Historic could be one word to describe Saturday's Mineral Water Bowl in Excelsior Springs, Mo. The game kicks off at noon from Tiger Stadium. Everything from it being the first gridiron meeting of the Pittsburg State Gorillas and the Southwest Minnesota Mustangs to individual records. There's also the fact that Pitt State could end its season with a win for the fourth consecutive year, something that's only been accomplished over two four-year periods before — 1933-36 and 1941-44. World War II affected the continuity of players in the latter run but either way, this year's senior group has an opportunity to do something extremely rare for the all-time winningest Division II program. "That's a neat thing that (associate athletic director) Dan Wilkes pointed out to me," Pitt State head coach Tim Beck said. "For this group of seniors to have an opportunity to win their last game of the season all four years, that just doesn't happen in college football very much, especially when you're playing postseason. That's a neat opportunity for us and something we mentioned to them in the beginning of this process once we found out we were in." The 1933-36 Gorillas were coached by Edward "Blue" Howell and won their final games of the season against Simpson (Iowa) 19-13, Northwest Missouri 7-0, Emporia State 7-6 and Emporia State 26-7. Back to modern, oops, postmodern times. In 2010, Pitt State won the Mineral Water 13-9 over Concordia-St. Paul. In 2011, of course, the Gorillas won the National Championship 35-21 over Wayne State (Mich). In 2012, Pitt State won its regular season finale 26-14 over Missouri Southern. Nate Dreiling, Joe Uzzel, Will Grissom, Israel Maselera, Cody Holland, Joe Windscheffel and Levi Kuntzsch played in the 2010 Mineral Water game. Dreiling needs one tackle to break the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association mark for career stops, which he currently shares with Marti Rave of Truman State at 489. Junior quarterback Anthony Abenoja needs one touchdown pass Saturday to break the school's single-season record of 25, which he currently shares with Pitt State assistant Neal Philpot. We should not forget 1,000-yard rusher Jeff Seybold and MIAA Special Teams Player of the Year and Pitt State's all-time leading receiver John Brown, who have also had their share of milestone moments this season. Pitt State held the No. 6 seed in Super Region 3 entering its Sonic Miner's Bowl game against Missouri Southern at Brandenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium. Gone was the playoffs after Southern won 35-21 on Senior Day. Devastation was the mood after the game. Initial disappointment in accepting a bowl bid turned into optimism and hope: three more weeks of football, three more weeks of being a Pitt State Gorilla football player and one more football game. Now, that's game nearly here. "It's a lot different feel than when we went there in 2010," Beck said. "2010, we weren't any good, so we were real excited about going. This year, obviously when we didn't get into the playoffs, we weren't very excited to find out that we were going to the Mineral Water Bowl. That's just the honest truth. "But, what happens is the kids get away from it a few days and they figure out 'OK, we've got an opportunity to go play another game' and then it's a big deal for your seniors, it's a big deal for the young guys, we've got some extra practices where we got to take a good look at some of the young players that we expect to be players in the future and so, it's just a lot different deal than it was back in 2010 but I think it's really important to take advantage of those three weeks . . . it's important for us to go up there and win the football game." Beck and the players at Wednesday's press conference talked about the changing mood of the players in practice. "It was tough at first," Beck said. "The very first day we walked out on the practice field, it was kind of like going to a funeral and after that, it was better. Then, we gave them some time off over Thanksgiving and we came back on Sunday and had a really nice practice. They were inspired, they were excited and so, I was happy to see that." "Obviously, at first, it was a huge disappointment," Windscheffel said. "There for 24-48 hours and then we had a meeting the following Tuesday and that meeting shifted our focus away from the letdown to we've got three weeks to spend with each other, we're going to enjoy it, we're going to prepare and go out and play well this last game." "At first, it was hard but definitely just had to stay positive," senior tight end Conner Combes said. "Me, this is going to be my last game as a Gorilla, potentially ever, so I've just tried to stay positive and go out on a high note." Pitt State gets an opportunity to finish 10-2 on the season. "We just want to go out with a win," Combes said. "This class will be able to go out on a win the last four years if we accomplish that this Saturday and that's something that hasn't been done in a long time. That's just something we'd like to do, leave a good taste in everybody's mouth going into the offseason." Meanwhile, the Mustangs of Southwest Minnesota (Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) enter with a 7-4 record, on a four-game winning streak. "It's fun to go play somebody you've never played before," Beck said. "We're going to do our best stuff and they're going to do their best stuff offensively and defensively. Even though we have all the games on video, they've got all our video . . . of course, they've got a Harlon Hill finalist as a running back that's going to be extremely difficult to get stopped, the quarterback's got some tremendous numbers and has a really high completion percentage rate, so they pose some problems offensively. Defensively . . . A.J. Page is a very good player — big, tall physical defensive end that's got tremendous stats for the year. "They present some problems on both sides of the ball. Even though they're 7-4, they're scoring a lot of points in even some of their losses. It should be a good matchup." That Harlon Hill finalist running back's named Tyler Tonderum and his numbers are impressive: 1,979 yards and 18 TDs on 315 carries and 32 receptions for 274 yards and one more TD. "Obviously, their running back's a great player," Windscheffel said. "A Harlon Hill finalist, so it's going to be a huge challenge for us to stop him. Like you said, they're very balanced so we're going to have to be prepared." Southwest Minnesota head coach Cory Sauter described Tonderum as such in a "Tonderum for Harlon Hill" advertisement: "Tyler Tonderum has all the traits that you look for in a running back: game-breaking speed, elusive, tough, durable, smart, and a strong work ethic. He is a difference-maker who has helped us become one of the most prolific offenses in the country. What I like most about Tyler is the fact that he credits his teammates for all of his success and is never content with his accomplishments, a true team player and class act." The Mustangs' quarterback Charlie Kern has thrown for nearly 3,000 yards, 32 touchdowns and seven interceptions with a 65.2 completion percentage (258-396). Sauter, who played the position collegiately for the Minnesota Golden Gophers and professionally for the Arizona Cardinals (1998), the Detroit Lions (1999-2000), the Barcelona Dragons (2000), the Indianapolis Colts (2001-03) and the Chicago Bears (2002), coaches the quarterbacks. Looking at that dossier, Sauter was one of Peyton Manning's backups. Beck mentioned the points scored by Southwest Minnesota — 41.9 per game, at least 50 three of the last four games and in losses to Bemidji State and Sioux Falls this season, for example, the Mustangs scored 40 and 48, respectively. The Gorillas have faced their share of explosive offenses this season in the MIAA. "I think it prepares us well," Beck said. "Just because we see a lot of spread teams, a lot of one-back teams, a lot of people in the country run zone-read in some way shape or form." Conversely, though, Southwest Minnesota's held one of its 11 opponents below 20 and the Mustangs have allowed more than 40 points six times. Junior defensive end A.J. Page leads the Mustangs defense with 102 tackles, 15.0 tackles-for-loss and 6.0 quarterback sacks. He's also defended five passes with one interception and four breakups. Never mind four blocked kicks. "They're good. They can play," Combes said. "They've got quite a few athletes on that team." We've looked at the history of the Pitt State football program and it stands in stark contrast to Southwest Minnesota. The Mustangs are making their first bowl game appearance, playing only their third postseason game in school history and first at the Division II level, and the program owns an overall record of 172-283-5 over 45 seasons. Historically speaking, Pitt State owns a 18-2 record against current Northern Sun teams: 10-2 against Wayne State (Neb.), 2-0 against Augustana and Northern State, and 1-0 against Bemidji State, Concordia-St. Paul, Minnesota State-Moorhead and St. Cloud State. Pitt State owns a 2-0 mark in previous Mineral Water games, defeating Bemidji State 35-27 in 2006 and Concordia-St. Paul 13-9 in 2010. The Gorillas defeated MSU-Moorhead 14-13 in the 1981 NAIA semifinals and won first round games against Northern State in 1987 and 1988, 57-0 and 38-14 respectively. Oh, by the way, next time you see a Schwan's truck, think of Marshall, Minn., home of Southwest Minnesota. The Schwan headquarters are in Marshall; founder Marvin Schwan began delivering his family's homemade ice cream in 1952 and the company, of course, expanded. Schwan died in 1993.