Western football came away with a bitter taste in their mouths this weekend after they dropped a hard-fought game to the eighth-ranked team in the country, Pittsburg State University.
Western came into the game with one of the most potent rushing attacks in the entire conference, and this game was no exception with Western rushing for a total of 265 yards on 39 attempts.
Sophomore running back Shamar Griffith led the rushing attack this week, turning five carries into 78 yards and a touchdown. Senior quarterback Dom Marino and redshirt freshman running back Donnell Hawkins added another 69 and 46 yards on the ground, respectively.
Defensively, Western did manage to hold the top-ranked Gorilla rushing attack to just an average of 2.7 yards per carry during the game. Junior Anthony Williams led the team with 12 total tackles, with freshman Kobe Cummings adding ten solo tackles of his own. The defense did, however, again struggle in the early stages of the game, falling behind 21-0 early on in the second quarter.
“We never question our passion for the game out on the field, so we really focus on pursuing and trying to get all 11 guys rallying to the player with the ball every play and staying precise in our play calls and communication throughout the entire game,” Cummings said.
Penalties also were a problem for the entire Western team in this one, with the Griffons totalling nine penalties for 122 yards.
The Western offense battled hard and clawed back to cut the deficit to 24-14, but the special teams unit allowed Pitt State to return a kickoff 95 yards for the a back-breaking touchdown. The return was the only touchdown Pitt State was able to manufacture in the second half.
“This week, everyone came to work all week just how we always do,” Marino said. “Saturday falls on my shoulders with not making sure guys were disciplined in what we were doing, and Pitt State definitely capitalized on that.”
Along with the costly penalties, Western was crippled by the offense struggling to hold on to the football, with three interceptions and two lost fumbles all but burying the Griffons’ hopes of an upset victory.
Despite the outcome being less than desired, Western was still able to move the ball, as well as make some stops against one of the top teams in the country, which leaves them with more than enough to work on and improve for the future.
“We don’t quit,” junior quarterback Wyatt Steigerwald said. “If we can put all the pieces together going forward, then we will be fine.”
Western will travel to take on the University of Nebraska-Kearney this Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 11:00 am.