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#8 Pitt State to Host Top-20 Battle vs. #16 Northwest - KOAM TV 7

#8 Pitt State to Host Top-20 Battle vs. #16 Northwest

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The Pittsburg State Gorillas are 5-0 to start the season, and have climbed the national rankings all the way up to #8 this week. On Saturday, the Gorillas will host a rivalry/top-20 matchup against #16 Northwest Missouri State.

This game features the two best teams and the two best defenses in the league. Northwest is one of just two teams in the country that hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown this season. In fact, the Bearcats haven't allowed a rushing touchdown since the 2016 playoffs.
 

"They're a good D-line," says Pitt State receiver Brenner Clemons, "They try to stop the run. They're first...in the conference in run defense, so they're going to try and stop a running game, which we're up to the task of seeing what we can do about that."

"We just need to get some points on the board, somehow some way," adds head coach Tim Beck, "I know they...haven't given up a rushing touchdown in a long time, and I understand that. We just...need to find points."

Kickoff for the game will be at 2:00 PM at Carnie Smith Stadium in Pittsburg. 

RELEASE FROM PITTSBURG STATE ATHLETICS:

PITTSBURG — The Pittsburg State University football team will seek its 12th consecutive victory dating back to the 2017 season Saturday (Oct. 1) when the Gorillas play host to MIAA rival Northwest Missouri State University. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. (CDT) at Brandenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium.

Pittsburg State, the winningest all-time NCAA Division II program, has accumulated 710 victories, posting a 710-346-48 overall mark in 111 years of intercollegiate play.

The Gorillas opened the 2018 season with a 21-7 win over the University of Central Oklahoma on Aug. 30 at Brandenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium. Pitt State followed that up with a pair of road wins: 34-13 over Emporia State on Sept. 6 and 45-7 over Northeastern State on Sept. 15. The Gorillas returned home to knock off Nebraska-Kearney, 30-17, on Sept. 22, before securing a 27-24 overtime win over Lindenwood at St. Charles, Mo., last Saturday (Sept. 29).

Pitt State has posted 11 consecutive victories, after closing out the 2017 campaign with six straight wins including a 48-31 win in the Agent Barry Live United Bowl over Arkansas Tech University in the season finale.

Northwest brings a 4-1 record into Saturday's action. The No. 16 ranked Bearcats bounced back from a 31-21 road loss against Central Oklahoma on Sept. 22 with a convincing 41-0 home win against Emporia State last Saturday (Sept. 29) as the Beracats posted their second shutout of the season.

The Coaches
Tim Beck is in his ninth season as head coach at Pitt State. He has compiled a 73-27 (.730) 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. In 2016, the Gorillas battled key injuries once again and Pitt State posted a 7-4 season.

Last year, Pitt State posted six straight wins to end the season with an 8-4 record including a victory in the 2017 Agent Barry Live United Bowl.

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 10th meeting vs. the Bearcats.  He is 4-5 vs. NWMSU.

Rich Wright is in his second season directing the NWMSU after serving the previous six years as the Bearcats defensive coordinator. Wright (Dana College, '95) joined the NWMSU coaching staff as defensive line coach and special teams coordinator in 2004. He has a 13-4-0 (.765) career coaching record. This will be his second meeting vs. Pitt State. He is 0-1 against the Gorillas.

The Pitt State-Northwest Series
This will be the 52nd meeting between the Gorillas and the Bearcats in a series that dates all the way back to the 1932 season. Northwest holds a slim 26-25-0 advantage in the competitive series.  The Gorillas are 14-8-0 vs. the Bearcats in Pittsburg.

Last year,  Pitt State forced six turnovers on defense and capitalized on enough offensive opportunities to score a 20-10 victory over No. 1 Northwest Missouri on Oct. 28 Carnie Smith Stadium. The Gorillas snapped the Bearcats 38-game winning streak – the second-longest winning streak in NCAA Division II history – as well as Northwest's 34-game MIAA winning streak in front of 6,541 fans at Carnie Smith Stadium.

Pitt State erased a 7-0 deficit with 17 unanswered points. Northwest cashed in on a short field to take a 7-0 lead four plays after the Gorillas failed to convert a fourth down pass on a fake punt at their own 35 yard line. Zach Martin completed the Bearcats scoring drive with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Shane Williams with 5:48 remaining in the first quarter.

The Gorillas countered with a five-play, 48-yard drive to tie the score at 7-7. Thomas LePage, starting in place of injured quarterback John Roderique, fired a 20-yard touchdown pass to Austin Panko for the scoring strike at the 12:51 mark of the second period.

Three plays later, Josh Hornback grabbed the first of four interceptions by a Pitt State defender to set up the Gorillas offense. LePage then tossed a 32-yard touchdown pass to Lorenzo West to put Pitt State in front, 14-7, with 10:19 remaining in the second quarter.

Jared Vincent capped the first-half scoring with a 33-yard field goal with 4:35 to play in the first half.

Northwest chipped back into the game with a 40-yard field goal by Brett Garner with 11:00 remaining in the third quarter. Garner had missed from 33 yards in the first quarter and 44 yards in the second period.

After the Bearcats final score, the Pitt State defense forced three straight turnovers – two interceptions and a fumble. The Bearcats then punted, fumbled and were held on downs on their final three offensive series, including a fumble at the PSU 4 with 6:57 to play in the contest.

Gorillas at Home
Pitt State holds a 351-130-12 (.724) record in 493 games inside Carnie Smith Stadium (including postseason). The Gorillas have won 151 of their last 176 regular season home games, posting a 151-24-1 record (.861) over the last 34 seasons.

Northwest is 17-3 (.850) in road games since the start of the 2015 season and the Bearcats are 42-9 (.824) on the road since the start of the 2010 season.

PSU's Regular Season Success
Pitt State has won 300 of its last 362 regular season games, posting a phenomenal 300-60-2 (.831) mark during the past 34 seasons (1985-2018). PSU is 160-24-1 at home, 136-27-1 on the road and 4-9-0 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 10 118 times in the last 244 polls and the Gorillas have been ranked in the top 25 poll in 187 of 244 weeks overall (dating back to the 1999 season).

The Gorillas climbed two spots from No. 10 to No. 8 in this week's NCAA Division II Top 25 poll released Monday (Oct. 1) The Bearcats are No. 16 in the poll. Pitt State is 57-47 (.548) vs. ranked opponents – 36-17 in home games – since joining Division II in 1989.

All-Time Winningest Programs
Pittsburg State is the all-time winningest NCAA Division II football program. The Gorillas, who are competing in their 111th season of intercollegiate competition, have compiled a 710-346-48 overall record, winning 66.5 percent of their 1,104 all-time games.

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

Tuskegee is second on the Division II all-time list with 688 victories, followed by Hillsdale (633), Carson-Newman (628) and Central Oklahoma (627).

NWMSU has a 581-398-32 (.591) record in 102 seasons of intercollegiate play.

Quick Strike Offense
The Pitt State offense has exhibited a penchant for being a "quick strike" unit. During the last 14 seasons (2005-18), the Pitt State offense has generated 865 scoring drives (716 TDs, 149 FGs) and averaged just 2:56 of elapsed time per drive.

2005    97 scoring drives (86 TDs, 11 FGs)    2:40 elapsed time       2012    51 scoring drives (40 TDs, 11 FGs)    2:58 elapsed time    
2006    79 scoring drives (72 TDs, 7 FGs)     2:14 elapsed time       2013    83 scoring drives (70 TDs, 13 FGs)    2:29 elapsed time
2007    64 scoring drives (55 TDs, 9 FGs)     3:02 elapsed time       2014    74 scoring drives (53 TDs, 21 FGs)    3:06 elapsed time
2008    69 scoring drives (61 TDs, 8 FGs)     3:23 elapsed time       2015    50 scoring drives (41 TDs, 9 FGs)     2:53 elapsed time
2009    49 scoring drives (44 TDs, 5 FGs)     3:21 elapsed time       2016    60 scoring drives (48 TDs, 12 FGs)    2:54 elapsed time
2010    41 scoring drives (34 TDs, 7 FGs)     3:04 elapsed time       2017    56 scoring drives (42 TDs, 14 FGs)    3:18 elapsed time
2011    78 scoring drives (60 TDs, 18 FGs)    2:54 elapsed time       2018    21 scoring drives (17 TDs, 4 FGs)     3:49 elapsed time

The Gorillas have been highly successful when they are quick out of the gates. Pitt State has scored on its opening drive 74 times (63 TDs, 11 FGs) in the last 160 games, posting a 66-8 (.892) record in those games. By contrast, Pitt State is 50-36 (.581) in games it doesn't score on its opening drive during the same span.

Inside The Pitt State Offense / Defense
Senior quarterback John Roderique made his 26th start under center for the Gorillas against LWU last week. The Webb City, Mo., native has passed for 5,197 yards and 35 touchdowns in 29 career games for the Gorillas. He also has rushed for 1,199 yards and 18 TDs, compiling 6,396 yards of total offense (220.6 ypg) and accounting for 53 touchdowns. Roderique became just the fifth QB in Pitt State history to eclipse 5,000 career passing yards.

Junior wide receiver Lorenzo West has a team-leading 22 grabs for 377 yards and three TDs on the season, ranking fifth in the MIAA in receiving yards (75.4 ypg) to date. The Lawton, Okla., native  has made 67 receptions for 971 career yards (14.5 ypc) and eight touchdowns.

Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Brenner Clemons has enjoyed a successful return from an injury shortened season in 2017. The Lee's Summit, Mo., native has caught 17 passes for 205 yards and two TDs on the season. Clemons, the 2016 MIAA Freshman of the Year, has made 69 career receptions for 929 yards (13.5 ypc) and eight touchdowns.

Senior linebacker Demetrius Bernard made a team-leading nine tackles with 1.0 quarterback sack and a forced fumble vs. LWU last Saturday. The O'Fallon, Mo., native has made 16 tackles (10 solo) on the season. For his career, Bernard has made 135 tackles (87 solo) with 17.5 tackles-for-loss and 6.5 quarterback sacks.

Junior cornerback KiAnte Hardin continues to impress in all three facets of the game – offense, defense and special teams. Hardin, an NCAA Division I transfer from the University of Minnesota who redshirted at PSU in 2017, is averaging 15.5 yards per punt return on the season, ranking 11th in Division II. Hardin also has caught seven passes for 84 yards (12.0 ypc) and two TDs and he's made  six tackles (five solo) with a quarterback sack, two INTs and four pass break-ups. He ranks fourth in the MIAA in INTs and ranks third in the conference in passes defended (6, 1.2 pg).

Scouting the Bearcats
Redshirt freshman quarterback Braden Wright directs the NWMSU offense. Wright (6-2, 180) has completed 92 of 157 passes for 1,212 yards (242.4 ypg) and 10 TDs and rushed the ball 46 times for a team-leading 289 yards (6.3 ypc) and six scores.

Sophomore wide receiver Alec Tatum (5-9, 167) has been Wright's favorite target, catching a team-leading 20 passes for 341 yards (17.0 ypc) and a touchdown. Senior wide receiver Shawn Bane (5-11, 170) also has made 17 grabs for 339 yards (19.9 ypc) and four TDs.

Junior running back Isaiah Strayhorn (5-10, 205) has carried the ball 48 times for 268 yards (5.6 ypc) and two touchdowns, while senior running back Josh Caldwell (5-11, 220) has added 49 carries for 228 yards (4.7 ypc) and four TDs to NWMSU's ground totals.

NWMSU is averaging 257.8 passing yards and 453.2 total yards per game. The Bearcats are scoring an MIAA-leading 38.2 points per game.

Defensively, NWMSU is allowing 10.8 points, 68.4 rushing yards and 283.4 total yards per game.

Senior safety Jack Richards (5-9, 175) has made a team-leading 36 tackles (24 solo) on the season while senior defensive end Austen Eskew (6-4, 248) has posted 21 tackles (11 solo) with 7.0 tackles-for-loss and 3.0 quarterback sacks.

Senior Matt Thorman has punted 23 times for a 37.4-yard average, while sophomore Parker Sampson has converted three of five field goals on the season.

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