Every week presents the Pittsburg State Gorillas with a different challenge and this week it’s a conference road test against the high-octane passing attack of the Central Missouri State Mules.

Every week presents the Pittsburg State Gorillas with a different challenge and this week it’s a conference road test against the high-octane passing attack of the Central Missouri State Mules.

Pitt State comes into Warrensburg today at 7-0 overall and 6-0 in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, moving up from preseason unranked to No. 4 in the nation after seven weeks of football. With the end of the regular season ever steadily approaching, the next three Pitt State games (Central Missouri, Washburn, Missouri Southern) take on the utmost importance.

“One comment I made to our players (Wednesday) was the fact that I hope there’s not anybody here satisfied with being 7-0,” Pitt State head football coach Tim Beck said. “This is a huge game for us and if we go get the Central Missouri game, we’re coming back with two games at home and so this is a very, very important game for us. They have a very good football team, even though they have two losses.”

Pitt State players have not lost track of what’s at stake from here on forward.

“If we were to lose a game, if we were 6-1 or 5-2 at this point, we wouldn’t have as much to play for . . . we have so much more to lose now,” senior quarterback Zac Dickey said. “We understand that we have a lot to lose at this point and so I think it makes us fight a little harder.”

Pitt State and Central Missouri both rank in the top 5 of the conference in total offense — No. 3 Central Missouri averages 459.6 yards per game and No. 4 Pitt State averages 458.1 yards per game.

However, both teams use different approaches to reach the same destination.

Pitt State leads the MIAA in rushing offense — 286 yards per game.

Central Missouri leads the MIAA in pass offense — 352.3 yards per game.

Mules senior quarterback Tommy Corwin leads the MIAA in passing yards per game — 352 — and his 24 touchdown passes are tied with Dane Simoneau of Washburn for the conference high. His overall passing numbers are 2,464 yards, 24 TDs and nine interceptions on 181 of 295 passing.

Corwin’s No. 1 target — 6-foot-4, 220-pound receiver Jamar Howard — has 48 catches for 868 yards and 10 scores. The senior transfer from the University of Cincinnati caught three passes for 52 yards in four games for the Bearcats in 2009.

In 2009, an ESPN.com blogger picked Howard as the preseason Newcomer of the Year in the Big East after Howard’s junior college play at the College of the Sequoias. Howard missed the 2010 season with a knee injury. During his senior year of high school, Howard was rated the 57th best wide receiver prospect in the nation by Rivals.com.

David Cannon and Taylor Dyer each have over 30 receptions — Cannon 35 and Dyer 31.

On the season, Pitt State averages 33 minutes, 35 seconds of possession.

“For us, offensively, it will be important for us to try to take care of the football the best we can and running some time off the clock will be an important part of the game,” Beck said.

Pressure on the quarterback will be a priority against Central Missouri. The Gorillas lead the MIAA with 25 sacks for losses totaling 164 yards. Alas, pressure and sacks could be a formidable challenge against Central Missouri.

“We have allowed the fewest amount of sacks in the conference with four,” Beck said. “They’re the next team in the conference. They’ve only allowed eight and they’ve thrown it so many more times than we have, which is amazing and most of those sacks were against Missouri Western.

“Our front four, staying in their rush lanes and not losing contain and then finding a way to get pressure, will be extremely important.”

No. 4 GORILLAS AT MULES
The Pittsburg State Gorillas (7-0, 6-0 MIAA) play their final road game of the regular season against the Central Missouri State Mules (5-2, 4-2 MIAA) in Warrensburg.
When: 1:30 p.m.
Where: Audrey J. Walton Stadium at Vernon Kennedy Field (10,000)
On the air: KKOW 860 AM at 12:30 p.m.
Weather: Partly cloudy, 67 degrees