By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
BOLIVAR, Mo. —
The Pittsburg State defense performed in a big way on Saturday.
The Gorillas recovered four fumbles, applied four sacks, intercepted a pass and held Southwest Baptist to 33 rushing yards among a lackluster 139 total.
PSU, ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division II football, won 52-9 in the MIAA game before 1,859 at Plaster Stadium.
The Gorillas, 3-0 in the MIAA, made it 20-for-20 against the Bearcats (0-3 in the league).
PSU quarterback Anthony Abenoja completed 17 of 27 yards for 259 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.
But PSU trailed 7-0 and didn’t score until Abenoja and John Brown hooked up for a 26-yard scoring pass with 2:19 minutes left in the opening period. Connor Frazell’s kick tied it.
Said PSU head coach Tim Beck: “It was important that we got that first touchdown. It made us feel better about ourselves and, after that, field position seemed to change.”
The touchdown launched a remarkable turnaround for the Gorillas.
Nate Dreiling’s interception and 28-yard return to the Bearcat 9 set up the Gorillas’ Briceton Wilson for a 4-yard scoring run at 0:36 on second-and-goal.
PSU’s Robert McField then forced a fumble after a short pass completion from the SBU 15. Graylon Sanders scooped up the loose ball at the 17 and raced into the end zone to make it 21-7 at 0:09.
Said Beck: “Coach Wiemers (defensive coordinator Dave Wiemers) and his staff did a great job of preparing the kids. This was important, too, just like the first touchdown.”
Abenoja had a short field with which to work on the Gorillas’ first possession in the second period and promptly hit Andrew Castaneda with a 39-yard scoring strike on first down at 13:54.
Abenoja, out of the shotgun, faked a handoff to a running back and then faked a handoff to Brown, who was in motion, before throwing across the top to Castaneda, who dived into the end zone from the 3.
Frazell’s 32-yard field goal at 12:39 in the second quarter made it 31-7 at halftime.
Wilson scored from the 1 and Jason Spradling from the 14 for PSU TDs in the third quarter.
Solomon Watkins’ 1-yard run closed out the scoring for PSU in the final period and Iola’s Frazell followed with his seventh extra point to give the Gorillas 52 points in a row.
The Bearcats came up with a safety at 2:25 to finish the scoring.
The SBU touchdown came at 7:42 in the first period on Dan Connors’ 8-yard pass to Derw Lauderdale.
The Gorillas’ Brown caught six passes for 119 yards and Castaneda four for 53. Brown, in addition to the scoring pass, had two exceptional receptions. The second, good for 38 yards to help set up a score, came with Brown on his back. The ball was batted into the air by the defender and Brown and Brown nabbed it.
Wilson carried 11 times for 42 yards and Watkins a dozen for 41.
Rain didn’t fall in the second half after a steady but light rain in the first half.
“Luckily, there wasn’t a game on it (natural surface) last night,” Beck said. “Luckily, the rain quit.”
The teams remain in the MIAA next Saturday with PSU entertaining Lincoln at 7 p.m. and SBU visiting Missouri Southern at 6.