PITTSBURG — John Brown rushed for three touchdowns and caught a pair of scoring passes as well to lead No. 9 Pitt State to a 51-28 victory over Missouri Southern Saturday (Nov. 12) in the Sonic Miner's Bowl at Brandenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium.
The victory, coupled by Central Missouri's 39-21 road win over No. 6 Washburn, gave Pitt State (9-1, 8-1 MIAA) the outright 2011 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Championship. Southern ends its season 3-7 overall and 2-7 in MIAA play.
Pitt State captured its first MIAA title since 2004 and the program's 11th MIAA crown since joining the conference in 1989. The Gorillas also claimed their 30th all-time conference title in the 104-year history of the Pitt State football program.
The Gorillas are now headed to the NCAA Division II playoffs for the first time since 2008; and Pitt State will await the NCAA selection announcement scheduled for 4 p.m. (CST) Sunday (Nov. 13).
The Gorillas jumped out to a fast 20-0 lead on the Lions, capitalizing on windy conditions in the opening period.
Pitt State forced Southern into a 3-and-out and a 10-yard punt to grab the ball at the MSSU 28 to start the game. Four plays later, Eric Love slammed into the end zone from four yards out for a 7-0 lead.
The Gorillas forced another 3-and-out and MSSU's punt went just nine yards into the wind before Pitt State's De'Vante Bausby scooped it up and sprinted 19 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead with 10:06 to play in the first quarter.
Brown added a four-yard scoring run with 2:10 remaining in the period to give Pitt State a 20-0 advantage. Chase McCoy's extra-point attempt was blocked.
The Lions countered by scoring 22 points in the final 5:29 of the second quarter to jump back into the game.
Bryant Venson broke loose for a 29-yard scoring run and Kellen Cox then carried the ball in for a successful 2-point conversion to cut the margin to 20-8.
Moments later, Zac Dickey hit Brown for a 76-yard touchdown pass to make it 27-8 with 4:14 to play in the first half.
Southern's Collin Howard then countered with a 72-yard scoring connection to Ne'Ronte Threatt to make it a 27-15 game at the 3:30 mark of the period; and the Lions then tackled PSU punter Jake Craig on a botched punt attempt at the PSU 18 to set up a final scoring drive.
Kyle Webster, who rushed eight times for 91 yards in the contest, ran the ball in from nine yards out to make it a 27-22 contest with 1:16 remaining in the period.
Dickey converted a big 36-yard third-down pass to Brown on PSU's ensuing drive and the Gorillas turned the drive into a 29-yard field goal by McCoy and a 30-22 halftime advantage.
Brown added scoring runs of one yard and 25 yards and then capped Pitt State's offensive output with a 13-yard catch from Dickey midway through the fourth quarter. He finished the game with five receptions for a career-high 146 yards and he rushed the ball four times for 34 yards.
Dickey completed 14 of 25 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. He also rushed 17 times for 56 net yards.
Howard was 23-for-42 passing for 245 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions for the Lions. Threatt had eight grabs for 107 yards and two scores.
Elijah Olabode made seven tackles with an interception and three pass breakups for the Gorillas, while Gus Toca logged 3.0 quarterback sacks and four tackles-for-loss in the game.