LINCOLN, Neb. — Make it four consecutive wins for the Pittsburg State football team, as the Gorillas took down Nebraska-Kearney 35-13 on the road Saturday.
Pitt State held a seven-point lead at the half, but a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter helped the Gorillas cruise to their sixth win of the season.
Both teams punted the ball away in the first two drives of the contest, but the Gorillas capitalized in their next possession, going up 7-0 on a 12-play, 88-yard scoring drive.
Pitt State picked up on its own 12-yard line and moved into Kearney territory on a 14-yard run by Lorenzo West, before entering the red zone on the strength of a 16-yard run by Thomas LePage.
Michael Rose capped off the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run at the five-minute mark of the first quarter.
The Gorillas struck again in the opening minutes of the second quarter with an eight-play, 60-yard touchdown drive to go up 14-0.
The scoring drive was highlighted by a 21-yard pass from LePage to Jovon Wilson on third-and-ten from midfield, before D’Vontae Brown pushed into the end zone from two-yards out.
An eventful ending to the first half saw the Lopers cut the deficit in half at 14-7 in the closing seconds of the second quarter.
Kearney was threatening to score inside the red zone, but an interception by Juante Baldwin in the end zone gave the Gorillas’ offense the ball at their own 20-yard line with two minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Quarterback John Roderique entered the game for PSU for the first time to start the new drive, but an interception by Ty Botsford gave the Lopers possession on the Pitt State 11-yard line with just over a minute remaining in the first half.
UNK moved the ball down to the goal line before scoring on a three-yard touchdown run by Darrien Daniels.
Pittsburg State started the following drive on its own 31-yard and decided to drain the remaining 30 seconds of the first half.
The Gorillas regained the momentum in the second half, as Simanu’a Thomas forced a fumble which was recovered by Willie Cooper to give PSU the ball at midfield in the early going of the second half.
Pittsburg went 53 yards in eight plays with Thomas LePage back under center and scored on a one-yard run touchdown run by Brown to increase the lead back to 14 at 21-7 with under 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
PSU went on to score one more time before the end of the start of the fourth quarter, as LePage scrambled for a 23 yards to pick up a first down on third-and-six before connecting with Austin Panko on the next play for a 23-yard touchdown pass to increase the lead to 28-7.
The Lopers responded with a touchdown of their own to begin the fourth quarter which narrowed the gap to 28-13.
Kearney went 75 yards in 12 plays before scoring on a one-yard touchdown pass from Alex McGinnis to Alex Harms, but a missed field goal held the Lopers to six points on the scoring drive.
The Gorillas picked up on their own 30-yard line following the touchdown with the clock working in their favor and cushioned the lead to 35-13 on the strength of an 11-play touchdown drive.
West moved the ball deep into Loper territory on a 12-yard run from midfield, before Tucker Horak ran into the red zone on a five-yard pick up.
The scoring drive was capped off on a four-yard touchdown run by Keynan Scheurich.
Pitt State’s defense went on to hold strong in two more drives to close out the win.
LePage finished with 105 passing yards and 106 rushing yards with one touchdown through the air.
Rose carried the ball 98 yards and finished with one rushing touchdown.
Marcus Brantley was the team leader in tackles with eight.
Baldwin and Paul Davis each had one interception apiece.
Pitt State will take on Missouri Southern in the season finale at 2 p.m. on Saturday inside Carnie Smith Stadium.
— 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.