PITTSBURG — The Pittsburg State football team was on its way to a double-digit victory on Saturday against Central Oklahoma when the Bronchos struck for an 86-yard touchdown pass in the final minutes of the game to pull to within three points, but the Gorillas held on for a 31-28 win Saturday.
Although the Gorillas would have liked to have had a drama-free ending to the game, they still came out with their first win of season.
“Our coaches did a fantastic job all week,” PSU head coach Tim Beck said. “It stinks to be 0-1 and have a tough week of practice after that, but our coaches did a good job and our players played really hard, so you have to give them credit on both sides of the ball. We hated to give up that big play at the end of the game, but it was a great effort by all three phases today.”
It was a good start for the Gorillas, as PSU cornerback Carnell Lewis intercepted a pass on the second play of the opening drive and was marked down at the Bronchos’ 46-yard line.
The Gorillas’ offense capitalized on quality field position, going down to the two-yard line in five plays before Tucker Horak carried it into the endzone to put PSU up 7-0.
A good pick up on the kickoff return — plus a penalty for a late hit — put the Bronchos at the 50-yard line to begin their second drive.
It took UCO six plays to drive down the remaining 50 yards and tie the game at 7-7, scoring on a one-yard touchdown run by Clay McKenzie.
UCO took the lead in the opening minutes of the second quarter to take the lead at 14-7.
Despite starting the drive on their own five-yard line, the Bronchos’ punched themselves off the ropes on a screen pass which went for 38 yards, before putting the ball in the end zone on the 10th play of the drive.
The Bronchos’ capped off the 10-play, 95-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run by quarterback Chas Stallard.
Pitt State responded with a touchdown to tie the game at 14-all at the five-minute mark on a one-yard touchdown run by D’Vontae Brown.
The scoring drive started at PSU’s 12-yard line and was highlighted by a 27-yard run by Thomas LePage to move the ball down to the UCO three-yard line.
The Gorillas took a 17-14 lead in the final minutes of the first half, as Jared Vincent split the uprights on a 36-yard field goal.
UCO’s defense forced a three-and-out in the opening drive of the second half, setting up the offense for a four-play, 60-yard drive which ended on a touchdown pass from Stallard to Josh Crockett to give the Bronchos the lead at 21-17.
Pittsburg State regained the lead at 24-21 with five minutes remaining in the third, scoring on a 60-yard touchdown pass from LePage to Brenner Clemons.
A blocked punt by Josh Hornback in the fourth quarter swung the game in favor of the Gorillas, as the ball was scooped up and taken 25-yards into the endzone by Kaden Roy to increase the lead to 31-21.
The Bronchos got themselves back into the contest with an 86-yard touchdown connection from Stallard to J.T. Luper to come to within 31-28 with three minutes remaining in regulation.
Still trailing by three with three timeouts and the clock working against them, the Bronchos elected to kick the ball down the field following the touchdown.
The Gorillas started the drive at their own 20-yard line and forced UCO to burn two of its three timeouts before LePage picked up the first down on third-and-three to seal the win.
LePage found success through the air and on the ground, as he completed 12 of 21 passes — with one going for a touchdown — for 174 yards while rushing for 102 yards.
Michael Rose also had a big day carrying the football, picking up 104 yards on 21 touches.
The Gorillas will hit the road to take on Northeastern State at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
— Jordan Buckamneer is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @jbuckamneer.