No. 21 Gorillas to Open 2013 Campaign Against NSU Saturday - KOAM TV 7

No. 21 Gorillas to Open 2013 Campaign Against NSU Saturday



The Pittsburg State University football team, the preseason No. 21 ranked team in NCAA Division II, will make its 2013 season debut Saturday (Sept. 7) when the Gorillas host MIAA rival Northeastern State University.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. (CDT) at Brandenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium.

Pittsburg State, the winningest all-time NCAA Division II program, returns 15 starters (seven offense, eight defense) from a 2012 squad that posted a 7-3 record.

Northeastern State, which begins its second season as a MIAA member, is coming off a 4-6 record. The RiverHawks closed out the 2012 season with four straight wins after opening the season 0-6. NSU returns 15 starters (six offense, nine defense) from a year ago.

The Coaches
Tim Beck enters his fourth season as head coach at Pitt State with a 26-10 (.722) career record.  
Beck led his alma mater (PSU, '88) to the 2011 NCAA Division II National Championship two seasons ago, earning national coach of the year honors from Liberty Mutual, the Don Hansen Football Committee and FieldTurf™.

Beck became the school's 14th all-time head football coach in December 2009, after serving for 23 seasons as an assistant coach for the Gorillas including 16 years as the team's offensive coordinator from 1994-2009.

In his first season leading the Gorillas, Beck guided Pitt State to a 6-6 record and a victory in the 2010 Mineral Water Bowl.  In 2011, Beck led the Gorillas to the program's second NCAA national championship and the school's fourth national title overall in a 13-1 campaign. Pitt State captured the MIAA Championship and ultimately the NCAA-II National Championship with a 35-21 victory over Wayne (Mich.) State on Dec. 17, 2011.

Last year, the Gorillas opened the season 5-0 before finishing the year 7-3 overall.

During his 16 seasons as offensive coordinator, the Gorilla offense consistently ranked among the finest units in NCAA Division II.

In 2008, Beck was selected the inaugural NCAA Division II Coordinator of the Year by FootballScoop.com, following a vote of his coaching peers.

In 2004, Beck's offensive unit established itself as the most prolific squad in the history of NCAA football.  PSU shattered a 118-year-old scoring record, scoring an amazing 837 points (55.8 ppg).  His squad also set the NCAA all division records for rushing (5,320 yards) and total offense (8,976 yards).

Beck's teams led Division II in scoring in two of the last six years (2004, 2006) and ranked in the top two nationally in total offense three times in the last six seasons (2004, 2005, 2006).  His squads ranked among the national rushing leaders every season, leading Division II in 1995 (318.8 ypg) and 2004 (354.7 ypg).  Beck's "multiple choice" option attack also compiled 16,483 passing yards (216.9 ypg) and 143 aerial touchdowns during the last six years.

Pitt State averaged a staggering 38.8 points and 442.5 yards of total offense per game during his tenure as offensive coordinator.

Prior to assuming the offensive coordinator's role, Beck served two years as Pitt State's defensive coordinator (1992-93).  He became a full-time assistant on the Pitt State staff in 1989, after serving first as a student assistant (1987) and then as a graduate assistant (1988).

This will be Beck's second meeting vs. the RiverHawks.  He is 1-0 vs. NSU.

Northeastern State's Kenny Evans begins his sixth year leading his alma mater and his sixth season as a collegiate head coach.  Evans (NSU, '82) returned to NSU after serving as an assistant coach for 28 years at six schools. Evans has guided the RiverHawks to a 20-35 (.364) overall record. This will be his second meeting vs. Pitt State. He is 0-1 vs. the Gorillas.

The Pitt State-Northeastern State Series
This will be the 31st all-time meeting between the Gorillas and the RiverHawks in a series that dates back to the 1912 season.

Pitt State holds a slight 14-12-2 advantage in the series. The Gorillas have won the only two contests between the two schools since 1970.

Pitt State posted a 41-20 victory over NSU in the 2012 season opener at Tahlequah, Okla., on Aug. 30.  Sophomore quarterback Tony Abenoja, making his first start under center for the Gorillas, passed for a school record 378 yards and two touchdowns in the contest.

Abenoja connected with junior wide receiver John Brown nine times in the contest for 140 yards and a pair of scores.  Brown compiled 270 all-purpose yards in the game, including returns.

Abenoja earned MIAA Offensive Player of the Week honors following the contest, while Brown garnered MIAA Special Teams Player of the Week recognition.

PSU's Regular Season Success
Pitt State has won 256 of its last 302 regular season games, posting a phenomenal 256-44-2 (.850) mark during the past 28 seasons (1985-2012).

PSU is 142-14-1 at home, 110-22-1 on the road and 4-8-0 at neutral sites in the regular season during that span.

Pitt State in the AFCA Top 25 Poll
Pitt State has been ranked in Division II's top 10 97 times in the last 178 polls and the Gorillas have been ranked in the top 25 poll in 152 of 178 weeks overall (dating back to the 1999 season).

The Gorillas were preseason ranked in the NCAA Division II top 25 for the 22nd time in the last 24 years in August when Pitt State was tabbed at No. 21. [for complete poll, see page 4]

Ground Game PSU's Bread and Butter…
Pitt State's success can be directly linked to its ability to rush the football.

Since the 1986 season, PSU has rushed for 200-plus yards in 278 of 330 overall games.  The Gorillas have posted a 246-31-1 (.887) record when they eclipse 200 yards rushing.  Pitt State is an even more impressive 135-6-0 (.957) when it eclipses 300 yards rushing.

By contrast, PSU is just 23-30-1 (.435) in the handful of games when it has been held below 200 yards rushing.

Since 1986, PSU has rushed the ball for the highest yardage total among all NCAA Division II programs, with 95,282 yards (including postseason competition) for an average of 288.7 yards per game.

… But Don't Overlook PSU Passing Attack
While it's no secret Pitt State's offensive success has been predicated on running the football, the Gorillas have unleashed a potent passing attack to compliment their stalwart running game.

Since the start of the 2004 season, the Gorillas have passed for 22,984 yards and 169 TDs, averaging 225.3 passing yards and 1.7 touchdown passes per game in the last 102 outings.

In 2012, quarterback Tony Abenoja established a new single-season passing record, averaging 233.0 passing yards per game.  As a team, Pitt State passed for 2498 yards (249.8 ypg) and 15 touchdowns on the season a year ago.

Quick Strike Offense
The Pitt State offense has exhibited a penchant for being a "quick strike" unit.

During the last eight seasons (2005-12), the Pitt State offense has generated 528 scoring drives (452 TDs, 76 FGs) and averaged just 2:54 of elapsed time per drive. [Overtime scoring drives not included in elapsed time figures.]

2005    97 scoring drives (86 TDs, 11 FGs)    2:40 elapsed time   
2006    79 scoring drives (72 TDs, 7 FGs)    2:14 elapsed time   
2007    64 scoring drives (55 TDs, 9 FGs)    3:02 elapsed time   
2008    69 scoring drives (61 TDs, 8 FGs)    3:23 elapsed time   
2009    49 scoring drives (44 TDs, 5 FGs)    3:21 elapsed time
2010    41 scoring drives (34 TDs, 7 FGs)    3:04 elapsed time
2011    78 scoring drives (60 TDs, 18 FGs)    2:54 elapsed time
2012    51 scoring drives (40 TDs, 11 FGs)    2:58 elapsed time

The Gorillas have been highly successful when they are quick out of the gates.  Pitt State has scored on its opening drive 46 times (38 TDs, 8 FGs) in the last 96 games, posting a 43-3 (.935) record in those games. By contrast, Pitt State is 26-24 (.520) in games it doesn't score on its opening drive during the same span.

Pitt State Displays Prolific Offense
The Pitt State offense has asserted itself as one of the top units in NCAA Division II the past nine seasons (2004-12).

Pitt State's high octane "multiple choice" offense ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 nationally in both scoring and total offense in three of the last seven seasons.

In 2004, PSU staked its claim as the most prolific offense in the history of NCAA football, leading Division II in scoring (55.8 ppg), rushing (354.7 ypg) and total offense (598.4 ypg).

Pitt State broke the NCAA's 118-year-old all-time all division scoring record with 837 points, besting the old mark of 765 points set by Harvard in 1886.  The Gorillas also broke the all-time NCAA all division records for rushing (5,320 yards) and total offense (8,976 yards) in 2004.

Oklahoma set the previous rushing record (5,196 yards) in 1971, and Texas Tech held the previous total offense mark (7,576 yards) in 2003.

In 2005, Pitt State ranked second nationally in scoring and total offense, averaging 46.8 points and 536.0 total yards per game.  The Gorillas also ranked seventh nationally in rushing, averaging 295.2 yards a game.

In 2006, Pitt State led NCAA Division II in scoring and ranked No. 2 nationally in total offense, averaging 44.8 points and 454.8 total yards per game in 2006.

In 2007, the Gorillas ranked 21st nationally in scoring and 19th nationally in total offense, averaging 37.4 points and 454.2 total yards per game. In 2008, Pitt State ranked 18th nationally in scoring (35.5 ppg) and 21st in the nation in total offense (432.6 ypg).

In 2009, the Pitt State offense averaged 29.4 points and 434.4 total yards per game, while the Gorillas averaged 22.8 points and 357.7 total yards per game in 2010.

In 2011, the Gorillas ranked sixth nationally in scoring (40.2 ppg) and 19th in the country in total offense (448.5 ypg). Last year, the Gorillas ranked 24th nationally in total offense (454.4 ypg) and 27th in the country in rushing offense (204.6 ypg).

The Pitt State Offense
Junior quarterback Tony Abenoja is set to lead the high-powered Pitt State offense for a second season. Abenoja (6-3, 210) showcased a strong passing arm and flashes exceptional play during his rookie season as a starter.

The Overland Park, Kan., native earned honorable mention All-MIAA honors while passing for 2,330 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushing for 241 yards and three more scores. He set a school record by averaging 233.0 passing yards per game while directing a Pitt State "pistol" offense that generated 33.0 points and 454.4 total yards per game in 2012.

Sophomore Jeff Seybold, Jr. heads a cast of athletes battling to become the Gorillas feature running back.

Seybold (5-11, 208) battled back from a medical redshirt season to enjoy a solid spring camp. He has 63 career carries for 299 yards and two TDs in 10 games over two seasons for the Gorillas.

Redshirt freshmen Dre Holman (5-9, 209) and Steve Sullivan (5-10, 180) also capitalized on productive redshirt seasons and enter fall camp squarely in the mix for significant action for the Gorillas.

Senior Scott Lester (6-0, 224) and sophomore Brian Poston (6-0, 208) are expected to see significant action at the "B" back position.

At wide receiver, the Gorillas welcome back one of the most explosive players in NCAA Division II in senior John Brown, as well as a deep stable of play makers.

Brown (5-11, 170), a 2012 Harlon Hill Trophy finalist, earned consensus All-America honors as a junior in 2012. The Homestead, Fla., native finished the season ranked No. 2 in Division II in all-purpose yards (200.0 ypg) and No. 20 nationally in receiving yards (97.3 ypg).

Brown, a burner with 4.27 (second 40-yard dash) speed, caught 63 passes for 973 yards and eight touchdowns on the season. He enters the 2013 campaign as Pitt State's all-time receptions leader with 124 catches for 2,189 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Juniors Gavin Lutman and Luke Rampy also return with starting experience to the receiving corps. Rampy (5-9, 170) caught 18 passes for 311 yards (17.1 ypc) and two touchdowns in 2012, while Lutman (6-4, 201) added 13 grabs for 168 yards (12.9 ypc).

Senior Levi Kuntzsch (6-5, 211), junior Bradley Argabright (6-1, 182) and sophomores Austin Daniel (6-2, 201) and Herman Ming (6-2, 190) all are expected to see significant action for the Gorillas. Sophomore Marquis Cushon (5-10, 156) also moved to receiver from cornerback during spring drills.

A trio of players – senior Conner Combes (6-5, 250), junior Zach Bessette (6-3, 225) and redshirt freshman Kyle Swartz (6-3, 226) – are expected to lead Pitt State's tight end contingent.

Combes and Swartz both are returning from injury in 2012, while Bessette saw limited action in his first season in the program a year ago.

Up front, the Gorillas return three players who started all 10 games last year – senior tackle Cody Holland (6-6, 334) and junior guards Tyler Smith (6-4, 291) and Ollie Venegas (6-3, 300).

Holland, a three-year starter with 29 career starts, will move to left tackle this fall. The Neosho, Mo., native earned second-team All-MIAA and honorable mention All-America honors during his junior campaign.

Senior Taylor Peak (6-2, 267) is expected to start at center, while junior Boston Higgins (6-3, 269) will start at right tackle.

The Pitt State Defense
The Gorillas also feature a veteran cast on the defensive side of the ball, led by senior linebacker Nate Dreiling, who is bidding to become just the second position player in program history to earn All-America honors in all four seasons.

Dreiling (6-4, 226) made a team-leading 83 tackles (25 solo) with 9.5 tackles-for-loss and 4.0 quarterback sacks in 2012. He enters the 2013 campaign with 382 tackles, needing 89 stops to become the school's all-time tackle leader and 108 stops to set the MIAA record in the category.

In addition to Dreiling, Pitt State welcomes back a pair of talented linebackers in senior Joe Windscheffel and junior Tyler Disney.

Windscheffel (6-3, 228) and Disney (6-1, 214) posted nearly identical statistical numbers in 2012. Both players made 43 tackles, 2.0 tackles-for-loss and one interception apiece. Windscheffel did so starting nine games, while Disney drew one start last year.

In the secondary, the Gorillas welcome back a pair of All-MIAA safeties with starting experience in juniors Jason Peete and Keeston Terry.

Peete (6-3, 191) earned honorable mention All-MIAA honors as a junior in 2012, making 45 tackles with 4.5 TFLs as well as eight pass breakups. Terry (6-3, 198), who transferred to Pitt State from the University of Kansas, added 38 tackles and two interceptions on the season, also earning honorable mention All-MIAA recognition.

Sophomore Deron Washington (6-1, 191) and junior transfer Isaac Maselera (6-0, 181) figure to battle for the starting role at free safety.

At cornerback, juniors DeVante Bausby and Aries Herrion and sophomore Dino Teague look to provide veteran leadership.

Bausby (6-2, 164) posted 21 tackles, grabbed a pair of interceptions and broke up one pass during the 2012 season, while Herrion (5-10, 172) added 22 stops and an interception. Teague (6-0, 172) saw limited action a year ago, but it coming off a solid spring camp for the Gorillas.

Senior Israel Maselera (5-8, 158) and senior transfer James Caine (5-11, 180) also figure to battle for significant action.

The Gorillas' defensive line cast features an experienced group led by senior Joe Uzzel.

Uzzel (6-4, 233) earned honorable mention All-MIAA honors in 2012 playing primarily at defensive end where the made 36 tackles, including 8.0 TFLs and 3.0 quarterback sacks. The Catoosa, Okla., native figures to split time at defensive end and defensive tackle this year.

Junior Avery Adair (6-5, 228) also figures to see significant action at defensive end. Adair made 21 tackles with 6.0 TFLs and 4.5 quarterback sacks last year.

Sophomore Lewis Foutz (6-3, 227) and redshirt freshman Heath Wilson (6-3, 250) also are expected to vie for playing time at defensive end for the Gorillas.

Junior transfer Deaven Jensen (6-1, 237), junior Dallas Shalz (6-2, 228), sophomores Taye Irvin (6-1, 327) and Gavin Rainwater (6-2, 311) and senior Will Grissom (6-5, 269) return to the interior line.

Pitt State Special Teams
Junior Connor Frazell is expected to handle the Gorillas kicking chores again in 2013. Frazell (5-10, 183) converted 11 of 16 field goals and 39 of 41 PATs on the season last year.

Junior Griffin Knopp (6-3, 178) also figures to handle Pitt State's punting chores after booting the ball 21 times for a 41.9-yard average a year ago.

Brown remained a dynamic force in the return game as well as at wide receiver in 2012. He returned 28 punts for a 15.4-yard average with one touchdown and he returned 16 kickoffs for a 24.7-yard average as well.

Scouting the RiverHawks
Northeastern State returns 15 starters (six offense, nine defense) from last year's squad that posted a 4-6 record during the school's inaugural year in MIAA play.

The RiverHawks fell in their first six contests before closing out their 2012 campaign on a four-game winning streak.

Juinor running back Joel Rockmore (5-7, 185) returns to the squad after an All-MIAA sophomore campaign. The Fort Worth, Texas, native tallied 1,024 yards (5.51 ypc) and 10 touchdowns in nine games last season. Rockmore ranked second in the conference in rushing (113.8 ypg) and fifth in all-purpose yards (151.4 ypg). Senior quarterback Johnny Deaton (6-3, 210) completed 152 of 318 (.478) passes for 1861 yards with 10 TDs and 12 INTs last season.

Senior Linebacker Langston Jones (6-0, 205)) returns after receiving second-team All-MIAA honors in 2012. Jones led the conference in tackles with 110 (11.0 tpg). He also tallied 11.0 tackles-for-loss, 2.0 quarterback sacks and one interception on the season.

Senior defensive back Victor Johnson (6-1, 190) was second on the team with 82 tackles (46 solo), two INTs, seven pass breakups, and a fumble recovery.  Senior defensive back Vernon Jones (6-0, 175) also finished third in the MIAA with five interceptions. 

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