By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
Don’t ask the Pittsburg State Gorillas about their 18-game winning streak over Missouri Southern.
Or about how that streak, Pitt State’s struggles over the last month and Missouri Southern’s recent wins might put all the pressure of today’s Sonic Miner’s Bowl squarely onto the Gorillas’ backs.
“We don’t even think about that,” senior center Aaron Kolich said. “We didn’t even know (how long the streak was) until a couple days ago. We’re focused, really, on ourselves after last week. Just getting better individually and as a whole.”
Senior defensive end Gus Toca echoed those sentiments.
“We don’t really look at that,” he said of the streak. “We’re excited to play them. They’re a great team.”
Instead of worrying about that streak, the Gorillas have tried to spend their practice time this week preparing for MSSU’s triple-option attack — an offense that Pitt State employed for years and one that head coach Tim Beck has plenty of experience running, but not much experience defending.
“For years and years and years we ran triple option and split-back veer here and you know as a coach that it’s hard to prepare for triple-option football, especially under-the-center triple-option football in just three days,” Beck said.
In preparation, Beck had his team don full pads and go full-contact this week. Normally, in an effort to stay as healthy as possible, the Gorillas don’t go full-contact before games.
“Any time you face an offense that is completely different than you see all year, you have to make some adjustments,” Beck said. “We haven’t practiced any longer than we normally do, but we wanted to be in full pads so we could try to get the full effect of the things they do and the cut blocks and things like that.”
Beck said he hopes that will help his team prepare for the Lions’ attack and help get the Gorillas past their recent string of allowing big plays.
“We’ve taken some chances and given up some big plays and those are things we obviously have to do a better job of,” he said. “And a lot of that is just doing a better job of blocking and tackling. We didn’t do a good job of tackling against Lindenwood.”
The Gorillas have also faced questions over the last few weeks regarding intensity and effort after opponents strike for big plays.
Beck admitted after losses to Missouri Western and Lindenwood that some of his players didn’t have the intensity throughout the game needed to win in the MIAA.
“We’ll have to do a better job of it than we did last week. We’ll get our tails beat if we don’t,” he said. “Bottom line is, we have to play with more intensity than we did at times a week ago. We got momentum swinging back our way then they get a big play and it deflated us and we didn’t handle it well. It’s basically something we’ve been battling since Arrowhead.”
Pitt State naturally expects the Lions to come out with intensity and energy to spare, playing on Senior Day with a seemingly good chance to end the 18-game losing streak to the Gorillas.
But Kolich declined to comment on whether some of the talking Missouri Southern’s players did earlier in the week about beating the Gorillas would serve as any motivation.
“We don’t really pay attention to media. We haven’t all year,” he said. “We don’t like to because a lot of people say a lot of things and it’s easy for young minds like us ... it’s easy to get in our heads and get us thinking. So we choose not to listen to any of that.”