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  • PSU meets Central Missouri challenge, 30-21

  • Observers noted that Pittsburg State had not experienced much adversity during its first four games of the season and the Gorillas faced their fair share Saturday afternoon against Central Missouri at Carnie Smith Stadium.

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  • Observers noted that Pittsburg State had not experienced much adversity during its first four games of the season and the Gorillas faced their fair share Saturday afternoon against Central Missouri at Carnie Smith Stadium.
    On the first play of the fourth quarter, Central took a 21-17 lead on a quarterback sneak by Colter Smith. This was the first time Pitt State trailed in the fourth and only the second time all year.
    Pitt State responded with 13 unanswered points and held on for a 30-21 win.
    “The crowd again helped us out a lot,” Pitt State head coach Tim Beck said. “It’s nice to have that homefield advantage and it was nice to hear them get really, really loud at times. Man, you have to give our players a lot of credit. I tell you . . . again, Central’s a really good football team and our coaches knew this was going to be a battle and it was. We got down and were able to fight back and come right back down the field and get some points on the board and the defense went back out and did their job. We complemented each other well in the second half.”
    “We rallied together,” senior defensive end Gus Toca said. “Our captains got everyone together to focus on what we knew we had to do. We had to dominate them. We came out fired up and ready to go.”
    “All week, our coaches have been saying we’re going to face adversity somewhere along the season and we faced it today in the fourth and our team just responded well,” sophomore receiver Luke Rampy said. “We came out fired up and made plays when we had to.”
    Pitt State missed several opportunities late in the first half and momentum shifted from the Gorillas to the Mules, staying that way for the majority of the second half.
    “We probably had three first-down plays in the second half where we didn’t get anything, so that put us in second-and-10,” Beck said. “We can overcome second-and-10 better than we used to be able to but we still don’t want to be in it if we can keep from it. Anthony (Abenoja) still had a good day today but he was off a little bit at times. I know John (Brown) and Luke (Rampy) both caught nine balls but there were several I could count that were off just a little bit that we had somebody open and just couldn’t pull them in.”
    On defense, with the Mules facing a third-and-10 at their 2-yard line, junior defensive end Joe Uzzel missed a sack on Smith in the end zone and Smith bought enough time to find an open man down the field. Central receiver Ralph Watson caught the ball around midfield and worked his way to the PSU 39 for a 59-yard gain, turning field position on its ear.
    Page 2 of 3 - On the next play, Smith connected with Ronrei Lloyd over the deep middle for a 31-yard gain, taking advantage of one-on-one coverage against Pitt State senior cornerback Graylon Sanders. Two plays later, Smith ran in a 13-yard touchdown with 1:43 left before halftime.
    The Carnie Smith mood radically changed over the course of four plays.
    On its next offensive position, the Gorillas found out the first 47 yards were a lot easier to gain than the final 1. Brown set up Pitt State in Central territory after returning the Aaron Jamieson kickoff 52 yards to the UCM 48.
    Abenoja and receivers Brown and Rampy moved Pitt State down inside the 1 on three plays — a 17-yard pass to Rampy, a 10-yard pass to Brown and a 20-yard pass to Rampy.
    However, after that, Central Missouri buckled down and stonewalled Pitt State running backs Trezz Tillman and Briceton Wilson on consecutive run plays late in the half, leaving Connor Frazell with a 18-yard field goal attempt into the wind. Frazell missed the kick on the last play of the half and Pitt State led 14-7 at halftime.
    “Well, you know, we went in at halftime and I felt like offensively, defensively and special teams, we were playing pretty good,” Beck said. “We left a couple scores out there on the field, defensively we played pretty good in the first half except for giving them those four or five plays that were 98 yards right before half and gave them a lot of hope. We come in at halftime and our team’s almost dejected but you’ve got to realize, hey, we won the first half. We’re up 14-7, we just didn’t have as many points on the board as we’d like, but our coaches are really proud of how hard our guys played and overcame some adversity. It was a good football team we beat today.”
    Central tied it up at 14 on a 15-yard run by LaVance Taylor with 9:31 in the third. On a third-and-10 play, Smith once again eluded the pass rush long enough to find Lloyd over the middle for a 24-yard catch. Two plays later, Taylor scored on his run.
    Pitt State built a 14-0 lead on consecutive lengthy scoring drives — 86 yards in 9 plays and 3 minutes, 43 seconds on its first drive and 89 yards in 12 plays and 5:08. Brown scored on a 13-yard pass, catch and run and Tillman on a 1-yard run.
    One touchdown was set up by a 32-yard pass from Castaneda to Brown on a fourth-and-6 in PSU territory. Pitt State advanced from its own 31 to the Central 37 on a “fake punt.”
    “The one that we threw to John Brown?” Beck said. “I’m asking because it wasn’t a fake punt. They lined up with 10 guys and we took advantage of it. They were short a guy and it was funny because we had about four of our coaches hollering ‘He’s out here and nobody’s covering him.’ I was trying to say, ‘Don’t be so loud. We don’t want to let anybody know he’s uncovered.’ But good job of executing by Andrew and John. That’s one thing to be open but No. 2 is you’ve got to throw it and catch it. It wasn’t a great place to be faking a punt but it worked out for us.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Castaneda snagged four Abenoja passes for 53 yards, booted a 52-yard punt and completed his only pass attempt to Brown. Over his two-year career, Castaneda has completed 3 of 4 passes for 124 yards and two TDs.
    “He’s just a good football player,” Beck said. “Andrew made a tremendous catch in the first half by keeping his feet in and extending his body. I thought he had a really good day today as well.”
    Brown finished with nine catches for 157 yards and one TD and Rampy nine catches for 144 yards, combining for 18 catches, 301 yards and one TD.
    “Luke Rampy had nine catches today,” Beck said. “He’s a warrior, you know, he got knocked out of the game twice in the first half and came back and played hard and made some huge catches and some huge gains in the second half that were really key for us.”
    Brown increased his Pitt State career receiving yards to 1,759, moving into third place all-time and nearing No. 2 man Gene Wayenberg, Jr. and his 1,827 career total. Brown needed 70 yards Saturday and delivered 157 yards, averaging nearly 20 yards per catch.
    Rampy notched his first career 100-yard receiving game.
    This is the second game of the year where Pitt State had two receivers gain over 100 yards. Brown and Castaneda gained 127 and 100 yards, respectively, against Central Oklahoma in Week 2.
    Senior running back Jason Spradling led Pitt State with a season-high 134 rushing yards on a season-high 18 carries. He averaged 7.4 yards per carry and picked up some tough yards against a tough Central defense.
    “For me, it’s moving the chains because I can’t score touchdowns,” Spradling said. “Yeah, our line did a great job and made the holes easy. It’s kind of the style I am, I try and find holes and fit my way through and move the chains.”
    Spradling became the first Pitt State ball carrier to gain over 100 yards in a game this season. His 134 yards gave Spradling his first 100-yard performance in his collegiate career.
    Defensively, the Gorillas were led by Nate Dreiling with 10 tackles and 1.0 sacks. Jason Peete recorded eight tackles and four Gorillas finished with six tackles apiece — Sanders, Bryant Sanchez, Joe Uzzel and Gus Toca. Defensive back Marquise Cushon led Pitt State with 1.5 sacks, one solo and one he split with Peete. The Gorillas sacked Smith six times for losses of 50 yards.
    Pitt State (5-0, 5-0 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association) ended Central’s four-game winning streak. The Gorillas play Northwest Missouri (5-1, 4-1 MIAA) next Saturday in the Fall Classic; Northwest Missouri won its second consecutive game by at least 60 points with a 70-7 dismantling Saturday of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, Okla.

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