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Gorillas Near Opener with #21 UCM - KOAM TV 7

Gorillas Near Opener with #21 UCM

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RELEASE FROM PITTSBURG STATE ATHLETICS:

PITTSBURG — The Pittsburg State University football team will make its 2017 season debut Thursday (Aug. 31) when the Gorillas travel to Warrensburg, Mo., to meet MIAA rival University of Central Missouri. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. (CDT) at Audrey J. Walton Stadium.

Pittsburg State, the winningest all-time NCAA Division II program, is embarking upon its 110th season of intercollegiate football at the institution.  The Gorillas have accumulated 697 victories, posting a 697-342-48 overall mark.

Pitt State returns 18 players who started four or more games (10 offense, eight defense) in 2016, including 10 returning All-MIAA performers and three returning All-Americas.

Central Missouri finished the 2016 season with a 9-3 overall overall record. The Mules, who are ranked No. 21 in the AFCA/NCAA Division II Preseason Top 25 poll (for complete poll see page 4), return 46 letterwinners and 22 starters (including special teams) from last year's squad.

The Coaches
Tim Beck enters his eighth season as head coach at Pitt State with a 60-23 (.723) career record.  

Beck led his alma mater (PSU, '88) to the 2011 NCAA Division II National Championship, 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 2012, the Gorillas opened the season 5-0 before finishing the year 7-3 overall, while in 2013 Pitt State posted the program's 20th all-time 10-win season during a 10-2 campaign.

In 2014, the Gorillas shared the MIAA regular season title and advanced to the second round of the NCAA-II playoffs during an 11-2 campaign.

In 2015, a young Pitt State team battled a rash of key injuries to frontline players and the Gorillas had to settle for an uncharacteristic 6-5 season. Last year, the Gorillas battled key injuries once again and Pitt State posted a 7-4 season.

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 eighth meeting vs. the Mules.  He is 4-3 vs. UCM.

Jim Svoboda enters his eighth season directing the Mules program and his 16th year as a collegiate coach.  Svoboda (Northwestern College, '83) has a 56-25-0 (.691) record leading the Mules and a 108-44-0 (.711) career mark. He is 3-4 all-time vs. Pitt State.

The Pitt State-Central Missouri Series
This will be the 54th all-time meeting between the Gorillas and Mules in a series that dates all the way back to the 1916 season.  Pitt State holds a decided 41-10-2 (.792) advantage in the series, including a 21-5-2 record against UCM at Warrensburg, Mo.

Last year, quarterback Garrett Fugate tossed a 79-yard touchdown strike to Tyler Jones to break a 27-27 tie with 4:28 to play and lift No. 20  Central Missouri to a 34-27 victory over Pitt State  in the season opener at Brandenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium.

The Gorillas scored the game's first 13 points behind a John Roderique to Levi Copelin 66-yard touchdown pass and a pair of field goals – from 38 and 28 yards – by Chad Levin, but the Mules  countered with 27 consecutive points between the second and third quarters to build a 27-13 lead.

Roderique completed seven of 10 passes for 113 yards and the touchdown before exiting the game with a hand injury on the final play of the first quarter and the Gorillas leading 10-0.

Gorillas on the Road
Pitt State has posted an 81-25-0 (.764) record in its last 106 road games (including post-season play). The Gorillas are 28-4 (.875) in their last 32 road games dating back to Oct. 23, 2010.

Pitt State posted a school and MIAA record 20 straight road wins between the 2010 and 2014 seasons before dropping a 24-21 overtime decision to Minnesota State in the second round of the NCAA-II playoffs on Nov. 29, 2014.

During the last 24 years (1994-pres.), the Gorillas are an equally impressive 92-27-1 (.771) on the road.

PSU's Regular Season Success
Pitt State has won 288 of its last 346 regular season games, posting a phenomenal 288-56-2 (.835) mark during the past 32 seasons (1985-2016). PSU is 154-22-1 at home, 130-25-1 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 67-37-5 (.638) record in season openers over the program's 109-year history, including 10 straight season-opening victories.

Since the 1978 campaign, Pitt State has built a 33-5-1 (.859) record in season openers with an 18-2 (.900) record the past 20 seasons. The Gorillas also have won their last nine road season openers dating back to the 1997 season. Pitt State's last road loss in a season opener was a 41-31 decision to FCS member Eastern Illinois on Sept. 7, 1996.

Pitt State in the AFCA Top 25 Poll
Pitt State has been ranked in Division II's top 10 116 times in the last 227 polls and the Gorillas have been ranked in the top 25 poll in 183 of 227 weeks overall (dating back to the 1999 season).
The Gorillas were preseason ranked among "others receiving votes" in the NCAA Division II Preseason Top 25 Poll.

UCM comes into Thursday's contest as the preseason No. 21 team in NCAA Division II.

The Gorillas have compiled a 57-47 record (.548) against nationally-ranked teams since joining Division II in 1989.  Pitt State is 16-20 (.444) in road games against ranked opponents and 33-30 (.524) vs. ranked MIAA foes.

All-Time Winningest Programs
Pittsburg State is the all-time winningest NCAA Division II football program. The Gorillas, who are in their 110th season of intercollegiate competition, have compiled a 697-342-48 overall record, winning 66.3 percent of their 1,087 all-time games.

Pittsburg State is one of just five NCAA Division II institutions to have recorded 600 all-time victories and the Gorillas are bidding to become just the 33rd program across all levels of college football to reach the 700-win plateau.

Tuskegee is second on the Division II all-time list with 677 victories, followed by Hillsdale (622), Carson-Newman (618) and Central Oklahoma (617).

UCM has a 551-508-51 (.517) record in 122 seasons of intercollegiate play.

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

During the last 12 seasons (2005-16), the Pitt State offense has generated 788 scoring drives (659 TDs, 129 FGs) and averaged just 2:54 of elapsed time per drive.

2005    97 scoring drives (86 TDs, 11 FGs)   2:40 elapsed time     2011    78 scoring drives (60 TDs, 18 FGs)    2:54 elapsed time
2006    79 scoring drives (72 TDs, 7 FGs)    2:14 elapsed time     2012    51 scoring drives (40 TDs, 11 FGs)    2:58 elapsed time
2007    64 scoring drives (55 TDs, 9 FGs)    3:02 elapsed time     2013    83 scoring drives (70 TDs, 13 FGs)    2:29 elapsed time
2008    69 scoring drives (61 TDs, 8 FGs)    3:23 elapsed time     2014    74 scoring drives (53 TDs, 21 FGs)    3:06 elapsed time
2009    49 scoring drives (44 TDs, 5 FGs)    3:21 elapsed time     2015    50 scoring drives (41 TDs, 9 FGs)     2:53 elapsed time
2010    41 scoring drives (34 TDs, 7 FGs)    3:04 elapsed time     2016    60 scoring drives (48 TDs, 12 FGs)    2:54 elapsed time

The Gorillas have been highly successful when they are quick out of the gates.  Pitt State has scored on its opening drive 69 times (58 TDs, 11 FGs) in the last 143 games, posting a 62-7 (.899) record in those games. By contrast, Pitt State is 41-33 (.554) in games it doesn't score on its opening drive during the same span.

The Pitt State Offense
The Gorillas will look to junior John Roderique to lead the Pitt State offense for a third season. Roderique, a two-time All-MIAA performer in his first two seasons, passed for 2,496 yards and 19 TDs (277.3 ypg) and rushed for 318 yards (35.3 ypg, 3.7 ypc) and four scores despite missing two-and-a-half games due to injury.

The Webb City, Mo., native has passed for 3,760 yards and 28 touchdowns in 15 career games for the Gorillas.

Up front, the Gorillas return a pair of All-America performers from 2016 in senior center Bo Farrow (6-3, 261) and senior tackle Codey Funk (6-6, 303) as well as a third All-MIAA performer in sophomore tackle Ryan Dodd (6-5, 306).

Pitt State also welcomes back a 10-game starter in junior guard Alex Jones (6-5, 313) and a pair of players – seniors Ryan Cipriani (6-5, 281) and Kelly Wortham (6-3, 277) – who started five games apiece at guard in 2016.

The veteran offensive line cast also includes junior guard Tyler Stiff (6-5, 311), who has made eight career starts for the Gorillas, and senior tackle Dexton Robertson (6-4, 321), who has made three career starts while battling injuries the past two seasons.

The Gorillas top 10 offensive linemen average 6 feet, 4 inches and 295 pounds.

In the backfield, the Gorillas are led by senior Michael Rose. Rose rushed for 584 yards (73.0 ypg, 5.2 ypc) and seven touchdowns in 2016 despite missing three games due to injury. He earned honorable mention All-MIAA honors during his junior campaign. Rose, an Albuquerque, N.M., native has 1,258 career rushing with 14 touchdowns.

Sophomores Kiah Kintchen (5-8, 164) and Keynan Scheurich (5-10, 198) also return after gaining valuable game experience in 2016. Junior DeMarcus Edwards (5-11, 208) and redshirt freshmen Tyler Adkins (5-10, 194), D'Vontae Brown (5-11, 234) and Tucker Horak (5-10, 187) all enjoyed solid spring camps and figure to compete for action as well.

Senior Austin Panko and sophomore Brenner Clemons lead a talented wide receiving corps.

Panko (6-0, 184) caught 41 passes for 755 yards (18.4 ypc) and five touchdowns as a junior in 2016, while Clemons (6-3, 202) hauled in 42 receptions for 559 yards (13.3 ypc) and four scores. Both players garnered honorable mention All-MIAA honors and Clemons was voted the MIAA Freshman of the Year. Panko has 82 career catches for 1,265 yards (15.4 ypc) and nine touchdowns.

Senior Ramsey Hamilton (6-2, 202), juniors Slade Nordic (6-1, 179) and Terrence Hoskin (6-2, 220) and sophomore Lorenzo West (5-11, 167) also figure to be impact performers in the wide receivers corps, along with redshirt freshmen Brendon Franklin (6-2, 178) and Kedrick Greene (5-6, 143).

At tight end, senior Jovon Wilson (6-5, 249), junior Kohl Slaughter (6-2, 220) and sophomores Jackson Krull (6-7, 241) and Andy Otting (6-4, 238) figure to battle for playing time.

The Pitt State Defense
The Gorillas return eight starters of the defensive side of the ball, led by a pair of All-MIAA linebackers in senior Ethan Fugitt and junior Demetrius Bernard and an All-MIAA defensive lineman in sophomore Simanu'a Thomas.

Fugitt (6-2, 236) earned honorable mention All-MIAA honors in his first season as a starter in 2016, posting 90 tackles (39 solo) with 8.0 tackles-for-loss, an interception and two pass break-ups on the season.

Bernard (6-0, 233), an honorable mention All-MIAA selection as a sophomore in 2015, made 33 tackles (21 solo) last year with 3.0 tackles-for-loss and 2.0 quarterback sacks.

Fugitt and Bernard will be joined at the linebacker corps by junior Carter Anchors (6-1, 202) and sophomores Kaden Brannin (6-2, 221), Jacob Carpenter (6-2, 222) and Brett McDonald (6-3, 200).

Anchors made 15 tackles (eight solo) with 1.0 tackle-for-loss in a reserve role in 2016, while Carpenter posted 10 stops (four solo) primarily on special teams. McDonald played in four games in 2016 before suffering a season-ending injury.

Thomas (6-1, 288) garnered All-MIAA recognition in his debut season at defensive tackle in 2016. The Independence, Mo., native made 37 tackles (18 solo) with 8.5 tackles-for-loss and 4.0 quarterback sacks as a true freshman a year ago.

Senior Willie Cooper (6-0, 250), junior Bradley Payne (6-1, 262) and redshirt freshman Gage Kaiser (6-2, 254) will join Thomas on the interior defensive line.

Cooper started all 11 games at nose guard as a junior in 2016, posting 32 tackles (12 solo) with 6.0 tackles-for-loss in his first season with the Gorillas. Payne, who joined the Gorillas from William Jewell College a year ago, made 17 tackles (seven solo) with 3.0 TFLs.

Senior José Speer (6-3, 246) and sophomore Ned Bingaman (6-4, 231) and redshirt freshmen Levi Wyrick (6-4, 232) and Kyler Ray (6-3, 221) return to the defensive end spots.

Speer made 10 tackles (six solo) with 2.0 TFLs in 2016, while Bingaman posted 29 tackles (10 solo) with 2.5 TLFs and 2.0 quarterback sacks while starting nine games for the Gorillas.

Senior Ciyre Simmons (6-0, 181), juniors Matt Magee (6-0, 192) and Darian Taylor (6-3, 206) and sophomore Creighton Sanders (6-1, 186) bring veteran experience to Pitt State's safety positions.

Simmons made 14 tackles (six solo) in 2016 after joining the Pitt State squad from Mesa Community College. Magee started six games in his first season moving from cornerback to safety. He made 30 tackles (24 solo) with two pass break-ups and two fumble recoveries.

Taylor started nine games, posting 49 tackles (30 solo) with 5.0 tackles-for-loss, an interception and two pass break-ups.

Sanders made 14 tackles (10 solo) with one interception and one pass break-up as a true freshman in 2016.

Junior transfer Marcus Brantley (5-10, 182), an honorable mention NJCAA All-America who joined the Gorillas from Mesa Community College, also will look to be an impact performer at safety, along with sophomore Josh Hornback (6-2, 177) and redshirt freshman Alex Derryberry (6-0, 189).

At cornerback, redshirt junior Juanté Baldwin (5-11, 188) and sophomore Keeyon Incle (5-11, 176) return.

Baldwin redshirted in 2016 after transferring from NAIA member Friends University. Incle started four games a year ago, making 28 tackles (15 solo) and three pass break-ups.

Freshman transfer Tyshawn Johnson (5-11, 175), from Hutchinson Community College, also will look to make an immediate impact for the Gorillas.

Pitt State Special Teams
Junior Carter Anchors returns for a third season to handle Pitt State's punting duties. Anchors (6-1, 202) earned third-team All-America and first-team All-MIAA honors in 2016, punting 43 times for a 43.9-yard average with 14 kicks inside the opponents 20 yard line.

Sophomore Jared Vincent (5-10, 183) and redshirt freshman Todd Morrow (5-10, 184) entered fall camp battling to handle the Gorillas' place kicking chores.

Sophomore transfer Conner Kaifes (6-0, 195) and redshirt freshman Keegan Duncan (6-0, 201) are expected to battle to handle Pitt State's deep snapping chores this fall.

Panko garnered second-team All-MIAA and third-team All-Super Region Three honors as a return specialist in 2016. Panko returned 27 punts for an 11.9-yard average. Sophomore Lorenzo West averaged 27.2 yards per kickoff return last year, while junior Slade Nordic also averaged 22.2 yards per kickoff return in 2016.

Scouting the Mules
Redshirt junior quarterback Brook Bolles is expected to lead the UCM offense in 2017, after serving as a back-up for the Mules the past two seasons.

Bolles (6-3, 205) appearend in all 12 games for UCM in 2016, completing three of nine passes for 43 yards and one touchdown. He also carried the ball 11 times for 67 yards.

Senior wide receiver Jaylen Zachery (6-0, 185) caught 67 passes for 948 yards (14.1 ypc) and 11 scores a year ago, while senior wide receiver Kyle Echols (6-2, 185) caught 46 passes for 672 yards (14.6 ypc) and five TDs. Junior tight end Seth Hebert (6-4, 245) also posted 34 catches for 445 yards (13.1 ypc) and two scores.

The Mules averaged 37.3 points and 470.5 total yards per game in 2016.

Senior cornerback Monteze Latimore made 73 tackles (57 solo) with two interceptions and nine PBUs in 2016, while junior safety Jackson Newman posted 72 tackles (50 solo) with four INTS.
UCM limited its opposition to 25.9 points and 380.4 total yards per game in 2016.

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