Kearney, Neb. – The 15th-ranked Pittsburg State Gorillas scored 16 first quarter points and flipped the field late in the third to down Nebraska-Kearney, 30-17, Saturday night in Kansas.
The Gorillas (4-0) have now won 10 straight games dating back to last season and are the only undefeated team left in the MIAA. UNK, looking for its first win over PSU since 1983, falls back to the .500 mark at 2-2.
In front of a “Family Night” crowd of 10,398, Pitt dominated the first 15 minutes. While Loper junior safety Dallas Vaughn (St. Louis) picked off a deflected pass on the game’s first series, the Gorillas out gained UNK 95-9 in the first 15 minutes. They used several short fields, as well as a safety, to grab a 16-0 lead.
However, Kearney was down by just a 23-10 margin in the third quarter with Pitt backup quarter Brady Bradbury taking over for an injured John Roderique. The Lopers started at its own two-yard line and moved the ball all the way to the Pitt 11-yard line. UNK benefitted from a weird play as receiver Trey Lansman (Harlan, Ia.) fumbled after a 26-yard reception but then forced a Gorilla defender to fumble. Redshirt freshman receiver Payton Kinne (Grand Island) was Johnny-on-the-sport and pounced on the loose ball inside the red zone.
UNK’s good fortunes didn’t last, however, as Pitt held on fourth and nine. Bradbury, taking over early in the second quarter, led the offense on an 11-play,. 90-yard drive that ate up seven minutes of the clock. The backbreaker was a roughing the passer call on third and 18 from the Loper 30-yard line. Two plays later Bradburry tossed a 10-yard scoring strike to cornerback/receiver KiAnte Hardin to make it 30-10.
Pitt out gained UNK by just a 295-267 margin with the Lopers running 11 more plays, 68-57. The Gorillas had the ball 30 minutes, recorded five sacks for 35 yards, broke up eight passes and had a plus one turnover margin. These teams came in as the top rushing squads in the MIAA. The Gorillas won that battle by a slight margin as they carried the ball 41 times for 182 yards (4.4 avg.) and three scores. UNK got going in the second half and totaled 132 yards on 46 totes (2.9 avg.) and a TD.
A 6-3, 200 pound redshirt freshman, Bradbury finished 8 of 11 for 80 yards, one TD and no INT’s. He also rushed 11 times for 20 yards. Next, starting back Tyler Adkins had team-highs in carries (15) and yards (94). All toll eight different Gorillas carried the ball at least one time.
UNK also used a balanced attack on the ground as six players touched the ball. Senior back Luke Quinn (Scottsdale, Ariz.) had a team-best nine carries for a team-high 52 yards with junior back Darrius Webb (Allentown, Pa.) managing 31 yards on eight totes. Backup QB Cody Summers (Denver, Colo.) led a last minute TD drive and finished with 22 yards on seven carries. He called his own number and scored from two-yards out with 16 seconds left.
In the air junior QB Alex McGinnis (Crete) was 7 of 21 for 121 yards, one TD and two INT’s. He threw a 21-yard scoring strike to Lansman early in the second quarter to make it 16-7. Four minutes later freshman Brian Covarrubias booted a 43-yard field goal to cut the deficit to six.
But Pitt responded with a six-play, 61-yard TD drive that featured a 10-yard holding penalty on UNK and a 23-yard scoring run by Adkins. Overall, the teams combined for 20 penalties for 175 yards. Pitt was dinged for 14 yellow hankies.
A tough first quarter saw UNK’s average starting field position come at its own 12-yard line. The Gorillas took advantage with a safety and TD drives of just 36 and 11 yards. The later came after an INT by backup corner Carnell Lewis. The Lopers turned the tables in the second quarter as junior Kendall Raschein (Red Bluff, Calif.) booted a 59-yard punt that pinned Pitt deep. After the defense made a stand, UNK went 36 yards in four plays to make it a 16-7 score.
Defensively, junior inside backer Sal Silvio (Kansas City) led UNK in tackles for a fourth straight game. He had nine (four solo) with senior corner Famous McKinnon (Miami) at seven and senior end Tye Spies (Mullen) having five. Finally, sophomore linemen Blake Schroeder (Holdrege) recorded UNK’s lone sack.
Junior end Cole Morris had two sacks for Pitt with three teammates making nine tackles apiece.
UNK heads to Northeastern State next Saturday. The RiverHawks (1-3) fell tonight at Missouri Western State, 66-16.