PITTSBURG — It’s been a challenging season for the Pittsburg State football team in 2017, but thing won't get any easier from here, as the Gorillas will hit the road to take on undefeated Fort Hays State on Saturday.
Murphy’s law has proven true for Pitt State in the back-to-back losses at home, so a road trip may actually not be the worst thing for a frustrated Gorilla team.
“The most frustrating thing in the game against Washburn was coming out in the second half and going three-and-out again,” Beck said. “We ran the ball fairly efficiently in the first half, but didn’t get off to a good start running the football in the second. The bottom line is that we have to be more efficient and better on first down. We can’t put ourselves in second-and-long or third-and-long.”
Moving the chains and putting points on the board has proven to be difficult against the Tigers’ defense, which has allowed the second fewest points in the MIAA this season.
“Hays is 5-0 and is a very good team, there’s no doubt about it,” Beck said. “They present a lot of problems on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they’re a four-man front. Sometimes they run a three-man front, but primarily, they run a four-two-five defense. They have arguably the best defensive tackle in the country and he poses some problems. They just find ways to get you third-and-long, and if they do that, you’re in trouble. So, we’re going to try and stay out of down-and-distance.”
To stay away from third-and-long, Pitt State will rely on a solid running game.
“We’re absolutely going to try and establish the run,” Beck said. “We want to be in second-and-medium and not second-and-long. We’re also going to keep them off balance. I don’t anticipate us throwing the ball just one time in the first half like we did last week, but we’ll see what happens.”
Playing on the road is typically seen as a disadvantage, but after losing twice at home, the Gorillas don’t think a change of scenery is necessarily a bad thing.
“I think it’s a good thing to play on the road at this time,” Beck said. “We had an opportunity to have some meetings and get a little more time than we normally do because we don’t have school on Thursday and Friday, so that will help a little bit. This is the first time that we’ve stayed overnight, so I think our guys are looking forward to getting away and playing somewhere.”
As a result of the break from school, the Gorillas have used the opportunity to get better on the practice field and get their thoughts together in team meetings.
“I think our guys have the right mindset,” Beck said. “I think it’s good for us to go get away this week. We had practice this morning and then let the rest of our guys go. The travel squad is with us today and we’ll practice tomorrow morning before we get on the bus, so we have a little time to ourselves with them to make sure that we have all the details covered.”
With the second half of the season approaching, the time for the Gorillas to start winning is now.
“They’re all must-win games right now,” Beck said. “Hays went down to the wire against Central Oklahoma and Lindenwood and found a way to win those games, so they’ve been through some adversity and found a way to get through it. We had some games that came down to the wire and didn’t win, so we have to mentally get through this.”
Despite the early struggles, the veteran-led Pitt State squad will continue to persevere.
“I think the mood of the players is great,” Beck said. “I think they’re very disappointed with where we’re at, but as far as their effort level at practice, everything is fine. We have enough guys who have been here long enough for us to know that we can rely on them. We also have a lot of young guys, especially on defense, who really don’t know how to react to this situation. Those are guys we just have to encourage at practice and tell them that one of these days, we’re going to get a break and be able to fight through adversity. Until then, we just have to keep fighting and keep grinding.”
— Jordan Buckamneer is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @jbuckamneer.