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No. 9 Gorillas Set to Open Season Against RiverHawks - KOAM TV 7

No. 9 Gorillas Set to Open Season Against RiverHawks

Updated:
Press Release PSU:
 
The Pittsburg State University football team, the preseason No. 9 ranked team in NCAA Division II, will make its 2014 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 17 players who started five or more games (eight offense, nine defense) from a 2013 squad that posted a 10-2 record.

Northeastern State, which begins its third season as a MIAA member, is coming off a 2-9 campaign. The RiverHawks won two of their final three games a year ago after starting the season 0-8.

Saturday's game, sponsored by State Farm Insurance, has been tagged Gorilla Warfare, Call to Action, #CodeRed. Pitt State fans are encouraged to wear red shirts to Carnie Smith Stadium to support the Gorillas in their season debut.

The Coaches
Tim Beck enters his fifth season as head coach at Pitt State with a 36-12 (.750) career record.  

Beck led his alma mater (PSU, '88) to the 2011 NCAA Division II National Championship three 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.

In 2013, the Gorillas opened the season 5-0 before finishing the year 7-3 overall, while last year Pitt State posted the program's 20th all-time 10-win season during a 10-2 campaign.

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 third meeting vs. the RiverHawks.  He is 2-0 vs. NSU.

Rob Robinson begins his first season as head coach at NSU. Robinson (William Jewell, 200) took over the RiverHawks program after serving the past 12 years as an assistant coach at Washburn University, including the past four years as offensive coordinator for the Ichabods. Robinson served as a graduate assistant at Pitt State in 2001. This will be his first meeting vs. the Gorillas.

The Pitt State-Northeastern State Series
This will be the 30th all-time meeting between the Gorillas and the RiverHawks in a series that dates back to the 1912 season.

Pitt State holds a slight 15-12-2 advantage in the series. The Gorillas have won the only threecontests 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 Anthony Abenoja, making his first start under center for the Gorillas, passed for a school record 378 yards and two touchdowns in the contest. He earned MIAA Offensive Player of the Week honors following the contest.

Last year, Abenoja competed 18 of 24 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Gorillas offensive attack in a 45-6 victory on Sept. 7, again earning MIAA Offensive Player of the Week accolades.

The Pitt State defense limited NSU to 244 total yards in the game, with the RiverHawks gaining 115 of those yards in the fourth quarter.

PSU's Regular Season Success
Pitt State has won 265 of its last 313 regular season games, posting a phenomenal 265-46-2 (.850) mark during the past 29 seasons (1985-2013). PSU is 145-15-1 at home, 116-22-1 on the road and 4-9-0 at neutral sites in the regular season during that span.

Gorillas in Season Openers
Pitt State has compiled a 65-36-5 (.637) record in season openers over the program's 106-year history, including eight straight season-opening victories.
Since the 1978 campaign, Pitt State has built a 31-4-1 (.875) record in season openers with a 16-1 record the past 17 seasons. The Gorillas also are 18-1 in their last 19 season openers at Carnie Smith Stadium.

Pitt State in the AFCA Top 25 Poll
Pitt State has been ranked in Division II's top 10 105 times in the last 191 polls and the Gorillas have been ranked in the top 25 poll in 165 of 191 weeks overall (dating back to the 1999 season).

The Gorillas were preseason ranked in the NCAA Division II top 25 for the 23rd time in the last 25 years in August when Pitt State was tabbed at No. 9.

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 285 of 341 overall games.  The Gorillas have posted a 254-30-1 (.893) record when they eclipse 200 yards rushing.  Pitt State is an even more impressive 139-6-0 (.959) when it eclipses 300 yards rushing.

By contrast, PSU is just 25-32-1 (.440) 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 97,893 yards (including postseason competition) for an average of 287.1 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 26,000 yards and 198 TDs, averaging 228.1 passing yards and 1.7 touchdown passes per game in the last 114 outings.

In 2013, quarterback Tony Abenoja established a new single-season passing record, averaging 246.2 passing yards per game.  Also, against Lincoln on Sept. 28 Abenoja established new school single game records for passing yards (442), passing touchdowns (5) and total offense (463 yards).

The Gorillas averaged 247.7 passing yards with 31 touchdowns and five interceptions last year.

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

During the last nine seasons (2005-13), the Pitt State offense has generated 611 scoring drives (522 TDs, 89 FGs) and averaged just 2:47 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    2010    41 scoring drives (34 TDs, 7 FGs)    3:04 elapsed time
2006    79 scoring drives (72 TDs, 7 FGs)    2:14 elapsed time    2011    78 scoring drives (60 TDs, 18 FGs)    2:54 elapsed time
2007    64 scoring drives (55 TDs, 9 FGs)    3:02 elapsed time    2012    51 scoring drives (40 TDs, 11 FGs)    2:58 elapsed time
2008    69 scoring drives (61 TDs, 8 FGs)    3:23 elapsed time    2013    83 scoring drives (70 TDs, 13 FGs)    2:29 elapsed time
2009    49 scoring drives (44 TDs, 5 FGs)    3:21 elapsed time

The Gorillas have been highly successful when they are quick out of the gates.  Pitt State has scored on its opening drive 53 times (44 TDs, 9 FGs) in the last 108 games, posting a 50-3 (.943) record in those games. By contrast, Pitt State is 29-26 (.527) 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 10 seasons (2004-13). 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), while the Gorillas ranked 24th nationally in total offense (454.4 ypg) and 27th in the country in rushing offense (204.6 ypg) in 2012. Last year, Pitt State ranked third nationally in scoring (46.5 ppg) and 10th in the country in total offense (499.0 ypg).

The Pitt State Offense
Senior quarterback Anthony Abenoja is set to lead the high-powered Pitt State offense for a third season. Abenoja (6-3, 217) ranked in the top five nationally in passing efficiency in 2013, passing for 2,954 yards and a school record 30 touchdowns.

The Overland Park, Kan., native earned honorable mention All-MIAA honors for a second straight season in 2013. He set a school record by averaging 246.2 passing yards per game while directing a Pitt State "pistol" offense that generated 46.5 points and 499.0 total yards per game in 2013.

Junior Jeff Seybold, Jr. returns to the Pitt State backfield following an All-America sophomore campaign. The Lincoln, Neb., native earned first-team All-MIAA and honorable mention All-America accolades after rushing for 1,434 yards (7.1 ypc, 119.5 ypg) and 22 touchdowns in 2013. Seybold (5-11, 200) also caught 19 passes out of the backfield for the Gorillas a year ago.

Senior Solomon Watkins (5-10, 190) returns after overcoming a second knee injury in three seasons. The Sedalia, Mo., native has 456 career rushing yards with seven touchdowns.

Sophomore Dre Holman (5-9, 207) and junior Brian Poston (6-0, 215) enjoyed solid spring camps, and the Gorillas welcomed junior transfer Jamal Tyler (Garden City C.C.) to camp in August.

At wide receiver, the school's all-time leader in catches, yards and touchdowns – John Brown – was a third round draft choice of the Arizona Cardinals in the 2014 NFL Draft, but the Gorillas still welcome back six players with 68 combined catches for 1,301 yards and nine touchdowns from 2013.

Senior Gavin Lutman (6-4, 201) tops the returners list. The Peculiar, Mo., native had 36 receptions for 568 yards (15.8 ypc) and four TDs. Junior Marquise Cushon (5-10, 162), a Kansas City, Mo., native, also had 23 grabs for 402 yards (17.5 ypc) and three TDs, while junior Austin Daniel (Webb City, Mo.) had 14 catches for 251 yards (17.9 ypc) and one score.

Senior Bradley Argabright (6-1, 185), juniors Courtney Green (6-2, 210), Herman Ming (6-2, 186) and Andre Taylor (5-9, 162) and redshirt freshman Austin Panko (6-0, 186) all figure to vie for action for the Gorillas as well.

Sophomore Kyle Swartz (6-3, 245) and senior Brady Letchworth (6-3, 233) are expected to lead Pitt State's tight end contingent, along with sophomore Kyle Anderson (6-4, 234) and junior transfer Stewart Bandy (6-3, 240).

Up front, the Gorillas return a pair of All-MIAA performers and three players who started all 12 games last year – senior guards Ollie Venegas and Tyler Smith and senior tackle Boston Higgins.

Smith (6-4, 287), a three-year starter with 29 career starts, split time at center and guard a year ago. The Sand Springs, Okla., native earned third-team All-MIAA honors. He figures to start more exclusively at guard this season.

Venegas (6-3, 297), an Olathe, Kan., native, has 23 career starts to his credit. He received honorable mention All-MIAA recognition in 2013.

Higgins (6-3, 270), from Blue Springs, Mo., aso started all 12 games for the Gorillas at right tackle last year.

Additionally, senior Zach Burkhart (6-3, 287) figures to contend for the starting role at right guard, while sophomore Gavin Rainwater (6-2, 310) and redshirt freshman Kelly Wortham (6-3, 281) also will vie for action at the guard spots.
Senior transfer Vincent Brown joined the Gorillas in August and looks to vie for the starting role at left tackle.  Brown (6-6, 330) came to Pitt State from BCS member University of Southern Mississippi.
Senior Jesse Ingle (6-3, 297) and sophomore Bo Weber (6-4, 287) also figure to vie for action at the tackle spots, while redshirt freshman Bo Farrow (6-2, 245) and sophomore Jake Wall (6-1, 259) will compete for action at center.

The Pitt State Defense
The Gorillas also feature a veteran cast on the defensive side of the ball, led by a pair of honorable mention All-Americans in senior linebacker Tyler Disney and junior defensive lineman Taye Irvin.

Disney (6-1, 217) made 101 tackles with a team-leading 11.0 tackles-for-loss as well as 3.5 quarterback sacks in 2013. The Stilwell, Kan., native also recorded two interceptions and four pass break-ups.

Sophomore Spencer Brown (5-11, 206) and junior Eric Brantley (5-11, 200) figure to battle for the starting linebacker role opposite Disney, while junior Colby Hall (5-10, 196) and sophomore Blake Woellhof (6-2, 216) also will contend for playing time.

Irvin (6-1, 339) made 36 stops with 7.5 tackles-for-loss and 1.5 quarterback sacks from his defensive tackle spot a year ago. The LaGrange, Ga., native also forced two fumbles and made two fumble recoveries.

Senior Deaven Jensen will look to start opposite Irvin on the interior line. Jensen (6-1, 247) made 22 tackles, including 3.5 TFLs, as a junior in 2013.
Seniors Dallas Shalz (6-2, 245) and Tank Burns (6-2, 284), senior transfer Ty McKinney (6-3, 320) also will look to see action on the line.

Senior Avery Adair and sophomore Heath Wilson will look to anchor the Gorillas' starting spots at defensive end.

Adair (6-5, 236) earned honorable mention All-MIAA honors in 2013. The Raytown, Mo., native recorded 37 tackles with 10.0 tackles-for-loss and a team-leading 6.0 quarterback sacks.

Wilson (6-4, 237), from Wagoner, Okla., posted 29 tackles, 6.5 TFLs and 3.0 quarterback sacks as a redshirt freshman in 2013.

Sophomores Montrae Strickland (6-4, 224) and Derrick Decker (6-5, 221) also will vie for action.

In the secondary, the Gorillas welcome back a pair of All-MIAA performers at both cornerback and safety.

Seniors Keeston Terry and Jason Peete both enter the 2014 season as two-time All-MIAA performers at safety.

Terry (6-3, 203) garnered second-team All-MIAA honors in 2013. The Blue Springs, Mo., native made 64 tackles, one interception and four pass break-ups last year.

Peete (6-3, 197), from Olathe, Kan., added 37 tackles with 3.5 TFLs on the year to secure honorable mention All-MIAA. He has battled injuries in the off-season and is looking to return to form for the Gorillas.

Senior DeVante Bausby claimed third-team All-MIAA honors at cornerback in 2013, while senior Aries Herrion earned honorable mention All-MIAA recognition.
Bausby (6-2, 180) led the Gorillas with three interceptions and 10 pass break-ups last season. The Kansas City, Mo., native made 39 tackles on the year.
Herrion (5-10, 168), from Tulsa, Okla., recorded three interceptions and six PBUs on the year.

Sophomore Deron Washington (6-1, 200) also started 10 games at safety for the Gorillas in 2013, making 57 tackles and six pass break-ups.
Seniors Isaac Maselera (6-0, 185) and Dennis Tanner (6-3, 182) and sophomore Skylarr Gatson (5-11, 193) also figure to contend for significant action at the safety positions for the Gorillas.

At corner, junior Dino Teague will push Bausby and Herrion for a starting role. Teague (6-0, 179) had an interception and a pass breakup before his 2013 season was cut short due to injury.

Sophomore Quad Ware (6-0, 181) also made the move to corner during spring drills and freshman transfer Jahraan Franks (5-10, 170) joined the Gorillas in August from Kilgore College.

Pitt State Special Teams
Senior Connor Frazell is expected to handle the Gorillas kicking chores again in 2013.

Frazell (5-10, 183) converted 13 of 15 field goals and 70 of 71 PATs on the season last year, earning third-team All-MIAA honors.

The Iola, Kan., native has made his last 10 field goals and he's 24 of 31 (.774) in two years for the Gorillas.

Junior Griffin Knopp (6-3, 178) also figures to handle Pitt State's punting chores after booting the ball 31 times for a 40.3-yard average a year ago.

Cushon should see action as both a punt and kickoff returner. He averaged 25.3 yards on kickoff returns a year ago. Junior Andre Taylor (5-9, 162) and junior transfer Jamal Tyler (5-11, 180) also could see action in the return game.

Scouting the RiverHawks
Northeastern State welcomes back 40 letterwinners and 17 starters (eight offense, nine defense) to open the 2014 campaign. The RiverHawks averaged 18.1 points and 317.2 total yards per game in 2013, while NSU allowed 38.0 points and 489.3 total yards.

Junior quarterback Thor Long (6-1, 205) started eight games in 2013, completing 117 of 248 passes for 1,334 yards and six touchdowns with nine interceptions. He also rushed for 228 yards and three scores.

Long enters the 2014 season No. 2 on the RiverHawks depth chart behind sophomore transfer Kevin Pantastico (6-0, 185), who came to NSU from Phoenix College where he threw for 2,124 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013.

Senior running back Terrance Dixon (5-10, 190) rushed the ball 188 times for a team-leading 720 yards (3.8 ypc) and 10 touchdowns a year ago. He also caught 24 passes for 228 yards (9.5 ypc) out of the backfield.

Defensively, senior safety Eddie General (5-10, 190) made 60 tackles (30 solo) with 5.5 tackles-for-loss and one pass break-up in 2013.
Sophomore defensive tackle Dakota Moran (6-1, 270) contributed 22 tackles with 6.0 tackles-for-loss and a team-leading 4.0 quarterback sacks.                 
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