Pittsburg State football coach Tim Beck knows who the Gorillas will start at quarterback in their season opener at Central Oklahoma.

He just wasn't willing to share the information during his weekly press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

"For the first time in a long time we'll have a new quarterback," Beck said. "We have three quarterbacks, and I wouldn't be surprised if any one of the three played. Our team knows who the starting quarterback is, but we're really not focused on that too much because all three of our guys — and even B.J. Bradbury — have had plenty of reps during fall camp. All three of them are ready to go, and we'll find out on Thursday."

The candidates are 6-foot-3 sophomore Matt Harman, 5-11 sophomore Brandon Mlekus or 6-1 redshirt freshman Mak Sexton. Harman appeared in seven games last season, completing 29-of-62 passes for 338 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Bradbury, 6-1 sophomore, was the probable starter entering camp but he's still recovering from a shoulder injury. He played in six games last year, hitting 21-of-36 passes for 252 yards, four TDs and three interceptions.

"He's made progress from when he got here on Aug. 9," Beck said. "We're not sure how much longer, but he's continuing to practice ... and hopefully get him ready as soon as we can.

"We have a system that we're going to use offensively, and we're going to plug that quarterback in and do what we've practiced," Beck said. "But there are certain things that some of them do better than others for sure. I think there's a chance (that all three will play). There are a lot of factors that go into it ... how many plays we play on offense, how hot it is, how humid it is, how many long-play drives do you go on. We'll have to wait until we get in the game and see."

Tonight's game matches two teams near the top of the preseason poll. Pittsburg State was picked third in the poll, one spot ahead of the Bronchos. And in career NCAA Division II victories, Pittsburg State is first with 711, and Central Oklahoma is fourth with 635.

For the Gorillas, the 7 o'clock kickoff can't get here soon enough.

"Man, that was the longest camp I've ever been through," senior defensive tackle Simanu'a Thomas said. "It felt like we're never going to play a game. There's been a lot of buzz (during game week), especially with a great team like UCO. You can't ask much more than that. It's going to be a lot of fun I feel."

"It's been long, longer than normal it seems like," Beck said. "Even though it hasn't been more practices, I think because there has been a lot of college football played and we haven't played yet ... it just seems like we should have a game in by now. We've been in school for a while, and we've been at camp for quite a long time. As it gets closer, it never changes for our coaching staff. The excitement is at an all-time high for us."

The Gorillas return 13 starters — seven on offense, six on defense — from last year's 8-3 team.

"One of the biggest strengths is we have a lot of guys who have played in the MIAA, who understand what it takes to win games in the conference," Beck said. "I think overall as a team we have really good speed at all positions. We feel like we have a quick team. They did a good job of being in shape coming into fall camp."

Like Pittsburg State, the Bronchos also could use three quarterbacks tonight.

Keats Calhoun began last season as the starter but suffered a season-ending knee injury in the third game.

Chandler Garrett stepped in under center and promptly directed a victory over Northwest Missouri in the fourth game, but two weeks later he was injured and out for the season.

Will Collins assumed the role and threw for more than 1,700 yards and 14 touchdowns in the last half of the season, capped by a 41-34 victory over Angelo State in the Heart of Texas Bowl.

"All three of them have won games in the MIAA," Beck said. "Every single quarterback has things they are better at than the next guy. I don't foresee UCO changing what they do offensively a lot with any of the three. ... They have a really good system that they run, and all three of those guys are guys they can plug into their offense."


Kickoff: 7 p.m.

Site: Wantland Stadium, Edmond, Okla.

Records: Season opener for both teams.

Coaches: Tim Beck, 10th year at PSU (76-30). Nick Bobek, 8th year at UCO (38-41).

Series: PSU leads 10-4-1 after last year's 21-7 home victory. The Gorillas are 5-1-1 on the road against the Bronchos.

PSU in openers: The Gorillas are 68-38-5 in their 111-year history, including 34-6-1 since 1978. PSU is 9-1 in its last 10 road openers dating back to 1997.

Radio: KSHQ (100.7 FM), KWXD (103.5 FM), 6 p.m.

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