KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Northwest Missouri State University made a key fourth quarter stand and the Bearcat offense in turn responded by rattling off 21 consecutive points in the game's final 10 minutes. The result: a 31-21 victory by the seventh-ranked Bearcats over the top ranked Gorillas in The Fall Classic at Arrowhead XI Saturday (Oct. 13).
Pitt State (5-1, 5-1 MIAA), which had won its last 10 games including the 2011 NCAA Division II National Championship, led 14-10 with the ball on the Northwest 17. Facing a 4th-and-1 play, the Gorillas elected an inside rush by Mandel Dixon. Matt Massey and Travis Chappelear combined to snuff out the carry for Northwest (6-1, 5-1 MIAA) and halt the potential scoring threat.
Two series later, following a Pitt State interception, the Bearcats pushed in front on Trevor Adams' 29-yard touchdown pass to John Hinchey with 10:18 to play.
The Bearcats forced a quick three-and-out by the Gorillas, then put together a seven-play, 61-yard drive that culminated in James Franklin's three-yard scoring run and a 24-14 edge with 5:06 to play in the game.
Tony Abenoja, who passed for 278 yards and three touchdowns in the game, then tossed a second interception – this one to Northwest's Nate DeJong. One play later, Franklin rambled into the end zone from 14 yards out for a 31-14 cushion 21 seconds later.
Pitt State made it interesting late by putting together a 13-play, 75-yard drive. Abenoja tossed a 12-yard touchdown pass to John Brown, his second of the game, but the Bearcats recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt.
The game, played before 15,349 fans at Arrowhead Stadium, started 51 minutes late – at 4:51 p.m. – thanks to the first of two extended lightning delays. With the score tied 0-0 and 10:36 on the game clock, another 45-minute delay followed.
When play resumed, Pittt State eventually put together a 13-play, 84-yard drive with Abenoja tossing a 13-yard touchdown to Brown to give the Gorillas a 7-0 lead with 5:04 to play in the second quarter. The Gorillas pushed their lead to 14-0 on the opening drive of the second half. Abenoja capped a seven-play, 87-yard with a 14-yard scoring pass to Luke Rampy.
The Gorillas outgained the Bearcats, 373 yards to 351 yards, and both teams committed a pair of turnovers with Pitt State's De'Vante Bausby twice intercepting Adams.
Franklin led all rushers with 20 carries for 115 yards and two scores, while Briceton Wilson had 13 carries for 71 yards for the Gorillas. Pitt State finished the game with just 95 net rushing yards on 39 carries.
Brown had eight grabs for 84 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, Nate Dreiling made a game-high 10 stops for the Gorillas, while Ricky Bailey and DJ Gnader made eight tackles apiece for the Bearcats.