Jeff Seybold, Jr. rushed for 115 yards and three touchdowns and the Pittsburg State University defense came up with key stops to help the No. 10 ranked Gorillas host off NCAA FCS newcomer Abilene Christian University, 28-20, before 10,981 Homecoming fans at Brandenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium.
The Gorillas (5-0) scored 17 unanswered first-half points to turn an early 7-0 deficit into a 17-7 lead against the Wildcats (3-3).
ACU's Tyler Chapa returned a Tony Abenoja interception 32 yards for a touchdown to stake the Wildcats to a 7-0 lead with 8:52 to play in the opening period, but the Gorillas – who found themselves trailing for the first time on the season – countered with a three-yard scoring run by Seybold to knot the score five minutes later.
Connor Frazell added a 28-yard field goal to give Pitt State a 10-7 lead with 9:46 to play in the second quarter and Seybold capped the 17-point run with a seven-yard touchdown burst with 4:21 remaining in the first half.
ACU trimmed the margin to 17-14 when John David Baker hit Taylor Gabriel for a three-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds to play in the first half.
Frazell booted a 29-yard field goal midway through the third period to give the Gorillas a 20-14 edge and Seybold capped a quick four-play, 73-yard drive with an eight-yard run with 6:35 to play in the period. Abenoja ran in the 2-point coversion try to give Pitt State a 28-14 edge.
Neither team scored again until the Wildcats put together a time consuming 18-play, 80-yard drive that devoured 9:00 of play clock before Darrell Cantu-Harkless hauled in a seven-yard touchdown pass from Baker with 2:31 remaining in the contest. Baker mishandled the snap on the ensuing PAT try and Pitt State's Jason Peete tackled him to keep the score 28-20.
The Gorillas recovered an onside kick attempt, but three plays later were forced to punt the ball to ACU with 1:44 remaining. Griffin Knopp got away a 43-yard punt that Peete downed on the ACU 1 yard line with 1:31 to play.
The Wildcats picked up a pair of first downs before Baker was sacked by Deaven Jensen and the ball squirted loose before Avery Adair recovered it to seal the victory for the Gorillas.
Abenoja completed 14 of 25 passes for 196 yards in the contest. He completed two balls for a team-leading 71 yards to Austin Daniel. Gavin Lutman also had five grabs for 35 yards.
Baker went 25 of 42 passing for 260 yards for the Wildcats, completing 10 passes for a game-high 117 yards to Gabriel.
The Gorillas sacked Baker four times and limited ACU to 10 net rushing yards on 24 carries in the contest.
Nate Dreiling led the way with 11 stops and two pass breakups for Pitt State, while Tyler Disney added 10 tackles, including three behind the line of scrimmage. DeVante Bausby added six tackles with an interception and three pass breakups.
The Gorillas will travel to Warrensburg, Mo., next Saturday (Oct. 12) to face MIAA rival Central Missouri at 1:30 p.m. (CDT).