PITTSBURG — It was an all-around team effort for the Pittsburg State football team on Saturday in the 26-10 win over Missouri Western, as the offense was clicking early and the defense stood tall throughout.
The Gorillas got off to a hot start with two touchdowns in their first two possessions, while the defense did its job in protecting the lead.
“To get points on the first two drives of the game into the wind was just very important,” PSU head coach Tim Beck said. “Defensively, we were good in the first half and great in the second half. We kept putting them back out on the field after many three-and-outs, but they just found a way to keep shutting them down. You just have to give the defensive players and coaches a lot of credit because they had an outstanding day.”
Everything was working for the Gorillas in the opening quarter, as they scored a touchdown on the first drive of the contest to go up 7-0.
Austin Panko got Pitt State going with a 17-yard run on the first play of the drive, before Lorenzo West took it down to the goal line on a 20-yard run.
Michael Rose pushed across the goal line in the next play to cap off the 12-play, 75-yard drive.
PSU took over on its own 36-yard line for its second offensive possession of the game — following a three-and-out forced by the defense — and went 64 yards in 11 plays before Keynan Scheurich found the end zone from one yard out to increase the lead to 14-0 in the closing minutes of the first quarter.
“It was huge to get the lead early,” PSU quarterback John Roderique said. “With the wind blowing like it was today, it kind of disables some offenses. It was a big statement to come out and get those two touchdowns. I think we were really sharp on those two drives.”
The Griffons got some offensive momentum going after Josh Caldwell moved the ball into the red zone on a 37-yard run.
The Pitt State defense held strong with its backs against the wall, forcing the Griffons settle for a 37-yard field goal which cut the deficit to 14-3 with less than six minutes remaining in the first half.
Pitt State got the points right back on a 31-yard field goal converted by Jared Vincent to take a 17-3 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The Griffons received the ball to begin the second half, but Pitt State got it right back and took over on the MWSU five-yard line following a turnover on downs.
Pitt State settled for a field goal three plays later to increase the lead to 20-3.
Missouri Western came to within 20-10 with eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter after Corey Bertini ran into the end zone from nine yards out.
Missouri Western needed a quick defensive stop to continue the rally, but PSU closed out the win with a 12-play, 75-yard drive which ended in a two-yard touchdown run by Scheurich with under two minutes remaining.
“That was awesome to get that final touchdown,” Panko said. “Our offensive line takes great pride in what they do and they deserve all of the credit for that last drive. They were really pushing them off of the ball and it felt really good to finish that drive off.”
The Gorillas be in Emporia State for a matchup against the Hornets at 2 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.