By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
Pittsburg State coach Tim Beck doesn’t have to look far for a teaching point on how seriously his Gorillas should be taking the winless Lincoln Blue Tigers when they come into Pittsburg tonight at 7.
Just seven days into the past and about 35 miles down the road, in fact.
The much-improved Missouri Southern Lions waltzed into Jefferson City, Mo., last Saturday and needed, literally, every last play to escape with a 21-14 win over a Blue Tigers team that has one win in the last two seasons.
“Absolutely that’s a good teaching tool,” Beck said on Thursday. “Most players, by the time they’ve gotten to this point, have been through a game like that.
“You have to be prepared for every team, every week.”
That has been key for the Gorillas in the early portion of their schedule. Including Lincoln, Pitt State’s four opponents thus far have a combined record of 0-12 heading into today’s play.
And with a bye week and consecutive showdowns with Central Missouri, No. 13 Northwest Missouri and No. 8 Missouri Western looming, it would be understandable if one last apparent cupcake doesn’t draw much excitement out of the Gorillas.
Not so, said junior defensive end Joe Uzzell. Especially when Pitt State is playing in front of what is expected to be another standing-room-only crowd at Carnie Smith Stadium.
“Playing at home is a really big deal for us,” Uzzel said. “We didn’t play as well as we wanted to the first two games, so every week all we do is just try to get better. It’s not hard to get up for a game.”
Last week’s 52-9 win over Southwest Baptist marked the first game the Gorilla defense held an opponent to single-digit points. Pitt State recovered four SBU fumbles — one for a touchdown — and had an interception.
“We weren’t really too satisfied with our performance until last week,” Uzzel said. “We finally put a whole game together and we’re trying to build on that.”
Lincoln may not provide much of a threat to the Gorilla defense. The Blue Tigers enter averaging 18 points per game. They scored 28 in a season-opening loss to Lindenwood but scored just 12 and 14, respectively, against Truman State and Missouri Southern.
But, as they showed against MSSU, the Blue Tigers possess some big-play capability.
“They’ve got athletes and they’re pretty solid up front,” Uzzel said. “We’re going to have to play and not give them anything. You can get beat every Saturday if you don’t. They can start making plays and start feeding off each other.”
Junior wide receiver Khiry Draine has hauled in eight catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns. He averages 24.5 yards per catch.
The Lincoln defense is allowing an average of 429.7 yards and 37.3 points per game. Those numbers indicate that the Gorilla offense — averaging 489.3 yards and 42.3 points per game — should be able to work a few more kinks out before their brutal October schedule
“We’ve played kind of slack. We’re not where we want to be at right now,” junior wide receiver John Brown said. “We’re practicing hard to get back to where we really want to be.”