PITTSBURG, Kan. — For the second straight week, No. 23 Pittsburg State held off a late rally to come away with a win.
The difference between Week 1 and Week 2? Pittsburg State responded to Emporia State’s comeback bid in a big way, running away from the Hornets 47-23 on Saturday night before 8,597 fans at Carnie Smith Stadium.
The Gorillas (2-0) took a 13-7 lead over the Hornets (1-1) into the intermission and built the advantage to 23-7 midway through the third quarter. The Hornets rallied with 16 straight points to tie the game early in the fourth quarter.
Pittsburg State returned the favor, scoring the final 24 points to close out the win in dominating fashion.
Pittsburg State used field goals of 47 yards and 30 yards from Jared Vincent and a one-yard rushing score from Tucker Horak to hold the 13-7 lead over Emporia State at the break, with the Hornets getting a nine-yard passing score from Dalton Cowan to JT Mackey late in the first quarter.
Vincent connected from 24 yards out five minutes into the third quarter, and Cowan’s third-and-long pass on the ensuing drive was tipped by Jermaine Brealy Jr. and picked off by Webb City product KiAnte Hardin, who returned the ball to the ESU 4. Two plays later, Horak found paydirt from a yard out to put PSU up 23-7 with 7:40 to play.
Emporia State’s Carlos Grace answered with a 71-yard rushing score, with Cowan converting the 2-point conversion on a pass to Andre Thomas-Cobb, to cut Pittsburg State’s lead to 23-15 with 4:44 to play in the third.
The Hornets rallied all the way back following a second straight three-and-out by Gorillas with an eight-play, 86-yard drive culminating in a five-yard touchdown run from Cowan, who completed the 2-point conversion pass to Thomas-Cobb again to tie the game at 23-23 with 14:55 remaining in the game.
The Gorillas were in danger of another three-and-out when Mak Sexton found Pittsburg product Elijah Harris for a 30-yard gain on third down-and-16 to move the chains on the ensuing drive. Sexton hit West on the next play for 28 yards and went to West again, drawing a pass interference to put the Gorillas at the ESU 2-yard line. Tyler Adkins finished the drive from two yards out to put Pittsburg State back on top 30-23.
After the Emporia State nine-play drive came up empty after a 30-yard field-goal attempt by Clark Schoonover doinked off the right upright, Pittsburg State marched 80 yards and took a two-score lead on a four-yard rushing score by Adkins, extending the lead to 37-23 with 6:51 on the clock.
After Vincent connected from 35 yards out — his fourth field goal on the night and seventh in two games — the Gorillas put the game away when Hardin came up with his second interception of the day, picking off Cowan’s first-down pass at the 3:52 mark and taking it 45 yards to the end zone to ice the win.
Adkins rushed for 49 yards on 10 carries to lead the Gorillas, while Kiah Kintchen added 47 yards on six touches. Frontenac product Brandon Mlekus started under center and accounted for 16 rushing yards and 53 passing yards. Sexton completed 16-of-20 passes for 190 yards. West led the team with 88 receiving yards on four catches.
Grace rushed for 135 and a score on 16 carries to lead the Hornets, while Cowan completed 19-of-33 passes for 174 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions.
Pittsburg State hosts Northeastern State at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Carnie Smith Stadium.