Whatever negatives the Pittsburg State football team might of had in the first half against Fort Hays, they more than made up for in the second half.

Whatever negatives the Pittsburg State football team might of had in the first half against Fort Hays, they more than made up for in the second half.

After batting to a 14-14 tie in a first half that saw the Tigers outgain the Gorillas by over 100 yards, Pitt State scored 24 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and mounted 216 yards of total offense to knock off Fort Hays, 31-21 at Lewis Field Saturday. It is the 18th straight win for Pitt State over Fort Hays State.

The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Gorillas (4-4, 2-4 MIAA) and dropped the Tigers (3-5, 1-5) to their fifth-straight loss of the season.
Showing shades of last week against Washburn, the Gorillas allowed Tigers' quarterback Mike Garrison to throw for 170 yards in the first half, but the defense only allowed Garrison to throw for 70 yards in the second half. Defensive lineman John White also accounted for three sacks on the day.

“Our defensive line just flat got after it in the second half,” said PSU head coach Tim Beck.

PSU quarterback Zac Dickey led a potent ground attack with 125 yards rushing and two touchdowns as Pitt State picked up 212 yards on the ground in the second half.

It came after a first half where the Gorillas amassed just 103 yards of total offense compared to Fort Hays' 204.

“I know that we have been wanting to play with heart and we wanted to do that in the first half, but we were trying to figure out their defense,” Dickey said.

After the Tigers jumped out to a 21-14 lead in the third quarter when Garrison scrambled in from 18 yards out, the Gorillas took over and halted an offense for Fort Hays State.

On their next possession, Pitt State was able to put kicker Jake Craig into position for a 34-yard field goal, cutting the Tigers' advantage to 21-17 with 14 minutes, 22 seconds left in the game.

With the ensuing kickoff, Craig put up a pooch kick that was botched by Corey Allison and picked up by Jeremy Kadoich at the Tigers' 30, breathing new life into the Gorilla offense.

Three plays later, running back Terrance Isaac found the end zone with a 13-yard run, putting the Gorillas up 24-21. The Gorillas scored 10 points over 1:10 to take the lead.

But, Pitt State was not done there. This time it was the defense the picked up the momentum as the Tigers started to mount a drive, but three straight incomplete passes from Garrison turned the ball over to the Gorillas on their own 42.

Jon Thomas, who was hampered with an ankle injury and saw limited action last week against Washburn, utilized a reverse play on the next possession and Dickey used the outside with an option attack to get to the Hays 30. On third down, Dickey broke through up the middle for a 30-yard touchdown run, giving the Gorillas a 31-21 lead with 7:46 left in the game.

The defense took over and White collected a pair of back-to-back sacks forcing a fourth and 14 when Garrison failed to connect with Cordarol Scales, turning the ball over at the PSU 49. On the incomplete pass, White almost collected his fourth sack of the game has he had Garrison from the back side, but Garrison was able to break free.

“We were calling go all day and I just kept on pass rushing and was able to break through,” White said.

The Gorillas were not without big plays in the first half despite the slow start.
It was special teams that came up with the first big play for PSU as Alex Kuhlman burst through the middle of the line to block an Ethan Kosjer punt and recover it at the Tigers' 4. After a pair of handoffs to Briceton Wilson and Terrance Isaac, it was quarterback Jeff Smith that found the end zone on a 1-yard run to tie the game 7-7.

Hays had an opportunity to take a lead exiting the first quarter as kicker Tyler Kimbrough attempted a 29-yard field goal, but it drifted wide to the left.

In the second quarter, Smith and the Gorilla offense seemed to find their lost rhythm as Smith completed four passes on PSU's first possession of the second half and Wilson put the Gorillas up 14-7 on a 1-yard run. It was set up by a 13-yard scamper by Smith on the previous play.

The Gorillas ended the game with 343 yards of total offense, 13 yards more than the Tigers. Garrison had 230 yards in the air with a pair of touchdowns to O.J. Murdock in the first half.

Defensively, Pitt State's Nate Dreiling — who leads the nation in tackles — had 13 against Fort hays State.

“At times we are still inconsistent, but in spurts we looked really good,” Dreiling said.

Pitt State returns home for a 2 p.m. kickoff next Saturday against Nebraska-Omaha.

Matthew Clark can be reached at matthew.clark@morningsun.net or at 620-231-2600, Ext. 140