Credited to a 31-point performance in the first quarter, the Pittsburg State University football team dominated rival Missouri Southern State University with a 65-6 victory over the Lions, Nov. 16, at Brandenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium in the annual ‘Miners Bowl.’
“We did practice well this whole week, we just asked our guys to hang in there one more week and give us the best they got,” said head coach Tim Beck. “We are just really happy for our seniors…happy that got to finish on a positive note.”
The Gorillas ended their season at 6-5 overall and ultimately put an end to the team’s five-game losing streak following Saturday’s contest. Saturday’s victory also marks the sixth year in a row the Gorillas have defeated the Lions.
PSU started off the game firing on all cylinders. Senior cornerback/returner KiAnte Hardin gave the Gorillas a needed spark early in the first quarter returning a punt all the way to the one-yard line. The return set up junior running back Tyler Adkins to cap off the return with a one-yard run up the middle to put the Gorillas up early. Senior kicker Jared Vincent nailed the extra-point attempt as the Gorillas led 7-0 early in the first.
On the Lions next offensive play, sophomore safety Alex Derryberry intercepted MSSU senior quarterback Jacob Park and returned it to the MSSU. Three plays following the pick, Adkins found his way into the end zone once again from three yards out for a 14-0 PSU lead with 12:19 left in the first.
The Gorillas went on to score 24 points unanswered in the first until MSSU finally got onto the board with 3:15 remaining after Park found his way into the end-zone on a one-yard quarterback sneak.
From there, the Gorillas defense kept their foot on the gas pedal not allowing the Lions to score for the rest of the game while the PSU offense closed the contest with 41 unanswered points.
In the first quarter alone, the Gorillas amassed 170 total yards of offense with 127 coming in the passing game and 43 from running the ball. By the end of Saturday’s game, the Gorillas tallied 523 yards of total offense with 281 coming from the passing game and 242 from the running game.
The Gorillas played without starting sophomore quarterback Brandon Mlekus who suffered an injury in the prior contest. Nevertheless, redshirt-freshman Mak Sexton made his starting debut for PSU and put on a dazzling performance. Sexton completed six of his 12 passes Saturday for 149 yards and three touchdowns. Backup sophomore Matt Harman stepped took the reign in the second half for the Gorillas as Harman completed 10 of 14 passing attempts for 132 yards and two touchdowns.
“We just had a good gameplay going in, I think our coaches did a great job play calling and exploiting the holes in the defense,” said Sexton. “It’s been crazy only coming in on third downs and key situations throwing the ball to being in the last game and running the triple option. I’m just thankful to be able to play with the seniors and come out with the win.”
Senior Lorenzo West ended his PSU football career on a high-note catching seven passes for a career-best 176 yards and four touchdowns. West tied the Pitt State single game receiving touchdowns mark in Saturday’s contest.
“To score four touchdowns and to go out in this way, it’s just amazing I really can’t explain it,” said West. “I’ve made some incredible bonds with my teammates, that’s one thing I can really take out of my career. I’ve enjoyed every moment I’ve been here and it’s been a blast.”
The PSU defense limited the conference-leading team in passing yards per game to 271 yards. Not only did the Gorillas hold the passing game, but the defense halted the Lions rushing attack to negative 25 yards. The Gorillas also registered five interceptions.
“We came in with a gameplay to take that [passing game] away and they definitely made it their game-plan to pick up the passing,” said junior linebacker Kaden Roy. “We played really well across the board from defensive backs to linebackers. We made that an emphasis all week and executed it well.”
Derryberry and senior linebacker Chase Johnston led the team in tackles registering five each. Johnston and freshman defensive-end Elijah Robinson recorded solo sacks while senior defensive-lineman Simanu’a Thomas and sophomore defensive-lineman Zeke Wall combined for a third quarterback sacks.
“All three phases played well today [Saturday], did a good job of complimenting each other,” added Beck. “We really challenged our defensive line at pre-game meal, challenged them and we felt like we had an advantage there that we needed to put a lot of pressure on the quarterback.”