Senior Day. Military Appreciation Day. Miner's Bowl. Sonic Trophy Series. Playoffs.
Pittsburg State honored seniors Israel Maselera, John Brown, Nate Dreiling, Levi Kuntzsch, James Caine, Joe Windscheffel, Scott Lester, Jared Vinoverski, Daniel Rank, Austin Leake, Chris Heffern, Taylor Counts, Luke Catloth, Stephen Poston, Dylan Case, Taylor Peak, Cody Holland, Conner Combes, Trey Derryberry, Joe Uzzel and Will Grissom before the game in the north end zone.
With everything at stake for the No. 6-ranked Gorillas and nothing to lose for the Missouri Southern Lions, Missouri Southern came through with a 35-21 win Saturday afternoon at Brandenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium.
"The coaches and players, it's extremely tough," Pitt State head coach Tim Beck said. "They put a lot into it and we talk about playing with class. You've got to win and lose with class. You've got to give Missouri Southern a lot of credit. They played extremely hard. We had a hard time stopping them, we didn't convert a lot of third downs on offense and didn't have a lot of success on third down."
Dreiling, hurt early in the game twice (elbow, knee), left it all on the field, recording 14 tackles to tie the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association career mark with 489 stops but after a game like that, records don't matter in the moment.
"No, you really can't (describe how it feels)," Dreiling said. "To fight five years with these guys was a pleasure, every one of them. I feel bad I let them down.
"It happened the first or second series and I don't know if it was dislocated or whatever, that definitely hurt my game style. I couldn't get off blocks as well . . . I need to make more plays. . . .
"I had a rough first half. My knee, a big guy came down on me. I don't know if it popped out of place for a second but it popped a couple times. I couldn't put pressure on it for five minutes or so. It finally just started coming back. I imagine adrenaline helped."
Dreiling talked about the pain of the final seconds of the game.
"Put a lot of hard work in here," he said. "I don't regret anything but it's a tough feeling seeing five years of dreams wash away. It's tough."
Like a true leader and class act, Dreiling accepted responsibility.
"I didn't tackle good enough today," he said. "I missed too many and I didn't get off blocks when I needed to, it's my fault."
The seniors played their final game at hallowed Carnie Smith.
"That's the thing," Beck said. "We've got a great senior class and they've done a lot for our program. We really appreciate what they've done for us and that's what makes it so tough. Like I told our team after the game, 'If you didn't care so much and didn't put so much into it, it wouldn't hurt so bad.' It hurts a lot because we've got a great group and unfortunately, it might be the last time we get to play here at Carnie Smith."
Page 2 of 5 - Pitt State ends the regular season 9-2 and Missouri Southern 7-3.
The first drives resulted in an inauspicious beginning for the Gorillas and the inauspiciousness recurred throughout the day.
Pitt State went three-and-out and Southern drove the field with its triple-option attack, three consecutive first-down runs producing a first-and-goal.
"The first drive for us was frustrating," Beck said. "We had a shift called and they called us offsides and puts us in first-and-15. There's little things like that. We always say this, there's little things like that happen in the beginning of the game that can really changed the complexion of the game. Again, give credit to them, they were aggressive and stuck to what they were doing and we just didn't handle it very good."
After throwing a pass on the first play, Southern quarterback Jay McDowell kept it on the ground and distributed the ball to backs Terrance Allen, Michael Nelson and Giresse Forchu, and kept it himself. Allen, McDowell and Nelson produced the first downs, Nelson for 24 yards, and Allen opened the scoring with a 5-yard burst.
Just as it looked momentum shifted toward the Gorillas at the end of the first quarter, Pitt State slowing down the Southern option and managing a first down run into Southern territory on a John Brown reverse, a bad snap past Anthony Abenoja early in the second derailed a promising drive.
The wind played a major factor in play calling and Southern chose to take the wind over possession after winning the coin toss.
"It was a factor," Beck said. "There's no doubt about it. I was a little surprised, it was a good call by them to take the wind instead of the ball in the third quarter."
The Gorillas faced a fourth-and-1 at the Southern 43 with 5:35 left in the first. After bringing out Griffin Knopp and the special teams unit to punt, Pitt State called a timeout and brought back out Abenoja and the offense. Jeff Seybold busted Southern for a 5-yard run for a first down but the drive eventually stalled out.
The Lions made their fourth-down decision with a fourth-and-1 at the Southern 29, calling a timeout and calling on leading rusher Chris Barnwell. Barnwell coughed up the ball, recovered by Pitt State's Tyler Disney.
With possession at the Southern 33, however, another bad snap again derailed any Pitt State scoring drive.
Southern converted its next fourth down play, this go-around in Pitt State territory. Barnwell fought for two yards and first down on a fourth-and-1 at the Pitt State 27.
Two plays later, Southern made it a 14-0 game with a McDowell 25-yard pass to Nelson, as the Lions — renowned for their old-fashioned smash-mouth triple-option — experienced more success in the passing game than Pitt State.
Page 3 of 5 - Until the final possession of the first half . . . when Abenoja, given more time to throw, connected with Marquise Cushon on a pair of passes, one for a 29-yard first down and the second for a 3-yard touchdown. Cushon made the scoring grab on a low Abenoja throw. Abenoja completed as many passes over 40 seconds of the half as he did the first 29:00.
Pitt State, averaging over 500 yards of total offense, finished the first half with only 79 total yards, 45 on the scoring drive right before halftime. The Gorillas ran 31 offensive plays, averaging 2.5 yards.
"It was more than just the defensive line because they were able to lock some people up and really bring some extra people," Beck said of the pressure Southern applied on Pitt State throughout the day. "Especially since they're a 3-man front, it allowed them to have some extra people move around a bit. They did a nice job of keeping us off-balance with their defense."
On their first possession of the second half, the Lions gained enough on a fourth-and-1 at their own 45, McDowell pushing his way forward into the mass of humanity. McDowell continued his success on the drive, using both his arms and his legs, and the Lions matriculated the ball down the field with precision — 14 plays, 74 yards culminating in a McDowell 5-yard score.
After two straight three-and-outs for the offense and Southern driving for a score on its first second-half possession, the Pitt State defense needed a big play.
Big old Taye Irvin, listed at 6-foot-1, 327 pounds, forced a McDowell fumble and Isaac Maselera recovered the loose ball near midfield.
The Gorilla offense responded with another quick-hitting scoring drive, hitting the Southern blitz with a 13-yard screen pass to Seybold. Seybold found his first success on the ground — only 18 yards on nine carries at halftime — with a 24-yard run and Abenoja capped it off with a 4-yard TD on a quarterback keeper right up the middle of the Southern defense.
However, with the game 21-14, Southern answered right back with its own big play — receiver Jocqui Davis broke free 52 yards on a reverse and he made two Pitt State defenders last-chance miss around the 10 and went in for the score.
"Not a lot . . . if they have, very little," Beck said of the reverse and how often he saw Southern use reverses on film. "Again, it caught us off-guard running the football and did a nice job reversing the field."
Southern took a 28-14 lead into the fourth, the Gorillas' playoff fates hanging on the final 15.
McDowell made it a three-score game with a 1-yard run, 2:22 remaining.
The Gorillas scored their 21 points in only 2:33 of game time. The Lions maintained possession of the ball for over 37:00.
The NCAA will have a playoff selection show at 4 p.m. Sunday on www.ncaa.com.
Page 4 of 5 - LIONS 35, NO. 6 GORILLAS 21
MSSU 7 7 14 7 — 35
PSU 0 7 7 7 — 21
MSSU — Terrance Allen 5 run (Garrett Barnes kick) 10:12
MSSU — Michael Nelson 25 pass from Jay McDowell (Barnes kick) :50
PSU — Marquise Cushon 3 pass from Anthony Abenoja (Connor Frazell kick) :10
MSSU — McDowell 5 run (Barnes kick) 6:01
PSU — Abenoja 4 run (Frazell kick) 3:04
MSSU — Jocqui Davis 52 run (Barnes kick) 2:19
MSSU — McDowell 1 run (Barnes kick) 2:22
PSU — Jeff Seybold 6 run (Frazell kick) 1:33
First downs 22 13
Rushing yds. 372 95
Passing 4-9-0 12-28-0
Passing yds. 43 134
Total offense 415 229
Fumbles-lost 3-2 2-0
Penalties-yds. 9-44 4-28
Third downs 7-16 4-14
Fourth downs 3-5 1-2
Red zone 3-3 3-3
RUSHING — MSSU, Jay McDowell 23-119, Michael Nelson 5-57, Jocqui Davis 1-52, Chris Barnwell 13-42, J.J. Jones 5-42, Terrence Allen 5-33, Ejay Johnson 5-15, Dion Collier 1-13, Giresse Forchu 5-11, Kevin Gill 1-(-3), TEAM 4-(-9). PSU, Jeff Seybold 17-80, John Brown 2-27, Anthony Abenoja 7-14, Marquise Cushon 1-(-6), TEAM 2-(-20).
PASSING — MSSU, McDowell 4-9-43-1-0. PSU, Abenoja 12-28-134-1-0.
RECEIVING — MSSU, Nelson 1-25, Josh Jones 1-10, Collier 1-5, Will Cuffee 1-3. PSU, Cushon 4-53, Gavin Lutman 3-44, Seybold 2-17, Levi Kuntzsch 1-11, Brown 1-8, Conner Combes 1-1.
DIVISION II SCOREBOARD
Missouri Southern 35, Pittsburg State 21
Northwest Missouri 51, Missouri Western 21
Emporia State 34, Washburn 23
Northeastern State 45, Central Oklahoma 38
Fort Hays State 56, Nebraska-Kearney 17
Lincoln 51, Southwest Baptist 28
Minnesota State 73, Upper Iowa 7
Henderson State 60, Ouachita Baptist 52 (3 OT)
Minnesota-Duluth 39, Northern State 7
St. Cloud 64, MSU-Moorhead 27
Cumberland (NAIA) 41, Alderson-Broaddus 17
Bentley 56, Saint Anselm 41
Seton Hill 17, Cheyney 10
Ferris State 35, Northern Michigan 22
Findlay 49, Walsh 28
LIU Post 62, Pace 28
Ohio Dominican 40, Malone 13
Merrimack 35, Southern Connecticut 24
New Haven 27, Assumption 17
West Chester 41, Clarion 14
Bloomsburg 42, Slippery Rock 38
Shepherd 41, Concord 33
Mercyhurst 37, East Stroudsburg 20
Fairmont State 47, Virginia-Wise 44
Grand Valley 49, Saginaw Valley 34
Hillsdale 24, Northwood 7
Kutztown 41, Edinboro 10
Gannon 44, Lock Haven 14
Newberry 55, North Greenville 21
IUP 42, Shippensburg 21
St. Joseph's 37, William Jewell 31 (OT)
Urbana 24, Charleston 21
Notre Dame 30, West Liberty 13
Glenville State 17, West Virginia State 12
Lenoir-Rhyne 48, Catawba 15
Carson-Newman 52, Wingate 35
Sioux Falls 35, Wayne State (Neb.) 10
Tusculum 49, Mars Hill 42
American International 27, Stonehill 17
Southwest Minnesota 34, Augustana 24
Adams State 19, Colorado-Mesa 17
Page 5 of 5 - Colorado Mines 23, Chadron State 0
Florida Tech 17, Webber International (NAIA) 7
Black Hills 17, Fort Lewis 14
Mary 31, Minnesota-Crookston 15
West Texas A&M 19, Midwestern State 12
Missouri S&T 20, Quincy 3
Southwestern Oklahoma 62, Northwestern Oklahoma 17
Eastern New Mexico 35, Texas A&M-Commerce 28
UNC Pembroke 63, Virginia-Lynchburg 0
Western New Mexico 43, New Mexico Highlands 14
Bemidji State 35, Minot State 14
Harding 28, Arkansas Tech 17
Southern Nazarene 55, McMurry 20
East Central 23, Southeastern Oklahoma 16
Southern Arkansas 44, Arkansas-Monticello 20
North Alabama 44, Tarleton State 7
Liberty (FCS) 59, Brevard 21
CSU-Pueblo 38, Western State 13
Western Oregon 27, Humboldt State 14
Indianapolis 21, Truman State 14
Azusa Pacific 28, Simon Fraser 19