PITTSBURG — Coming off of back-to-back wins the past two weeks, the Pittsburg State football team brought its record back to an even .500 and looks to notch its third consecutive win at home on Saturday against Northwest Missouri.
It’s been a challenging season for the Gorillas to this point, but after a win on the road after a lengthy weather delay, they have plenty of momentum going into this week.
“We made the mistake of telling our players in pre-game that we’ll sit through five lightning delays if we have to, and it ended up happening,” PSU head coach Tim Beck said. “There were times we had to get our engine going again, thinking we’re going to go back out there, but it didn’t happen. Our kids handled it as well as we could have ask for.”
Although the Bearcats haven’t lost a regular-season game since 2014, the Gorillas believe they are capable of competing with anyone.
“We know the situation we’re in,” Beck said. “It’s unfortunate that we’ve lost four games and that we’re not going to the playoffs, but the bottom line is that our kids are going to play extremely hard. I also know that there hasn’t been any games the past few years where Northwest’s players haven’t played extremely hard, so it should make for an exciting matchup.”
On paper, the upcoming matchup appears as though it will be a defensive struggle, as Northwest Missouri leads the MIAA in fewest points allowed with 58, while Pitt State is third on the list with 198.
“Defensively, they present a lot of challenges,” Beck said. “They lost some really good players from last year, but just when you think they might not be as good, they put up similar numbers. They do a great job of coaching their kids, their scheme is sound and their players just play really hard. They’ve had four shutouts so far and they’re not allowing anyone to run the ball, so you have to be smart about what you do offensively and you can’t turn the football over.”
The Gorillas look to match Northwest’s defensive intensity and make the Bearcats one-dimensional on offense.
“I think we have several guys on the defensive side of the ball who’s playing for the first time,” Beck said. “We’ve seen a lot of improvement out of them the past few weeks and I think they’re gaining a lot of confidence right now. We faced the No. 1 rushing team in the conference two weeks ago and did well, then last week we faced the No. 1 passing team in the conference and forced them to run the football.”
Offensively, Beck said Thomas LePage will be leading an offense which is continuing to improve.
“We’re still going to have to keep them off balance,” Beck said. “If you think you’re just going to line up and run the ball at them all game, it’s not going to happen. You still have to be able to keep them guessing in different ways. I don’t think there’s going to be any surprises in how they align because they’ve had so much success with what they’ve been doing. I think we have a good idea of how they’re going to align, so it’s just a matter of executing.”
Despite the playoffs out of the question, it’s important for the Gorillas to stay upbeat and finish out the season strong.
“I think we have some momentum and confidence,” Beck said. “That’s what we needed and everybody will be ready to play this weekend. I told our guys that we have to expect to win, so now we just have to go out and do that.”
— Jordan Buckamneer is the sports editor for the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @jbuckamneer