Pitt State’s comeback falls short to UNK in fall schedule opener

Gorillas fell to the Lopers, 31-26, on Saturday

Highlights from Pittsburg State’s 31-26 season opening loss to Nebraska-Kearney.


The University of Nebraska-Kearney football team built an 11-point fourth quarter lead then held off a furious Pittsburg State University comeback bid down the stretch as the visiting Lopers claimed a 31-26 victory over the Gorillas Saturday (Oct. 31) in the season opener for both schools.

Pitt State quarterback Mak Sexton tossed a 31-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Christian Carter for the game’s final margin with 1:47 to play in the game.

The Gorillas (0-1) thought they recovered the ensuing onside kickoff attempt, but the Lopers (1-0) were credited with a timeout just prior to the onside attempt. One play later, UNK running back Dayton Sealey was hit by Pitt State linebacker Luke Jennings at the PSU 40 and Jennings recovered the ball with 1:42 remaining to give the Gorillas a final possession on offense.

Sexton, who passed for a career high 398 yards and three touchdowns in the contest, led Pitt State down the field. He completed strikes of 13 yards to tight end Devon Garrison and nine yards to wide receiver Dylan White, before running back Tyler Adkins broke loose for a 17-yard gain on a 3rd-and-one play down to the UNK 21. Sexton, who finished the game 25 of 46 passing, wasn’t able to connect on the final four pass attempts and the Lopers held the Gorillas on downs with 44 seconds remaining.

White and wide receiver Christian Carter both posted 100-yard receiving games for the Gorillas. White finished the game with five grabs for 105 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown connection from Sexton that staked Pitt State to a 17-14 lead with 11:25 to play in the third quarter. Carter had a game high eight catches for 153 yards in his Pitt State debut.

Running back Tyler Adkins added 15 carries for a team-leading 71 yards, including a two-yard first quarter touchdown run. Drew Winn chipped in with 10 carries for 61 yards. The Gorillas finished the game with 530 yards of total offense.

UNK quarterback T.J. Davis carried the ball 21 times for 81 yards and four touchdowns in the contest, while Sealey added 21 carries for a game high 105 yards. Davis also completed five of 10 passes for 154 yards as the Lopers compiled 441 yards of total offense.

The Gorillas were hurt by a pair of missed opportunities in the contest:  UNK stopped the Gorillas on 4th-and-2 at the UNK 5 early in the second quarter and the Lopers Darius Swanson blocked a 20-yard field goal attempt by Pitt State’s Jaden Snyder with 3:34 to play in the game.

Defensively, Jennings and safety Brandon Mlekus tied for the team lead with 10 tackles apiece. Linebacker Kaden Roy added eight stops (1.5 tackles-for-loss), while linebacker Morgam Selemaea added seven tackles and a fumble recovery.

A sellout crowd of 3,194 fans attended the game to see the 2020 season debut as well as the first game for first-year head coach Brian Wright and his staff. Carnie Smith Stadium operated at approximately 25 percent capacity for the contest due to safety precautions associated with the ongoing pandemic. Nine Pitt State players and two assistant coaches missed the game after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.

Pitt State will travel to St. Joseph, Mo., next Saturday (Nov. 7) for a 3 p.m. (CST) match-up against MIAA rival Missouri Western State University.