By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
A pair of Carnie Smith Stadium records fell on Saturday afternoon.
The good news for Pittsburg State — and it may have been the only good news of the day for the Gorillas —was that a stadium-record 11,910 fans packed into the sparkling building for homecoming.
The bad news — and boy, was it bad — was that those 11,910 fans saw the home team suffer its worst loss in the history of Carnie Smith Stadium.
The No. 16 Missouri Western Griffons capitalized on a barrage of first-half Gorilla miscues, creating a snowball effect that didn’t let up until they had put the finishing touches on a stunning 63-14 win over No. 7 Pittsburg State.
“You don’t get beat like that here at Pittsburg State on homecoming,” Pittsburg State coach Tim Beck said. “That just doesn’t happen. And it did.
“When you lose a game like that, you have to look at everything you’re doing and go back to the drawing board. We have a problem, obviously, and we have to fix it.”
Pitt State (5-2, 5-2 MIAA) scored with ease on its first drive of the game to take a 7-0 lead on Anthony Abenoja’s six-yard pass to John Brown.
But things began to unravel shortly thereafter.
Western (7-1, 6-1) receivers twice burned the PSU secondary in the first quarter — Michael Hill for 48 yards and Derek Libby for 64 yards —to put the Griffons up 14-7.
And with Pitt State driving on its first possession of the second quarter, Abenoja’s pass was deflected backward at the line of scrimmage. David Bass, a 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive end, leaped to pick it off and rumbled untouched 55 yards for a score to make it 21-7.
“That was the play of the game,” Western coach Jerry Partridge said. “That kind of flipped the table and gave us momentum.”
Did it ever. Before the half was over the Griffons — thanks to a Pittsburg State fumble and a pair of costly penalties — added three more touchdowns, including Michael Hill’s two-yard run with seven seconds left that made it 42-7.
Simply, things took a nasty turn and the Gorillas didn’t respond.
“There was a point in the second quarter where we didn’t play as hard as we needed to and that was a little bit frustrating,” Beck said. “We gave up a couple of big plays and they capitalized on a couple key turnovers.”
Despite the lopsided final score, Western outgained the Gorillas just 453-401. Abenoja threw for 225 yards — 153 to Brown — for the Gorillas while Partridge threw for 213 yards on 9-of-14 passing. Hill rushed for 116 yards and three touchdowns.
Pitt State was hampered by five turnovers. Three were turnovers on downs, including two in the second half deep in Pitt State territory that set up more Western touchdowns.
That, combined with the Griffons’ big plays, spelled doom for the Gorillas.
“Bottom line is our best players aren’t outplaying their best players right now,” Pitt State junior linebacker Nate Dreiling said. “That’s something we have to fix.”
The Gorillas, their playoff hopes now in serious jeopardy if not wiped out, have three guaranteed games remaining to right their ship after back-to-back losses.
“The captains need to step up,” said Dreiling, who is a captain. “The seniors and leaders need to step up and pull this thing back together.”