With game one down, Gorillas turn attention to Missouri Western

Pitt State will face the Griffons on Saturday.

PITTSBURG, Kan. – (WATCH) The Pittsburg State Gorillas will face Missouri Western on Saturday in their first road game of the season.

Pitt State is 0-1 after falling to Nebraska-Kearney 31-26 last weekend.


PITTSBURG — The Pittsburg State University football team will travel to St. Joseph, Mo., Saturday (Nov. 7) to face MIAA rival Missouri Western State University.

Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. (CST) at Spratt Memorial Stadium.

The Gorillas and Griffons are two of approximately 10 NCAA Division II football schools playing a limited schedule this fall due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pittsburg State, the winningest all-time NCAA Division II program, is competing in its 113th season of intercollegiate football at the institution.  The Gorillas have accumulated 719 victories, posting a 719-355-48 overall mark.

Pitt State dropped a 31-26 home decision to the University of Nebraska-Kearney in its 2020 season opener on Oct. 31. The Gorillas posted a 6-5 record in 2019.

Missouri Western is 0-1 on the season. The Griffons were defeated, 52-10, by the University of Central Arkansas, the No. 11 ranked team in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), at Conway, Ark., last Saturday (Oct. 31). Western enjoyed a 9-3 overall record in 2019, including a 35-14 victory over Henderson State University in the Agent Barry Live United Bowl at Texarkana, Ark., to end the season.

Ticketing / Game Info
In accordance with local health guidelines in St. Joseph, Mo., a maximum of approximately 1,800 fans (25% of capacity) will be admitted to view the game inside Spratt Stadium. There will be no public ticket sales available of the game or on game day.

Attendance priority has been given to MWSU season ticket holders, MWSU students, faculty and staff as well as MWSU and PSU player parents.

For fans who wish to watch the game remotely, go to themiaanetwork.com for a pay-per-view web stream. The game also will be audio streamed on the internet at espn1007.com/go.

The Coaches
Brian Wright
 is in his first season as head football coach at Pitt State. He was hired as the program’s 15th all-time head coach on December 7, 2019.

Wright, who is 0-1 leading the Gorillas and 4-1 overall as a head coach, came to Pitt State after serving the past four seasons as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at the University of Toledo.

In his four seasons with the Rockets, Wright helped guide offenses that have been among the best in the Mid-American Conference while boasting four NFL draft picks.

Prior to coming to Toledo, Wright coached at Florida Atlantic for four seasons as the Owls’ offensive coordinator. He stepped in as interim head coach for the final four games of the 2013 season, leading the Owls to four consecutive victories and bowl eligibility (6-6) for the first time since 2008.

Prior to his stint at Florida Atlantic, Wright spent two seasons at Montana State as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.

Before heading west to Montana State, Wright served nine years at perennial FCS power Youngstown State.

Wright joined the Penguins’ staff in 2001 as quarterbacks coach, also working as offensive coordinator from 2005-09. He began his collegiate coaching career at Walsh (Ohio) University as a graduate assistant in 1995-96.

After a year as a graduate assistant at YSU in which the Penguins won the NCAA Division I-AA national title, Wright returned to Walsh in 1998 and served until 2000.

Saturday’s action will mark Wright’s first match-up against Missouri Western.

Matt Williamson is in his fourth season directing his alma mater. Williamson (MWSU, ’96) previously served as an assistant coach at Western from 2000-07. He has a 19-16-0 (.543) career coaching record. This will be his third meeting vs. Pitt State. He is 1-2 against the Gorillas.

Gorillas on the Road
Pitt State has posted a 101-32-1 (.757) record in its last 134 road games (including post-season play) dating back to the start of the 1994 season. The Gorillas are 37-9 (.804) in their last 45 road games dating back to Oct. 23, 2010.

The Pitt State – Western Series
This will be the 45th all-time meeting between the Gorillas and Griffons in a series that dates back to the 1970 season. Pitt State holds a 33-12 (.733) advantage in the series, including five straight road wins and a 17-6 record against MWSU at St. Joseph.

Last year, Missouri Western built a 21-0 first half lead and rode that early momentum to a 35-21 road win over Pitt State University on Nov. 2 at Carnie Smith Stadium.

The Griffons posted their sixth straight win and handed the Gorillas their fourth consecutive defeat.

Brandon Mlekus rushed for a game-high 117 yards and a touchdown for Pitt State, while Mak Sexton completed 21 of 36 passes for 217 yards and a score.

Western marched 69 yards on seven plays on the opening drive of the game to take a 7-0 lead on Cam Grandy’s 11-yard touchdown pass from Wyatt Steigerwald at the 10:51 mark on the first quarter. The Griffons added a three-yard touchdown run from Mark Smith and a four-yard scoring pass from Steigerwald to Blake Burau for their 21-0 halftime margin.

Mlekus capped a five-play, 75-yard drive to open the third quarter with a four-yard scoring run to help Pitt State trim Western’s margin to 21-7, but the Gorillas didn’t score again until the game’s final five minutes.

Kaden Roy and Morgan Selemaea made eight tackles apiece to pace the Pitt State defense. Selemaea and KiAnte Hardin each snared interceptions in the game. Hardin added a game-high five pass break-ups.

All-Time Winningest Programs
Pittsburg State is the all-time winningest NCAA Division II football program. The Gorillas, who are competing in their 113th season of intercollegiate competition, have compiled a 719-355-48 overall record, winning 66.2 percent of their 1,122 all-time games.

Pittsburg State is one of just seven 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. The Gorillas entered the 2020 ranked 32nd among all college football programs in all-time victories.

Tuskegee is second on the Division II all-time list with 696 victories, followed by Hillsdale (645), Carson-Newman (642) and Central Oklahoma (638).

MWSU has a 297-245-9 (.547) record in 51 seasons of intercollegiate play.

Last Week’s Action
Nebraska-Kearney built an 11-point fourth quarter lead then held off a furious Pitt State 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 pulled Pitt State within three points, at 17-14, with 11:25 to play in the third quarter. Carter had a game high eight catches for 153 yards in his Pitt State debut.

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 Blake Schroeder 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 Morgan Selemaea added seven tackles and a fumble recovery.

Inside The Pitt State Offense / Defense
Sophomore quarterback Mak Sexton had a strong season debut vs. UNK, passing for a career high 398 yards and three touchdowns. Sexton’s passing total was the fifth-highest in school history. The Leander, Texas native has now completed 148 of 271 (.546) career passes for 2,092 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Redshirt freshmen wide receivers Christian Carter and Dylan White both enjoyed 100-yard receiving games in their first career games for the Gorillas against UNK. Carter, a Lee’s Summit, Mo., native, had eight catches for a game high 153 yards and a touchdown. White, a local product from Pittsburg High School, added four grabs for 105 yards including a 73-yard touchdown catch.

Senior running back Tyler Adkins scored his 16th career touchdown of his career against the Lopers. The Broken Arrow, Okla., native carried the ball 15 times for 71 yards in the game. He has 324 career carries for 1,673 yards (5.2 ypc).

Senior linebacker Kaden Roy was credited with eight tackles (three solo), including 1.5 tackles-for-loss, last week against UNK. The Webb City, Mo., native has posted 117 career tackles (59). He has enjoyed five career games with double digit tackles.

Redshirt freshman linebacker Luke Jennings made a strong debut in his first career game for the Gorillas. Jennings recorded a team leading 10 tackles against UNK. The Gardner, Kan., native registered 1.0 tackle-for-loss and he was credited with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter of the contest.

After starting 10 games at quarterback in 2019, junior Brandon Mlekus made his first career start at free safety for the Gorillas against the Lopers. The Frontenac native shared the team tackles lead (with redshirt freshman linebacker Luke Jennings) with 10 stops in the game. Mlekus saw action in 10 games in a reserve role at safety in 2018, making 11 tackles (four solo), one pass break-up and one fumble recovery that year.

Senior linebacker Morgan Selemaea posted seven tackles (five solo) and a fumble recovery last week. The Harrisonville, Mo., native has made 27 career starts with 145 career tackles (90 solo), 24.0 tackles-for-loss, 13.0 quarterback sacks, six interceptions, 12 pass break-ups, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

Scouting the Griffons
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Anthony Vespo has led the Griffons into the 2020 campaign.

Vespo (6-3, 215) saw action in six games for the Griffons in 2019, completing 34 of 52 passes (.654) for three touchdowns. He was 16 of 25  (.640) passing for 143 yards against Central Arkansas last week.

Freshman running back Shen Butler Lawson Jr. (6-0, 195) carried the ball five times for eight net yards in his debut game for the Griffons last week. Freshman running back Brandon Hall (5-9, 180) also rushed six times for 23 yards against UCA.

Redshirt freshman wide receiver Cooper Burton made a team-leading four receptions for 54 yards last week. Burton (5-10, 180) made 17 catches for 277 yards and three scores a year ago.

Defensively, senior linebacker Evan Chohon paced the Griffons in 2019, posting 94 tackles (50 solo) and two pass deflections. Chohon (6-3, 215) was credited with six stops last week vs. UCA.

Senior cornerback Sam Webb (6-2, 190) made 29 tackles (24 solo), three interceptions and 12 pass break-ups a year ago, while junior defensive end Arnold Crayton (6-3, 240) enjoyed 24 tackles (17 solo) last year, including 11.0 tackles-for-loss and 5.0 quarterback sacks.

Junior Roland Tylson (6-1, 175) booted a 33-yard field goal for the Griffons last week. Junior Jack Rasmussen (6-2, 220) punted eight times for a 39.0 yard average last week.