By Cody Thorn
Special to The Globe
PITTSBURG, Kan. - Junior quarterback Neal Philpot helped keep Pittsburg State's playoff hopes alive on Saturday, rushing for three touchdowns in a 27-7 victory over Missouri Western at Brandenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium.
The Gorillas entered the game tied with Missouri Western, Emporia State and Central Missouri for the lead in the MIAA, with 5-1 records. Both teams were also ranked in the Midwest Region, with PSU fourth and the Griffons eighth.
A loss for either team meant the end of a chance for the playoffs.
"Every game is important, a win today changes the complexion of things," said PSU coach Chuck Broyles. "It was a big game today. The whole complexion changed with Missouri Western. Now they have three losses and with so many teams with only one loss in the region, you can almost guarantee they can go pheasant hunting or recruit."
Central Missouri beat Washburn 49-28 while Emporia State trimmed Missouri-Rolla 44-27.
Pittsburg State (8-1, 6-1) got on the board first in the game, as they took advantage of a big special teams play.
Missouri Western was punting on fourth down at its 30-yard line, when Casey Warlop broke through the line to block Tristan Blagg's kick.
The ball bounced at the 32, where Blagg picked it up and ran, but was tackled short of the first down marker.
The Gorillas put together a seven-play drive, six carries by Philpot, that included a 1-yard score. Nathan Alleman's kick made it 7-0.
In the second quarter, the Gorilla defense forced a turnovers that turned into points.
The Griffons' Michael Cooper hit Derrick Pitts for a 9-yard completion, but the ball was knocked out of his hands at the 46. Josh Lattimer jumped on the ball for PSU.
The Gorilla threw a trick play into the offense, running a double-reverse pass, with Andy Majors connecting with Mike Ward for a 40-yard gain to the 1.
Majors normally plays quarterback, but with the injury to Jermaine Carpenter, he was shifted to wide reciever.
Philpot then scored on a quarterback sneak, making it 13-0. Alleman's extra point made it 14-0.
Majors and Philpot would play a big role on the final score of the first half.
With the ball at its 39-yard line, Philpot connected with Majors for a 51-yard gain.
On the next play, Philpot took the snap and scored his third touchdown.
"Going into this game we knew the quarterback could get a large number of carries," said Philpot. "I just had the chance to carry. We knew it would be a physical game, but gaining three or four yards a whack was big. It was working, so we would stay with it."
Missouri Western (6-3, 5-2) broke the shutout five seconds into the fourth quarter, with Kevin Young scoring on a 4-yard run.
The Griffons had the ball back four plays later and started to drive down the field. But an interception by Vernard Veasley halted the drive at the 44.
The Gorillas' final touchdown came during a 16-play drive, that was capped by Aaron McConnell scoring on a 7-yard run.
McConnell, 6-foot-3, 300 pounds, took the handoff and scored on a sweep to the left side of the line. Two would-be tacklers were unable to slow him down.
It was the defensive lineman's fourth touchdown of the year, tying him for third on the team.
Philpot rushed for 139 yards and three touchdowns on a career-high 34 carries. He passed for 155 yards in the game.
The Griffons redshirt freshman Kyle Westerberg passed for 127 yards, completing 11 of 21 passes playing only a half.
By Cody Thorn