Given the offensive pyrotechnics of the Pittsburg State Gorillas and the Southwest Baptist Bearcats the first two weeks, it was a surprise, no, a shocker the score after one quarter was Pitt State 3-0.
However, there were plenty of shocks to come the final three quarters.
Pitt State quarterback Anthony Abenoja started out not sharp, overthrowing several passes, and Southwest Baptist committed three first-quarter turnovers, two fumbles and an interception by Keeston Terry, who subsequently fumbled during his return, recovered by Southwest Baptist.
Pitt State began to snap out of its funk offensively thanks to No. 5, John Brown. Brown took a short pass from Abenoja, broke a tackle and turned a first down into a 57-yard touchdown by turning on the jets and entering hyper speed JB style. With 8 minutes, 58 seconds remaining before halftime, Pitt State took a 10-0 lead.
“Yes, I felt like it sparked the team,” Brown said. “Offense, we had to get something going so I just wanted to be the guy to get everybody rolling.”
“It was one of those things where we were trying to throw a little out route hoping to get a first down,” Pitt State head coach Tim Beck said. “And he makes a guy miss and the guy doesn't tackle . . . next thing you know, he's down the sideline, you're not going to catch him. That was huge to get us to 10-0.”
The Gorilla defense remained stout in the first half — creating pressure on strong-armed and nimble Southwest Baptist quarterback Willie Tindal with its defensive linemen and linebackers — and Pitt State scored 28 second quarter points to build a 31-0 halftime advantage en route to a 59-7 win Saturday night in front of the third-largest crowd of 10,788 fans at Brandenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium.
“Our offense has been pretty good at our two-minute drill,” Beck said. “We've been able to get some points quite frequently and, you know, you have to give our defense a tremendous amount of credit. They played lights out in the first three quarters and did a tremendous job. That young man (Tindal) can scramble around and cause some issues. You saw the first drive, he could pull it down and get a first down (24-yard run). Their receiver coming in, very talented. Defensively, we got some big-time turnovers and kept us in the game.”
Brown made two long touchdown plays in the first half, his second a 62-yarder on a perfectly-thrown Abenoja deep ball over two Southwest Baptist defenders and into the arms of Brown. At the half, Brown had five catches for 171 yards and two scores, averaging over 34 yards per catch. Brown finished with those five catches, 171 yards and two TDs.
Only 12 seconds into the second half and Pitt State led 38-0 . . . after Brown took the second half kickoff and rocketed to the end zone for a 95-yard touchdown. Brown provided fireworks during the game, as an opening act for Jake's Fireworks.
Page 2 of 3 - No. 5 needs 37 yards to pass Ronnie West for the school's all-time lead in receiving yards.
Over a near 6-minute stretch of the second and third quarters, Pitt State scored 35 points. Jeff Seybold capped off this run with a 3-yard TD, his second TD run of the night, culminating a one-play scoring drive after a botched punt snap left Southwest Baptist vulnerable to another Pitt State TD.
The Gorillas matched their 28 points in the second with 28 in the third, scoring 59 unanswered to improve on the 52 unanswered scored on Southwest Baptist last season.
After his sluggish start, Abenoja found the groove he had against Northeastern State and Central Oklahoma, taking a passing efficiency of 222.8 into the locker room after completing 10-of-19 passes for 267 yards, three TDs and no interceptions. Abenoja ended 11-20 with 293 yards passing and an efficiency of 227.6.
After three games, Abenoja has passed for over 700 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions, three scores in each game.
Senior tight end Conner Combes has caught two passes this season, both for touchdowns. His first went for 17 yards against Central Oklahoma, his second 37 against Southwest Baptist.
Sophomore running back Seybold led the Pitt State ground attack with 104 yards and three TDs on 16 carries. His night was highlighted by a 29-yard scamper in the second quarter. Seybold doubled his previous TD total and leads Pitt State running backs with six TDs.
Freshman running back Dre Holman scored his first collegiate TD on a 2-yard run late in the third, giving Pitt State its 59-0 advantage.
Hopefully, not left behind will be the sensational 35-yard leaping catch made by Gavin Lutman early in the contest, a play good enough to be on SportsCenter.
Tyler Disney proved there's no PSU Gameday cover jinx, leading the Gorillas with nine tackles (four solo, five assist). Disney reached 20 tackles.
Pitt State (3-0, 3-0 MIAA) travels to Jefferson City, Mo., next week to face Lincoln (1-2, 0-2).
NO. 14 GORILLAS 59, BEARCATS 7
SBU 0 0 0 7 — 7
PSU 3 28 28 0 — 59
PSU — Connor Frazell 45 FG :49
PSU — John Brown 57 pass from Anthony Abenoja (Frazell kick) 8:58
PSU — Conner Combes 37 pass from Abenoja (Frazell kick) 3:29
PSU — Jeff Seybold 29 run (Frazell kick) 1:47
PSU — Brown 62 pass from Abenoja (Frazell kick) :51
PSU — Brown 95 kickoff return (Frazell kick) 14:48
PSU — Seybold 3 run (Frazell kick) 12:30
PSU — Seybold 1 run (Frazell kick) 8:57
PSU — Dre Holman 2 run (Frazell kick) 1:03
SBU — Derwyn Lauderdale 27 pass from Willie Tindal (John Tolliver kick) 7:33
First downs 12 18
Rushing yds. 87 152
Passing 10-25-1 12-22-0
Page 3 of 3 - Passing yds. 115 310
Total offense 202 462
Penalties 8-65 3-25
Fumbles-lost 6-4 4-1
TOP 32:11 27:49
RUSHING — SBU, ViaVia Manuma 12-52, Robert McWright 10-25, Willie Tindal 9-23, Nehemiah Gross 3-15, Strickland 1-1, Dominguez 1-(-4), Ray 1-(-8), TEAM 1-(-17). PSU, Jeff Seybold 16-104, Dre Holman 10-31, Brian Poston 3-12, John Brown 1-11, Ramsey Hamilton 3-10, Anthony Abenoja 4-6, Marquise Cushon 1-2, TEAM 4-(-24).
PASSING — SBU, Tindal 10-24-115-1-1, Dominguez 0-1-0-0-0. PSU, Abenoja 11-20-293-3-0, Hamilton 1-2-17-0-0.
RECEIVING — SBU, McWright 3-4, Derwyn Lauderdale 2-30, Nolan 2-13, N. Mourik 1-48, Z. Sohn 1-14, Ross 1-6. PSU, Brown 5-171, Gavin Lutman 3-59, Conner Combes 1-37, Bradley Argabright 1-25, Herman Ming 1-17, Dre Holman 1-0.