The Missouri Western State University football team (7-2) captured the program’s first win over Pittsburg State (5-4) since 2012, 35-21, on Saturday, Nov. 2 at Carnie Smith Stadium/Brandenburg Field. MWSU built a 21-0 first-half lead, then rode the momentum until the final whistle.
The Griffons (7-2, 7-2 MIAA) captured their sixth consecutive win this season while handing the Gorillas (5-4, 5-4 MIAA) their fourth straight defeat after opening the season at 5-0.
“It’s not what we want at all as a program,” senior wide receiver Brenner Clemmons said. “It’s not what everyone deserves that supports us. We just play for each other and we love the game. We’re just trying to do our best and play for one another.”
MWSU began the game on the first offensive drive marching 69 yards on seven plays which resulted in senior quarterback Wyatt Steigerwald connecting on an 11-yard pass to sophomore tight-end Cam Grandy.
Following the touchdown to Grandy, the Griffons scored 14 more points unanswered including a three-yard run in from senior running back Markel Smith and a four-yard scoring pass to senior tight-end Blake Burau.
At halftime, the Griffons were able to pull out all the stops holding the Gorillas to 142 yards of total offense, including just 63 on the ground.
“We did some good things defensively early on,” head coach Tim Beck said. “We just couldn’t take advantage of and generate anything offensively. I did a poor job of calling plays early on. We got a first down on our first opening series, and we just kind of sputtered from there. So, it’s one of those things where if we could have been a little more consistent offensively early on, we wouldn’t have left our defense out on the field so much and it might have been a different score at halftime.”
Opening the second half, sophomore quarterback Brandon Mlekus led the Gorillas on a five-play, 75-yard drive bringing some needed momentum to the Gorillas. Mlekus capped off the drive with a 4-yard run in putting PSU on the board as 12:41 remained in the third quarter. From there, the Gorillas didn’t score until five minutes remained in the game.
Starting quarterback of the Griffons, Steigerwald, left the game midway through after an apparent shoulder injury. Nevertheless, the Griffons continued to keep their commanding offense rolling.
MWSU’s lead grew even larger to 35-7 following a 10-yard run by junior running back Shamar Griffith midway through the third and a 5-yard TD run by freshman quarterback Anthony Vespo.
Junior running back Tyler Adkins scored on a three-yard run for PSU with 5:06 left to play and freshman Mak Sexton threw a 29-yard TD pass to senior wide receiver Lorenzo West with seven seconds left to play in the game.
In the fourth quarter, the Gorillas scored 14 of their 21 points and gained 212 of their 468 yards of total offense. PSU finished the crushing defeat with 233 rushing and 235 passing yards total.
On the offensive side of the ball for the Gorillas, Sexton led the trio of quarterbacks completing 21 of 36 passing attempts for 217 yards and a touchdown. Mlekus once again led the rushing attack for PSU rushing 19 times Saturday for 119 yards and a touchdown as well.
Sophomore wide receiver Bryce Murphy led the receiving core with 87 yards on five receptions.
Defensively, juniors Kaden Roy and Morgan Selemaea led the attack for the Gorillas finishing with eight tackles respectively. Selemaea and senior Kiante Hardin each picked up an interception in the defeat. Hardin also added a game-high five pass break-ups in Saturday’s matchup.
“I thought they had a good scheme as far as spreading it out on offense with the passing game,” senior linebacker Chase Johnston said. “Their offensive line was probably the best we’ve seen all year and we just weren’t able to get enough pressure on the quarterback. Can’t just blame it on the defensive line. I think we could have all-around been better.”
Pittsburg State will look to put an end to the losing streak on Saturday, Nov. 9, as the team travels to Topeka to face the Washburn Ichabods (4-5) who come off an impressive 37-17 victory over Emporia State on Saturday, Nov. 2. Kickoff at 1 p.m. at Yager Stadium.