PITTSBURG — MIAA newcomer Lindenwood utilized a pair of 80-yard scoring plays in the first half and added another 87-yard strike in the third period to stun No. 18 Pitt State, 44-33, on Senior Day Saturday (Nov. 3) at Brandenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium.
The loss knocks the defending NCAA Division II national champion Gorillas (6-3, 6-3 MIAA) out of post-season contention, while the Lions improved to 7-3 overall and 6-3 in conference play.
Lindenwood struck on the first play of the game when Denodus O'Bryant slid out of the backfield into the flat and took a pressured pass from quarterback Dillon Miller 80 yards for a score.
The Gorillas drove into LWU territory on their drive but had to punt after stalling at the Lions 39.
Pitt State, which held the ball for 35 minutes in the contest and outgained LWU 525 yards to 437 yards, missed another scoring opportunity early in the second quarter when Connor Frazell's 32-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.
On the ensuing play, O'Bryant broke loose for an 80-yard touchdown jaunt for a 14-0 LWU lead with 14:16 to play in the second quarter.
The Gorillas countered with Briceton Wilson's six-yard touchdown run, capping a 14-play, 75-yard drive. Frazell's extra-point was blocked by Justin Broome and LWU maintained a 14-6 lead.
The Lions stretched their margin to 17-6 on James Neal's 40-yard field goal and after a quick three-and-out by the Gorillas LWU struck with another big play -- this time with wide receiver Andrew Helmick snaring a 38-yard TD pass from Miller with 1:17 to play in the half.
Pitt State mounted an answering drive before the half with quarterback Tony Abenoja scoring on a four-yard run with four seconds to play in the half. Abenoja's two-point coversion attempt failed leaving it a 24-12 game at the half.
The Gorillas attempted to swing the momentum with a one-yard TD run by Mandel Dixon which drew the Gorillas within five points at 24-19 with 4:25 to play in the third quarter.
The Lions took the wind out of the comeback sails three plays later though when O'Bryant squirted free on a 3rd-and-13 screen pass and sped 87 yards to the end zone.
Pitt State muffed the ensuing kickoff return and after a three-and-out deep in its own territory LWU took over with the ball at the Gorillas 29.
Running back Nate Orlando then broke tackles and raced into the endzone for a 38-19 advantage with 1:27 remaining in the third period.
Abenoja tossed a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to wide receivers Andrew Castaneda and John Brown, but LWU countered with two field goals from Neal for the game's final 11-point margin.
O'Bryant carried 14 times for a game-high 147 yards and added two receptions for 167 yards and two scores. Miller completed nine of 14 passes for 226 yards and three TDs.
Abenoja completed 19 of 28 passes for 303 yards and two TDs, while adding 65 yards and a score on the ground. Castaneda had five grabs for a team-leading 108 yards, while Brown added five catches for 86 yards.
Connor Harris made a game-high 15 tackles for LWU. Nate Dreiling made 11 tackles and a pass breakup for the Gorillas.
Pitt State will close out the season next Saturday (Nov. 10) with a road game against Missouri Southern at Joplin, Mo.