The scheduling gods did not have Pittsburg State in mind when creating the 2009 football schedule.

The scheduling gods did not have Pittsburg State in mind when creating the 2009 football schedule.
Or, maybe they did.
The seventh-ranked Gorillas open the season by facing four nationally-ranked opponents in the first four weeks of the season, starting with No. 16 Central Oklahoma, at 7 p.m. tonight at Carnie Smith Stadium.
But, the prospect of getting four straight games against teams ranked in the national poll does not seem to bother the Gorillas in the slightest.
“As far as tradition, we are ready for it,” said PSU quarterback John McCoy. “I don’t think we would have it any other way.”
It is that tradition that may play right into the Gorillas’ favor tonight.
Even with a virtually new offense, starting with McCoy making his first collegiate start for the Gorillas, the Bronchos are aware of just what Pitt State brings to the table.
“It’s Pittsburg State,” said UCO head coach Tracy Holland. “They have the tradition and they do a great job of recruiting and getting players for their system.
“They have been able to reload year after year and, I think, their national ranking is well-deserved.”
When the two teams met last year in Edmond, Okla. to kick off the season, the Gorillas were plagued with six turnovers but still managed to come away with a 16-12 win.
Which leads to another big key to tonight’s game.
“Don’t turn the ball over six times ... that will be a big key,”
The Bronchos are hoping to carry over their finish to the 2008 season. After dropping their first four games, UCO rattled off seven straight wins to claim the Lone Star North title.
A lot of that had to do with the play of quarterback Brandon Noohi.
Noohi had limited time against Pitt State but, came alive in the fifth game of the season and was named LSC Offensive Player of the Week five of the last seven weeks of the season.
“He is our leader and our trigger guy,” Holland said. “We are very happy with where he is at.”
That could translate to a big test for the experienced Pitt State defense that brings back 11 players that played in nine or more games in 2008.
“They have a lot of good weapons and they will try to spread us out,” said senior linebacker Antonio Graham.
In addition to Noohi, the Bronchos’ offense also touts the return of running back Ben Birmingham, who missed the 2008 season due to injury — suffered during the Pitt State game.
Birmingham had 193 carries for 983 yards and five touchdowns in 2007 — going over the 100-yard mark four times in the process.
But, the Pitt State offense will counter with not just McCoy but also running backs Terrance Isaac, Eric Love and Cardell Clemons.
“Any one of those guys can take it to the house for us,” McCoy said.
The receiving group will be led by senior Kendall Fisher. The 6-foot-4 Garden Plain product comes into the 2009 season after catching 22 passes for 359 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Tonight, however, may come down to the Pitt State defense stopping the tools that the Bronchos bring to the table.
“If we are going to beat them, our offense is going to have to have more success than we did last year,” Holland said. “We can’t bank on them turning the ball over to us like they did last year.”

Matthew Clark can be reached at matthew.clark@morningsun.net or at 620-231-2600, Ext. 140. Follow Morning Sun sports at twitter.com/mssports.