#23 Gorillas prep for Saturday’s home opener

Pitt State will host ESU Saturday at 7 PM


The Pittsburg State University football team will make its 2019 home debut Saturday (Sept. 14) when the Gorillas host MIAA rival Emporia 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, is competing in its 112th season of intercollegiate football at the institution. The Gorillas have accumulated 714 victories, posting a 714-349-48 overall mark.

Pitt State opened the 2019 campaign with a 37-35 road win over the University of Central Oklahoma on Sept. 5. The Gorillas built a 34-7 halftime advantage against the Bronchos and ultimately won the game on Jared Vincent’s 20-yard field goal as time expired. Pitt State debuted at No. 23 in this week’s AFCA/NCAA Division II Top 25 poll released Monday (Sept. 9).

Emporia State claimed a 51-14 home win over Northeastern State University in its season debut on Sept. 5. The Hornets have won five games in a row dating back to the end of the 2018 season.

The Coaches
Tim Beck is in his 10th season as head coach at Pitt State. He has compiled a 77-30 (.720) 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.

In 2017, 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. Last year, the Gorillas posted an 8-3 record and narrowly missed qualifying for the NCAA-II playoffs.

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 Hornets. He is 4-3 vs. ESU.

ESU’s Garrin Higgins is in his 13th year leading the Hornets and his 18th year as a collegiate coach. Higgins (ESU, ’92) has compiled a 79-60 (.568) record leading his alma mater as well as a 130-69 (.653) career mark. He is 3-7 vs. Pitt State.

The Pitt State-Emporia State Series
This will be the 97th all-time meeting between the Gorillas and the Hornets in a series that dates all the way back to the 1915 season. The Pitt State-Emporia State series is the ninth-longest rivalry in NCAA Division II football.

Pitt State holds a commanding 60-34-2 advantage in the series. The Gorillas are 29-17-1 vs. the Hornets in Pittsburg. Pitt State is 32-7 in its last 39 meetings against ESU.

Last year, Pitt State scored twice in the span of 19 seconds to break open a tie game en route to a 34-13 road victory over Emporia State on Thursday, Sept. 6, at Welch Stadium.

Quarterback John Roderique tossed a four-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jackson Krull to cap an eight-play, 98-yard drive that staked the Gorillas to a 20-13 lead with 10:45 to play in the game.

KiAnte Hardin intercepted a Braxton Marstall pass on the first play of the Hornets ensuing drive and Roderique delivered a 56-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brenner Clemons immediately afterwards. The quick strike extended Pitt State’s margin to 27-13 with 10:26 to go.

Roderique sealed the victory with a seven-yard touchdown scamper with 3:48 to play in the contest.

Roderique completed 11 of 22 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns, while B.J. Bradbury also completed three of four passes including a 15-yard second-quarter touchdown pass to Hardin. Lorenzo West caught five passes for a game-high 120 yards. Tyler Adkins led the Gorillas ground gainers, rushing 20 times for 98 yards. Pitt State compiled 221 rushing yards in the contest.

The Pitt State defense allowed the Hornets just 63 yards of total offense in the second half after ESU rushed for 152 yards in the opening two stanzas. Marstall completed just seven of 23 passes for 72 yards for the Hornets. Landon Nault rushed 22 times for 177 yards, with 16 carries for 152 yards in the first half.

Marcus Brantley and Darian Taylor were credited with five tackles apiece to lead the Pitt State defense. Morgan Selemaea registered 2.0 of the Gorillas five quarterback sacks in the game.

Gorillas at Home
Pitt State holds a 352-132-12 (.722) record in 496 games inside Carnie Smith Stadium (including postseason). The Gorillas have won 152 of their last 179 regular season home games, posting a 152-26-1 record (.852) over the last 35 seasons.

ESU is 17-14 (.548) in road games since the start of the 2014 season.

PSU’s Regular Season Success
Pitt State has won 304 of its last 367 regular season games, posting a phenomenal 304-63-2 (.831) mark during the past 35 seasons (1985-2019). PSU is 161-26-1 at home, 139-28-1 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 253 polls and the Gorillas have been ranked in the top 25 poll in 189 of 253 weeks overall (dating back to the 1999 season).

All-Time Winningest Programs
Pittsburg State is the all-time winningest NCAA Division II football program. The Gorillas, who are in their 112th season of intercollegiate competition, have compiled a 714-349-48 overall record, winning 66.4 percent of their 1,111 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. Currently, the Gorillas are ranked 31st among all college football programs in all-time victories.

Tuskegee is second on the Division II all-time list with 691 victories, followed by Hillsdale (639), Carson-Newman (634) and Central Oklahoma (633).

ESU has a 530-536-45 (.497) record in 127 seasons of intercollegiate play.

Quick Strike Offense
The Pitt State offense has exhibited a penchant for being a “quick strike” unit. During the last 15 seasons (2005-19), the Pitt State offense has generated 899 scoring drives (743 TDs, 156 FGs) and averaged just 2:55 of elapsed time per drive.

2005 97 scoring drives (86 TDs, 11 FGs) 2:40 elapsed time 2013 83 scoring drives (70 TDs, 13 FGs) 2:29 elapsed time
2006 79 scoring drives (72 TDs, 7 FGs) 2:14 elapsed time 2014 74 scoring drives (53 TDs, 21 FGs) 3:06 elapsed time
2007 64 scoring drives (55 TDs, 9 FGs) 3:02 elapsed time 2015 50 scoring drives (41 TDs, 9 FGs) 2:53 elapsed time
2008 69 scoring drives (61 TDs, 8 FGs) 3:23 elapsed time 2016 60 scoring drives (48 TDs, 12 FGs) 2:54 elapsed time
2009 49 scoring drives (44 TDs, 5 FGs) 3:21 elapsed time 2017 56 scoring drives (42 TDs, 14 FGs) 3:18 elapsed time
2010 41 scoring drives (34 TDs, 7 FGs) 3:04 elapsed time 2018 48 scoring drives (37 TDs, 11 FGs) 3:14 elapsed time
2011 78 scoring drives (60 TDs, 18 FGs) 2:54 elapsed time 2019 6 scoring drives (4 TDs, 2 FGs) 3:49 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 74 times (62 TDs, 12 FGs) in the last 157 games, posting a 66-8 (.892) record in those games. By contrast, Pitt State is 47-36 (.566) in games it doesn’t score on its opening drive during the same span.

Inside The Pitt State Offense / Defense
Sophomore quarterback Brandon Mlekus made his first start under center for the Gorillas against UCO last week. The Frontenac native carried the ball 13 times for 68 net yards (5.2 ypc) and he completed one of two passes for 31 yards against the Bronchos. Mlekus ranks 11th in the MIAA – second among quarterbacks – in rushing after one week’s play. He was selected the Kansas Class 4A-II Offensive Player of the Year as a senior in 2016, passing for 1,194 yards and 16 TDs and rushing for 1,211 yards and 16 scores.

Senior wide receiver Lorenzo West was selected the MIAA Specials Teams Player of the Week on Monday (Sept. 9). West returned the opening kickoff for a 100-yard touchdown in the Gorillas’ season opener vs. UCO. He compiled a career-high 246 all-purpose yards against the Bronchos.The Lawton, Okla., native has made 100 career receptions for 1,480 career yards (14.8 ypc) and nine touchdowns. He has compiled 3,215 career all-purpose yards.

Senior place kicker Jared Vincent converted three field goals against UCO last week, including the game-winning 20 yarder as time expired. The Claremore, Okla., native has converted 29 of 36 (.806) career field goal attempts and 99 of 103 (.961) career PAT tries. A two-time All-MIAA performer, Vincent has scored 176 career points (7.3 ppg).

Senior defensive tackle Simanu’a Thomas made two tackles including 1.0 tackle-for-loss in the season opener vs. UCO. The Independence, Mo., native is a two-time NCAA Division II All-America and three-time All-MIAA performer. For his career, Thomas has registered 116 career tackles with 32.0 tackles-for-loss and 12.5 quarterback sacks.

Junior safety Morgan Selemaea made a team-leading six tackles (six solo) with one pass break-up against the Bronchos. The Harrisonville, Mo., native is a returning All-America performer and a two-time All-MIAA honoree. For his career, Selemaea has posted 96 tackles (61 solo) with 19.0 tackles-for-loss and 12.5 quarterback sacks. He’s also registered two interceptions and nine pass break-ups.

Scouting the Hornets
Sophomore quarterback Dalton Cowan directs the ESU offense. Cowan (6-3, 204) completed 15 of 25 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns in his Hornets debut against NSU on Sept. 5. He also carried the ball nine times for a game-high 88 yards in the contest.

Sophomore wide receiver Corey Thomas (5-10, 182) and redshirt freshman wide receiver Dexton Swinehart (5-10, 156) were Cowan’s favorite week one targets. Thomas caught seven passes for 99 yards and a touchdown, while Swinehart caught five balls for 112 yards, including a 74-yard TD connection.

Redshirt freshman running back Calvin Boyce (5-8, 203) carried the ball nine times for 50 yards and a touchdown against the RiverHawks, while senior Kai Collins (5-10, 200) rushed 11 times for 37 net yards in the season opener.

ESU is averaging 300.0 passing yards and an MIAA-leading 570.0 total yards per game early in the season. The Hornets are scoring 51.0 points per game – also tops in the MIAA to date.

Defensively, ESU is allowing 14.0 points, 62.0 rushing yards and 213.0 total yards per game. The Hornets lead the MIAA in scoring defense and total defense after week one and rank second in the conference in rushing defense.

Junior linebacker Jace McDown (6-0, 222) made a team-leading six tackles (three solo) in the opener against NSU. McDown posted 127 tackles (79 solo) with 11.5 tackles-for-loss and forced five fumbles as a sophomore in 2018.

Senior safety Lawson Holbert (6-2, 199) made four tackles, two interceptions and a pass break-up against the RiverHawks.

Sophomore Clark Schoonover (6-1, 199) converted all three of his field goal tries against NSU – the longest coming from 34 yards out. Freshman Ross Brunghardt (6-6, 209) punted four times for a 33.0 yard average with two kicks inside the opponent 20 yard line.


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