PITTSBURG — No. 7 Pitt State dialed up a defensive gem as the Gorillas rallied from an early 9-0 deficit to defeat No. 15 Washburn, 31-22, at Brandenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs Saturday (Nov. 26).
The victory sends the MIAA champion Gorillas (10-1) into the NCAA-II quarterfinals on Dec. 3 when Pitt State will host No. 10 NW Missouri State at 1 p.m. (CST), while Washburn ends its season with a 10-3 record. The Bearcats (11-2) rallied from a 31-17 fourth-quarter deficit to defeat No. 2 Midwestern State, 38-31, in overtime at Wichita Falls, Texas, to advance to the Super Region Four finals against Pitt State.
Tickets for next Saturday's quarterfinal game will go on sale at the PSU Ticket Office at 8:30 a.m. Monday (Nov. 28). PSU season ticket holders will have until the close of business Tuesday (Nov. 29) at 4 p.m. to purchase their tickets. Any unsold season tickets will be released to the general public Wednesday (Nov. 30). Pitt State did sell nearly 1,000 advanced tickets for next week's matchup following Saturday's game at Carnie Smith Stadium.
Zac Dickey passed for 202 yards and a go-ahead 38-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Castaneda in the second quarter Saturday, as Pitt State charged back from an early 16-7 deficit. He also rushed 19 times for a game-high 94 yards in the contest.
The Pitt State defense, which surrendered 515 yards in a 43-25 home loss to Washburn on Nov. 5, limited the Ichabods to 22 net rushing yards and 238 total yards in the contest.
The Gorillas held Harlon Hill finalist Dane Simoneau in check in the contest too, holding the senior quarterback to 14-for-40 passing with two interceptions.
Washburn scored a safety 44 seconds into the game when the Gorillas snapped the ball over punter Jake Craig's head and out the back of the end zone.
Following the ensuing free kick, Washburn drove the ball 46 yards in eight plays with Simoneau hitting Matt Kobbeman for a 17-yard touchdown pass and a 9-0 lead with 10:32 to play in the opening period.
The Gorillas got on the board with 10:41 to play in the second quarter when Mandel Dixon scored on a one-yard run to cap a 51-yard drive.
The Ichabods stretched their margin back to nine points three minutes later when Bryce Atagi jumped in front of an errant pass and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown and a 16-7 Washburn lead with 7:58 remaining in the second quarter.
From there, the Gorillas tallied 24 unanswered points to rally from the nine-point deficit and take control of the game.
Dixon punched in another short touchdown run – from two yards out – to make it a 16-14 game with 4:27 to play in the second quarter, and after a Washburn three-and-out, Dickey hit Castaneda with the go-ahead TD pass with 2:13 remaining before the half.
The Gorillas put together a 19-play, 76-yard drive in the third quarter that resulted in a 21-yard Chase McCoy field goal and a 24-16 Pitt State lead. The drive consumed 11 minutes, 12 seconds of the third-quarter game clock.
Pitt State then thwarted a pair of scoring opportunities by the Ichabods, holding Washburn on a 4th-and-4 play from the Gorillas 22 with 11:51 remaining in the contest and then on 4th-and-goal from the Gorillas 3 with 6:06 to play in the game.
Washburn had 1st-and-goal from inside the Pitt State 1 on the second drive, after Simoneau hit Tore Hurst with a 28-yard pass near the goal line. The Gorillas snuffed out a sneak by Simoneau and a pair of runs by Justin Cooper, before hurrying Simoneau into an incompletion on the 4th-down play.
The Gorillas then engineered a 97-yard scoring drive to take command of the game. After a pair of Jason Spradling rushes and a first down to the Pitt State 15, Dickey fired a 55-yard strike to John Brown to set the Gorillas up at the Washburn 30.
Three plays later, the Gorillas faced a 4th-and-1 play at the WU 21 and Dickey induced the Ichabods into an offsides call and a first down. Spradling then scored from 16 yards out on the next play to make it a 31-16 Pitt State lead.
Simoneau, who managed to complete just three of his first 16 second-half passes, was intercepted by Pitt State's Nate Dreiling two plays later. The Ichabods forced the Gorillas into a three-and-out and Simoneau gave Washburn one last chance with an 86-yard scoring drive that culminated with his 17-yard pass to Hurst with 26 seconds to play.
Needing a PAT to make it a one-possession game, Washburn's Jeremy Linn bounced the conversion try off the left upright to leave it a 31-22 game.
Dreiling recovered the Ichabods' onside kick attempt and the Gorillas ran out the remainder of the clock to claim the victory.
Spradling rushed 17 times for a career-high 80 yards for the Gorillas, who finished the game with 54 carries for 206 yards. Brown caught six passes for a game-high 119 yards.
Hurst had four catches for 69 yards and Cooper added four grabs for 45 yards for the Ichabods. Cooper, who rushed 28 times for 159 yards and two TDs in the Washburn win on Nov. 5, managed just 22 yards on 17 carries Saturday.
Topeka native Luke Stringer made a team-leading seven tackles for the Gorills, while Dreiling had five stops, including 1.5 TFLs and the interception.
Jahmil Taylor and Casey Curran had 17 tackles apiece for the Ichabods.