TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Sophomore Tony Abenoja completed 26 of 36 passes for a school record 378 yards and two touchdowns to lead No. 1 Pitt State, the defending NCAA Division II national champion, to a 41-20 season-opening victory over MIAA newcomer Northeastern State.
Abenoja directed the Gorillas (1-0, 1-0 MIAA) to a score on their first drive of the season, hitting junior wide receiver John Brown in the end zone from eight yards out to cap a 12-play, 87-yard drive.
Abenoja connected with Brown nine times in the game or 140 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also tossed a three-yard second-quarter touchdown to sophomore tight end Brady Letchworth as Pitt State took a 21-6 lead at the intermission over NSU (0-1, 0-1 MIAA).
Abenoja, who passed Andy Majors' record 358 yards in the contest, shook off a pair of interceptions in the contest to post the big night in his Pitt State starting debut.
Overall, the Gorillas overcame four turnovers, including a pair inside the River Hawks 25 yard line in the first half.
In addition to his receiving total, Brown added three punt returns for 87 yards and a pair of kickoff returns for 43 yards. He totaled 270 all-purpose yards in the contest, despite having a punt return for a touchdown called back due to a penalty.
The Gorillas rushed the ball 40 times for 186 yards in the game, piling up 564 yards of total offense in the contest.
Senior running back Jason Spradling carried the ball nine times for a team-leading 52 yards, while junior fullback Stephen Poston added three carries for 33 yards. Senior running back Trezz Tillman added five carries for 27 yards, including a second-quarter touchdown, while sophomore runnint back Jeff Seybold had nine carries for 24 yards with a third-quarter score.
Defensively, Pitt State intercepted NSU quarterback Johnny Deaton three times with junior linebacker Nate Dreiling, sophomore linebacker Tyler Disney and senior safety Bryant Sanchez all snaring balls.
The River Hawks finished the game with 386 yards of offense. Deaton completed 15 of 38 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown, while Terrance Dixon rushed the ball 14 times for 128 yards and two scores.
Connor Frazell booted field goals of 29 and 37 yards for the Gorillas. He missed from 41 yards out.
The Gorillas will make their home opener next Saturday (Sept. 8) when they play host to Central Oklahoma at Brandenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium.