By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
— It's no secret that for the last five quarters of the season -- the fourth quarter against Northwest Missouri and all four quarters against Missouri Western -- the Pitt State defense has struggled.
To be fair, a good chunk of the 84 points scored against PSU in those 75 minutes had little to do with the Gorilla defense. Northwest used a pair of turnovers to set up scores with short fields. Missouri Western had an interception return for a touchdown and then benefited twice when Pitt State -- trying desperately to get something going in the second half -- tried and failed to go for it on fourth down deep in its own territory.
That's a quick 35 points that came as a result of a turnover or a short field.
Still, the Pitt State defense is on the ropes.
A big reason for the uncharacteristic slump is the situation in the secondary.
The Gorillas are already without starting safety Chas Smith. Smith -- for all intents and purposes -- is done for the year, never having fully recovered from a torn ACL last season, when he earned All-MIAA honors despite playing in just six full games.
Keeston Terry -- a transfer from KU -- filled in nicely and had a pair of interceptions this season before a leg injury of his own kept him out against Northwest and Western. Deron Washington likely would have been a replacement and would have seen increased playing time, but he's inactive with a knee injury.
While the Gorillas haven't given up huge passing numbers -- 192 to Northwest and 213 to Missouri Western -- Bearcat and Griffon receivers were able to burn the PSU secondary for big plays, including the first two touchdowns that sparked Western to its improbably explosive first half.