No. 16 Missouri Western football looks to bounce back from its first loss of the season on Saturday against No. 7 Pittsburg State at “the Jungle” in Pittsburg, Kan.
It will be no easy task for the 6-1 Griffons as reining national champion 5-1 Pittsburg is also looking for redemption from its first loss of the season, a 31-21 defeat by Northwest Missouri.
“Pitt is good and they are going to be hungry,” Coach Jerry Partridge said. “We’re planning on going to Pittsburg and getting a win and I think we are very capable of doing it.”
Gorillas quarterback Anthony Abenoja has thrown for 1663 yards, 12 touchdowns, and six interceptions.
Abenoja’s main target this season has been John Brown, who has caught 39 passes for 627 yards and six touchdowns. The Griffons should be well-aware of Brown as he gained 70 yards receiving and ran a punt back 84 yards for a touchdown last season when Pittsburg came to Spratt Stadium and won 34-7 last season. Brown has also returned one punt for a touchdown this season and is averaging 219 all-purpose yards per game.
Pittsburg’s leading rusher is Briceton Wilson has ran for 327 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Jason Spradling also had success running the ball, he’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry and has ran for 251 yards and a touchdown this season.
Linebacker Nate Dreiling anchors the Gorilla defense with a team-leading 36 tackles and five pass breakups while defensive end Gus Toca has sacked opposing quarterbacks five times on the season. The Gorillas lead the MIAA in defense, allowing 307 total yards per game.
The Griffons defense is banged up, dealing with injuries to several star players. Linebacker Yomi Alli is out with a knee injury suffered on Sept. 15. Defensive tackle, Austin Baska hurt both ankles against Southern and defensive end Ben Pister is dealing with a shoulder injury. Safety Shane Simpson missed the last two games with a hurt ankle, but should provide a boost when he makes his return this week.
“I can’t wait to get back on the field,” Simpson said. “Pitt State is a good team. We need to play our best and limit mistakes. If we do that, I’m sure we will be happy with the outcome.”
Griffons running back Michael Hill will be looking to bounce back from his lowest rushing total of the season, 54 yards. Hill is averaging 161 yards per game, which leads the MIAA by a wide margin with the second leading rusher averaging 94 yards per game.
“We can still do everything we wanted to do,” Hill said “One loss doesn’t even put a dent in our goals.”
The Griffons and the Gorillas both have high-powered offenses. The Gorillas average 39.5 points per game while the Griffons get 39 points each contest. The Griffons lead the MIAA in total offense per game with 469 yards per game while the Gorillas come in second with 466 yards per game.
Coach Partridge wants his team to keep their confidence despite having the deal with defeat for the first time this season.
“We have to keep the outside influences from affecting us and understand that we are still good enough and go get it done,” Partridge said. “We’re still a very good football team.”