The new head football coach brought a new offense to Pittsburg State.
And based on his first performance with the more wide-open attack, Gorillas quarterback Mak Sexton is picking it up pretty well.
Sexton, who helped direct a triple-option attack last season, hit 25-of-46 passes for a career-high 398 yards and three touchdowns in the Gorillas' 31-26 home loss last weekend against Nebraska-Kearney. It was the fifth-highest passing game in school history and more than 100 yards more than his season best last year.
"Coach Wright is a genius," Sexton said. "We saw that in all his stats from Toledo. They had a top-5 offense in the country. We knew he was going to bring in some creativity, and I love it. I'm excited to learn every day from him.
"Just the way he explains things, reads coverages and explains route patterns, it's nothing like I've learned before. It's incredible honestly. It wasn't overwhelming. I think he did a good job of teaching the basics first and then expanding off that. We'll have like one route concept that we can run four or five different ways. They are called different plays, but it's the same concept."
Needless to say, Sexton, a sophomore from Leander, Texas, approves of the offensive change.
"I love it," he said. "That's the type of player that I am. I've heard the nickname 'Gunslinger.' It's a blast to play in this offense."
Gorillas coach Brian Wright new pretty quickly that Sexton would be a fit for the offense.
"When I first got here and started meeting with Mak, I learned quickly how he picked up the offense and that this was going to fit his style," Wright said. "And then we saw a couple of practices in the spring, probably didn't know a bunch then but once we really got into preseason this September, I knew he was going to be able to read the coverages how we want him to read them and be able to get the ball out in a timely manner like we like."
The Gorillas are back on the field today with their first road test of the abbreviated season, battling MIAA foe Missouri Western. Kickoff is 3 p.m. at Spratt Memorial Stadium.
The Griffons also dropped their season opener last week 52-10 to No. 11-ranked FCS Central Arkansas on the Bears' purple turf.
Griffons quarterback Antony Vespo was 16-of-25 for 143 yards last week. Cooper Burton made a team-high four catches, and Brandon Hall ran for 23 yards.
The Gorillas mounted a fourth-quarter comeback against the Lopers but came up short. They got one final opportunity in the last two minutes but turned the ball over on downs at the UNK 21 with 44 seconds left after four incomplete passes.
"Obviously it hurts losing any game, especially one like that," said senior defensive end Kaden Roy, who had 1.5 tackles for loss among his eight tackles last week. "But I think some positives that we took away was just our fight. We showed a lot of grit. There were some questions about how we would respond to adversity, and I think we did a really good job of that. Not just on defense, offense, just every player in general."
Reviewing the film, Wright saw places for improvement.
"Too many missed assignments in all three phases of the game," he said. "In that football game against Kearney, you have to be very assignment-sound defensively to be able to stop the run game that they presented. On offense I'm disappointed that we had some mental errors on basic stuff that we've been doing for a long time. We needed to regroup this week and have a better week of practice so we're more assignment-sound for sure."
While Carnie Smith Stadium was only 25% full, the crowd made its presence felt.
"With the amount of people we had, it was very electric," Roy said. "Carnie Smith is pretty notorious for being a very live, active crowd, and last week it didn't change. Even though there weren't as many people in the stands, you still felt that energy, and we fed off of that very well."