Oct. 19, 2013
Bearcats Win Fall Classic Over Pitt State, 24-15Box Score | Photos
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Northwest Missouri State needed only 51 seconds at the start of the third quarter to tie the game against Pittsburg State.
And the Bearcats used that tremendous offensive surge early on in the second half to power their way to a gritty 24-15 victory over Pitt in the Fall Classic at Arrowhead XII in front of 17,679 fans on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Like most of the previous installments, very little separated these two MIAA and NCAA Division II powers.
Northwest entered the game 6-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country. Pitt was also 6-0 and ranked No. 7.
When it is game between two evenly matched, high-ranking teams, it usually comes down to which players make plays in key situations.
The Bearcats knew it needed to do something big early in the third quarter to erase a halftime deficit.
“One of our goals was the will to win,” Northwest coach Adam Dorrel said. “The seniors talked about that on the sidelines when times were tough because times were tough, especially in the first half.
“I can’t say enough about our defense. They kept us in that football game.”
The third quarter started with a very good kickoff return by Bryce Enyard that put the ball on the Bearcats’ 46. The first play from scrimmage was a 4-yard run by Robert Burton. The next was a 42-yard pass from Brady Bolles to Reuben Thomas.
Bolles finished the drive with an 8-yard run for a touchdown. The extra point tied the game 15-15 with 14:09 remaining in the third quarter.
“I thought that was huge,” said Bolles, who entered the game in the second quarter after starter Trevor Adams injured his shoulder.
“Our coaches preach that the most important drive of the game is the first drive of the second half. Our defense had been playing a great game. We had to go out and show them some love because they gave us great field position all game. We had to come out and put some points on the board early in the second half.”
Eleven minutes later, Northwest went ahead 22-15 on a 10-yard run by Bolles.
The defense took over from there, shutting out the Gorillas in the second half. The big play came with just over 4 minutes left and Pittsburg driving to midfield. On fourth down, senior Eric Reimer sacked Anthony Abenoja.
“We stuck to our game plan,” Reimer said. “They have athletes who can make plays. We wanted to come out and be physical.”
When Pitt got the ball back, only 1:59 was left on the clock and the Gorillas had to go 96 yards because of a pinpoint punt by Bolles.
No way was Pitt going 96 yards against Northwest defense. The Gorillas went so far back that Northwest earned its second safety of the game when Pitt was whistled for intentional grounding in the end zone.
“It was huge to hold them scoreless in the second half,” Northwest sophomore linebacker DJ Gnader said. “We go into the locker room at halftime and we got some guys hanging their heads. The seniors and couple leaders on the team continued telling them, ‘keep your heads up. We have been in this situation before. We battled adversity already this year.’
“We went out there and played a great game in the second half. Our offense scoring early really helped out.”
Northwest survived another tough game against its rival in what might be the last showdown at Arrowhead between these two storied programs.
“Offensively, we couldn’t get anything going,” Pitt coach Tim Beck said. “We didn’t get the run game established early on. It forced us to be one-dimensional in the second half, which allowed their defensive linemen to get into a three-point stance and get up the field and rush us hard.”
After four straight weeks of blowouts, Northwest needed to be pushed to see how it would handle a bit of in-game adversity. The Gorillas gave it to them.
The Bearcats went into halftime trailing 15-8 and it could have been worse if not for the stellar play of their defense.
Northwest struggled on offense, compiling 127 totals yards in the first half. Part of the problem was an injury to Adams.
Northwest was playing uphill most of the first half. In the Gorillas’ second drive, they went 46 yards in two plays and scored on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Abenoja to Marquise Cushion with 10:51 left in the first quarter.
The Bearcats defense took over from there. They put Northwest on the scoreboard early in the second quarter. Thanks to a punt by Northwest senior quarterback Trevor Adams, the Gorillas were pinned on their 1.
On the next play, the Northwest defense got a safety, making it 7-2.
It turned out the quick punt by Adams was his last play of the game. He left because of a shoulder injury.
“He suffered an injury a little bit earlier,” Dorrel said. “He is a tough kid. He was trying to battle through it. He obviously wanted to be playing in the last Fall Classic.”
It took Bolles a few series to get going. An interception by Gnader gave the ball to Northwest at the Pitt State 9.
“Our coaches put us in great position to make plays,” Gnader said. “The two interceptions we had in the first half gave our offense the ball in good field position. Honestly, it calmed Brady down a little bit and calmed the offense down a little bit and showed them we got their backs.”
Bolles took advantage of the great field position. He tossed a 6-yard touchdown pass to Reuben Thomas on third down.
Although the Bearcats failed to convert a two-point attempt, they grabbed an 8-7 lead with 4:25 left in the second quarter.
Late in the second quarter, Pitt State put together a nice drive, going 80 yards in nine plays and scoring the go-ahead touchdown with 2 seconds left in the second quarter. A two-point conversion sent the Gorillas into halftime with a 7-point lead.
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