On a mud soaked field in Bolivar, MO, the Pitt State Gorillas ran their record to 3-0 with a performance that included 52 unanswered points, en route to a 52-9 win over Southwest Baptist. It was a dominant display for the Gorillas, but it’s what we’ve come to expect from the best team in DII College Football.
Field conditions were nasty, and in the start of game it looked like it was really going to affect the Gorillas. However, it didn’t take long for them to get their footing and once they did, it was all Gorillas all the time.
The past two weeks, I have talked about how the Gorillas have been basically doing prep work to prepare for their 4 game stretch in October, in which they will meet up with several ranked teams and all division opponents. It includes the annual trip to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the Northwest Missouri Bearcats.
But this week wasn’t about prep work. It was about the coaching staff and their ability to modify a game plan to account for the elements. And what they chose to do was rather than try and grind out the football on the ground, they instead went quick strike, using the elements against the defense, with no scoring drive taking longer than 4:38.
My takeaways from the game are not many, but significant.
#1-When DII football gives out their version of the Heisman Trophy, The Harlon Hill Award, there might be 2 Gorillas in the running. Linebacker Nate Dreiling is one of the best all around defensive players in the country at any level, and for as good as he is at diagnosing and playing the run, finishing with authority, it’s his ability to stay on the field on third down, drop into coverage and make the interception that sets him apart from other players. I have joked that Dreiling might be the best defensive back in DII football at linebacker.
The other player who might be at that banquet is wide receiver John Brown. Once again he was outstanding making 6 catches for 119 and a touchdown in sloppy conditions. Brown also added 88 yards on returns, and a single carry for 2 yards, giving him 209 all purpose yards from scrimmage.
However, it was less about his stats, and more about his spectacular plays. Brown made 2 catches, one along the sideline and one laying on his back that few players at any level could make. If you get a chance to watch the re-broadcast I suggest you do it, for those 2 plays alone. Brown has 791 all purpose yards this season in 3 games which by my math, is close to 264 all purpose yards per game.
#2-The running game is still trying to get traction. I put some of this on the elements and some on the offensive line this week. It appeared to me, at least initially that the Gorillas wanted to establish the run game, but the holes weren’t there, and the wet field was like an extra defender. I have been glowingly positive about the Gorillas this season and with good reason, but I have to admit I have a little trepidation about if this offense can run if they HAVE to, against a good opponent, perhaps to hold onto a lead.
#3-No major injuries. Anytime you play on a sloppy track, you have to cringe every time a player makes a cut or a spin, and you just hope there isn’t an injury. The Gorillas left Bolivar in good shape and this is important because in many cases it’s the team that is the healthiest when it matters that makes the difference.
This Saturday the Gorillas are coming back home for their final tune-up of the season, as they will face off against a winless Lincoln team. I understand that I have to temper my enthusiasm based on the fact that Pitt State hasn’t played any good teams this year, so until they do, we can’t know for sure just how good they are.
However, you cannot deny that this team is stacked with athletes on both sides of the football. They are very well coached and eager to face some of the nation’s best.
They get their first big test on October 6th at home against Central Missouri. It will be interesting to see if they can execute their game plan, or if it stalls; what adjustments they make.
I, for one, can’t wait!
Gorillas fans come find me on Twitter @nfldraftboard