First-year Pittsburg State football coach Brian Wright praised his team’s effort on the road at NCAA FCS member Stephen F. Austin.
The result, however, wasn’t the one the Gorillas desired.
Stephen F. Austin scored the game’s final 16 points to pull away for a 26-7 victory over PSU on Saturday at Homer Bryce Stadium in Nacogdoches, Texas, improving the Lumberjacks’ season record to 6-3 while the Gorillas slipped to 1-2.
SFA built a 10-0 lead in the first quarter before the Gorillas got on the scoreboard with an eight-play, 91-yard drive that was capped by a 43-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Mak Sexton to wide receiver Christian Carter, trimming the Lumberjacks’ advantage to three points with 11:31 remaining in the second quarter.
But from there, PSU went scoreless on its final 10 possessions as SFA tacked on a field goal and two touchdowns to secure a sixth consecutive victory.
“There are areas we’ll have to improve once we’re able to go back and watch the film, but overall, I’m proud of how our guys played together all night,” Wright said on a postgame radio broadcast. “They played extremely hard. We’re building something special, and our guys are buying into that.”
Coming out of halftime, the Gorillas trailed 13-7 and received the kickoff to start the third quarter. But on the first play, a 10-yard reception by Dylan White ended in a strip fumble that was recovered by the Lumberjacks at the PSU 35-yard line.
Three plays later, SFA quarterback Trae Self connected with wide receiver Xavier Gipson for a 23-yard touchdown pass that extended the lead to 20-7.
The offensive woes only continued for the Gorillas, who ended up turning the ball over on their first five possessions of the second half. Overall, seven of PSU’s drives ended by either an interception, a lost fumble or a turnover on downs.
Also hindering the PSU offense was its lack of conversions on third- (4-11) and fourth-down (0-4) attempts. The Gorillas’ inability to sustain drives resulted in a near 13-minute advantage in time of possession for the Lumberjacks (36:16 to 23:44).
“I’m certainly disappointed in that,” Wright said. “I thought we would move the ball better than we did. When it came time to converting on third down and fourth down, we just didn’t have enough.”
SFA recorded its final score early in the fourth quarter when Self logged his second touchdown pass of the day on a 17-yard strike to wide receiver Remi Simmons, ballooning the lead to 19 points with 13:50 remaining.
The PSU defense, on the field for the majority of the game, bowed its back on several occasions to force four punts and hold the Lumberjacks to field goals on two drives. However, SFA still managed to amass 390 yards of total offense, with 249 yards coming via the pass.
“They (PSU’s defense) were on the field a long time tonight, and some of that is not getting off the field on third and fourth down, and some of that is on our offense,” Wright said. “One thing I’ll say, though, is that I’m so proud of how they played and how they kept playing hard till the very end.”
The Lumberjacks drove 60 yards in 15 plays to open the game before settling for a 32-yard field goal by Campos. Self added a two-yard touchdown run with six seconds remaining in the first period, giving SFA a 10-0 lead after the Lumberjacks twice converted on fourth-down plays to extend the drive.
Sexton completed 21-of-34 passes for 199 yards. Wide receiver Jalen Martin caught seven passes for a game-high 118 receiving yards, while running back Tyler Adkins carried the ball 11 times for 74 yards.
The Gorillas finished with 346 yards total offense.
PSU closes out its abbreviated four-game season next Saturday when it travels to Canyon, Texas, to face fellow NCAA Division II member West Texas A&M.