By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
Don’t call it panic mode.
But things have definitely taken a serious turn at Pittsburg State.
That’s what happens after a midseason loss — in this case a 31-21 setback to Northwest Missouri that saw the Gorillas blow a 14-point third-quarter lead — in a crowded, competitive region.
One loss hurts. Two losses could end a team’s playoff hopes.
“We were really looking for a good response from the guys from last weekend and I think we got it this week,” said Pitt State defensive coordinator Dave Wiemers, who sat in for an ill head coach Tim Beck during the team’s weekly press conference. “They hopefully switched over a little bit to desperation mode. We don’t ever really want to say that as we’re coaching ... but we got a great response and we need it for the Western game.”
The Western game comes today, when the equally desperate Missouri Western Griffons — who suffered an upset of their own last week — invade Carnie Smith Stadium for a 2 p.m. homecoming clash.
The Gorillas fell from No. 1 in the nation to No. 7 after their loss at Arrowhead. Western fell to No. 16 from No. 4 after its home 31-30 loss to Missouri Southern.
“It’s going to be a grudge match and we can either win it or lose it in the trenches. It always starts with the offensive and defensive line,” Pitt State senior offensive lineman Aaron Kolich said. “Both teams are coming off a loss and we never want to have two losses in one season and I’m sure they’re thinking the same thing.
“We’re going to come out firing at each other. It will be fun to watch.”
While Griffon quarterback Travis Partridge is having an impressive season — completing 63 percent of his passes for 1,302 yards and 17 touchdowns — Western is driven by Michael Hill.
Hill, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound senior, leads the MIAA and ranks third nationally with an average of 161 rushing yards per game. He averages 7.1 yards per carry and has six touchdown through seven games.
“His strength is phenomenal,” Wiemers said of Hill. “He’s got a really low center of gravity and his pad level is down when he hits on contact. He’s extremely difficult to tackle and he has been for a couple years.”
The Gorillas hope they respond from last week’s loss the same way they bounced back from their lone loss a season ago. After being handled by Washburn at home, Pitt State ran the table — including a payback win over the Ichabods — and won a national title.
After licking the wounds that were inflicted at Arrowhead, the Gorillas say they’re ready to see if they can duplicate that 2011 rebound.
“The first couple of days, as you could imagine, we’re pretty tough, just handling it and realizing the failure that happened,” junior linebacker Nate Dreiling said of the Northwest loss. “But we got back on the horse and we’re ready to roll again.
“The playoffs have definitely started for us. We can’t lose from here on out. That’s a little added pressure, but with pressure I think people get a little more involved ... they know we have no room for error.”