I have lots of readers who are fans of FBS college football. They get to go watch games in huge stadiums filled with screaming fans and a tremendous atmosphere for football. But you can ask anyone who’s ever attended a Pittsburg State Gorillas game, you will understand that you don’t need 80,000 fans to make it happen. Saturday, the Gorillas did their part with a big win over the University of Central Oklahoma Bronchos in the Jungle.
This was one of those games that football fans came away excited with a big win, even though they grunted and groaned plenty during the game at the miscues. This is a game where Gorillas head coach Tim Beck is going to be going on in interviews about how much they need to improve and all the things that they could have done better. But from a strategic standpoint this game was perfect and sets this team up for big things the rest of the way.
First, here’s how it went down. Last week, the Gorillas came out gunning the football down the field, showing a high powered passing game led by quarterback Anthony Abenoja throwing downfield. He stuck tight in the pocket, showed great footwork and poise and a excellent zip on his throws. You know what else he did? He gave all the teams the Gorillas are going to play this year a scheme to prepare for.
So what is a better strategy for them this week? Come out and show Abenoja running the football, rolling out and making plays on the run. What we learned was Abenoja understands the offense very well. He did a nice job making his reads, followed his blockers and showed very good speed and finished runs. If you are a team that’s playing the Gorillas later on this season, you must now respect that portion of the offense.
One thing they did do again this week was be sure to include wide receiver John Brown in the game plan. Brown caught 7 passes for 127 yards, along with 2 rush attempts for 69 yards. If that wasn’t enough he also chipped in with 116 yards in returns as well. Brown tweeted Saturday night after the game he had an “all right” game. If 312 all purpose yards is just all right, I can’t wait to see what a great game is for him. 2014 NFL draft, pay attention, because Brown gets better every week.
The running game was the highlight of the game plan Saturday. Coach Beck and his staff wanted to see if the offensive line could open up holes and for the most part they did just that. 40 rush attempts and a healthy 6.1 average is promising and once again, it’s strategic. The designed runs by Brown, the inclusion of bruising running back Briceton Wilson into the offense more just gives opposing coordinators more things to prepare for, and more options for the Gorillas. Critics will point to some three-and-outs and some problems with consistency, but I have no problems with it. Commitment to the run game is what matters, especially later in the season, when the weather often gets bad.
On defense, the Gorillas had to prepare for the Bronchos run heavy offense and for the most part they did a good job. Yes, they gave up a lot of yards to Bronchos running back Joshua Birmingham but he’s a talented back, and what I did see from this defense was they were opportunistic. They made big plays when they had to, made critical stops, and got turnovers. It’s not always about forcing a dozen punts, it’s about putting your offense in a position to make plays, and the defense did that.
Speaking of the defense, once again we all got to see some of the best defensive players in DII football, including linebacker Nate Dreiling, cornerback De’Vante Bausby, and defensive end Gus Toca do what they do. They harassed the Bronchos all night and even when the defense bent, it never broke. Their best plays may never show up in the box score, but hits on the quarterback, forcing receivers off their routes, working offensive linemen back inside and funneling the back to the tackler. These are all so vital to a team’s success, but isn’t always simple to measure.
In the final analysis, this game went about as close to plan as you could want. They tried out lots of new things on offense, personnel packages, played defense against a system they don’t prepare against very often, and they won handily. I mean no disrespect to the UCO Bronchos as they are a good football team, but these Gorillas have lofty goals. And when you look at the schedule, they’ve circled the games they have to win. They are staring down the month of October where they play a brutal 4 game stretch against Central Missouri, Northwest Missouri, Missouri Western, and Truman. Don’t be shocked if the next 2 weeks you see even more new wrinkles plugged in on offense and defense, just to give those teams even more to scheme against.
This Gorillas squad is good. Really good. They are well coached, and have talent all over the field. The diversity they can provide on offense is going to have some hiccups at times, but should end up being their greatest asset as the season goes on. Next week the Gorillas will travel to Bolivar, Missouri to take on a Southwest Baptist squad who is winless on the season. I expect to see the Gorillas experiment with even more new wrinkles and another win for the Gorillas!