PITTSBURG — After a closely-contested opening three quarters where both teams struggled to establish breathing room, Washburn’s James Brania-Hopp exploded down the sideline for a 99-yard kickoff return that ultimately became the difference-maker in the Ichabod’s 40-23 upset victory over the Gorillas on Saturday at Carnie Smith Stadium.
With Fort Hays State stunning Northwest Missouri State 17-16 in Maryville, the Gorillas had the opportunity to regain a share of the lead in the MIAA standings, but the visiting Ichabod's had other plans.
Pitt State opened Saturday’s scoring with a Jared Vincent field goal from 34-yards out.
The rest of the quarter was all Washburn, with Mitch Schurig tossing two touchdown passes, including a 56-yard beauty to Brania-Hopp, to help build a 14-3 advantage.
Early in the second quarter, Pitt State’s Lorenzo West took advantage of a short field, rushing for a 18-yard touchdown to cut into the Ichabod lead.
Tucker Horak returned the lead to Pitt State later in the quarter, punctuating a four play, 57-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown scamper.
Washburn’s Perry Schmiedeler knotted the score at 17-17 before halftime with a 29-yard field goal, and grabbed the lead for the Ichabods after a field goal of the same distance early in the third quarter.
Defense prevailed throughout the third quarter, with the Ichabod front seven doing a great job corralling the Pitt State rushing attack.
Schurig threw his third touchdown of the game early in the fourth quarter to tight end Michael Lickteig to further extend their lead.
Consecutive field goals from Vincent would pull Pittsburg within three points of the Ichabods, but Brania-Hopp responded with his 99-yard score on the ensuring kickoff, a gut punch that Pitt State failed to respond from.
Schrig placed the game out of reach with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Austen Hubert late in the fourth quarter.
Schrig completed 17 of 34 passes for 235 yards, along with four touchdowns and three interceptions.
Pitt State redshirt-freshman Matt Harman, staring for injured quarterback John Roderique, completed 13 of 33 passes for 198 yards and an interception in his first collegiate start.
Tyler Adkins led Pitt State in rushing with 122 yards on 22 carries.