PITTSBURG — Coming off of one of the biggest wins of the season, the Pittsburg State football team looks to make it four in a row this Saturday on the road against Nebraska-Kearney.
The 10-point victory over No. 1 Northwest Missouri was unexpected by most and has the Gorillas riding high after a slow start in the home stretch of the season.
“I think it was a big win,” PSU head coach Tim Beck said. “Our kids had a really good week of practice and they were very focused on what we were doing. I think we’ve seen improvement the past few weeks. It was a very hard-fought game from start to finish and a very close game. Both sides played with a lot of intensity, but our defense was able to get some huge turnovers at critical times. Offensively, were able to get some points — although not many — but enough to get the job done. It was great to get that win, but it was just one. Now, we have to two more very important games left.”
Although the offense did its part to earn the win over the Bearcats, it was the defense which stuck out the most, as the Gorillas forced six turnovers.
“That was one of the best defensive performances I’ve seen in a long time,” Beck said. “There were a few times we gave them opportunities, but our defense found ways to turn the ball over on downs or take the ball away. You just got that feeling that our defense was just not going to let us lose that game. It was fun to watch.”
Following the win, the Gorillas are feeling as good about themselves as they have all season.
“I think the past two weeks, we’ve seen the team’s confidence grow,” Beck said. “We’ve been down multiple times in some of these games, including this past week, but we didn’t panic. I think that we’re getting closer to understanding how important every play is and we’re playing hard every snap. I think we’ve gained a lot of confidence the past few weeks.”
While the Gorillas were excited to pull off the upset, they quickly got back to work in preparation for the Lopers (3-6).
“The thing we talked about earlier in the week is expecting to win,” Beck said. “You can’t win a game when you don’t expect to. There are some things we did that other people kind of gave up on. Even though Northwest Missouri is awesome against the run, we continued to hammer the ball. We were unsuccessful at times, but there are other positive effects. It helps you in play-action, takes time off the clock and gives your defense a little bit of rest.”
On film, the Lopers appear to be similar to the Gorillas, as they run a similar offense.
“The first thing we talked about on Sunday is that Kearney is a team that is much improved,” Beck said. “They are similar to us in many ways. They’ve played everybody close. Northwest beat them 13-0 and they were in the game the entire time. They’ve been competitive against a lot of teams. Defensively, they’re at the top of the conference in a lot of statistics, and I think offensively, they’re very similar to us. I think they’re a team that’s very hungry for a win. Even though they have six losses, a lot of those were close.”
According to Beck, Thomas LePage is expected the one under center for the Gorillas on Saturday.
“Our offense is confident with whoever is playing quarterback,” Beck said. “Both of them has played enough now and I don’t think it makes a bit of difference to our offense players. The nice thing about it is that our quarterbacks are supportive of each other and they’re friends. They’re very competitive and they both want to play, but they’re very supportive of each other.”
Despite being out of the race for the playoffs, the Gorillas plan on sprinting through the finish line.
“There’s nothing we can do about the past,” Beck said. “The only thing we can do is try to improve everyday in practice and then try to improve and try to get better on Saturday. We can’t be thinking about what happened weeks ago, so we’re just trying to do that and get better every day.”
— Jordan Buckamneer is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @jbuckamneer.