 8-0 while the Gorillas dropped to 5-3, losing their third consecutive game.
“Our effort was great at times, but I’m just frustrated,” Beck said to Lomshek. “I think it’s a team we should’ve beat. At times our defense played good enough, we just had some series where we had to get something going and keep our defense off the field and we didn’t do it. We felt like we had what we needed; we just didn’t execute quite well enough.”
Sexton completed 10 of 25 passes for 91 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Mlekus led all rushers, carrying the ball 18 times for 96 yards and a TD while completing three of five passes for 44 yards. West finished the game with seven catches for a game-high 108 yards and a TD.
Junior linebacker Kaden Roy, safety Morgan Selemaea, and safety Alex Derryberry each tied for the most tackles with eight total. Senior defensive end Cole Morris led in total sacks for the Gorillas with 1.5.
Pittsburg State looks to bounce back from the three straight losses in a matchup on Saturday, Nov. 2, where the Gorillas play host to MIAA rival Missouri Western State University at 1 p.m.