Suffering three consecutive losses, the chance of making the playoffs has significantly decreased for the Gorillas’ football team. The last game on Saturday, Oct. 26 against Central Missouri resulted in a 35-28 defeat marking the fifth straight year Pittsburg State has lost three games to MIAA opponents.
“We’ve got a great group of seniors here and they’re a hard-working group,” said head coach Tim Beck in a post-game interview with Eddie Lomshek. “For no other reason, we need to go win the next three games for them.”
On Saturday, Nov. 2, the Gorillas face Missouri Western State in a conference matchup. This season, the Griffons are riding a four-game win streak. MWSU comes off a 28-0 shutout performance in their previous matchup on Saturday, Oct. 26 against Emporia State. Key victories this season for the Griffons include a 28-17 win over Fort Hays State and a 50-43 victory over Central Oklahoma.
The Griffons are currently third in the conference when it comes to total scoring offense averaging 41.6 points per game while the Gorillas sit at fourth averaging 40.1. The offense of MWSU also averages 452.4 yards per game of offense which ranks fourth in the MIAA.
“They do a good job running the ball, they have a bunch of offensive linemen that’s been around the league for a long time,” said defensive coordinator Nate Dreiling. “Also have two good running backs, so we’re going to be focused trying to stop the run and should be a big challenge for us.”
MWSU’s offensive attack is led by their 6-0 senior quarterback Wyatt Steigerwald. The senior ranks fourth within the conference in average yards passing for 237.6 per game on 128 of 220 attempts. Steigerwald has also thrown for 23 touchdowns through eight games putting the senior at third in the conference.
In conjunction with Steigerwald, the Griffons offense features the second-best running back within the conference, senior Markel Smith. Smith averages 86.0 yards per game leading the MIAA in total touchdowns with 11 throughout eight games.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Griffons have struggled at times allowing teams to 466.4 yards of offense per game. Breaking it down, MWSU allows 296.25 passing and 170.1 rushing.
Coming into the matchup, MWSU will face a team in the Gorillas looking for an answer averaging 188.7 rushing yards and 263.0 passing yards per game in the last three contests. Prior to the three game ‘gauntlet,’ PSU averaged 204.4 rushing yards and 244.2 passing yards per game.
The defense of the Griffons is led by their safety tandem of sophomore DJ Stirgis and junior Sam Webb. Combined, the two defensive backs have broken up 17 passes this season with Stirgis ranking fifth and Webb ranking sixth within the conference. Webb has also picked off three passes this season for MWSU putting the junior at eighth among MIAA teams.
Special teams have been a highlight to the Griffons attack this season with the help of freshman kick returner Trey Vaval. The freshman ranks second in the conference in total return yards through eight games accumulating 668 overall. Vaval also has returned one kick return for a touchdown this season.
Last season, as the two teams clashed, the Gorillas remained victorious over the Griffons with PSU winning 34-14 as a 24-point performance in the first half helped lead the team to victory. All-time against MWSU, PSU holds a 33-11 record including six straight victories over the Griffons.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Carnie Smith Stadium/Brandenburg Field.