Whether Pittsburg State is having a season that lands them in the NCAA Division II Playoffs like last year or winning a national championship like in 2011, there is always one game that means a lot to folks in Pittsburg, Kanas.
The Miner Bowl annually pits Pittsburg State against Missouri Southern, located in Joplin, Missouri . The two universities are near the Kansas/Missouri boarder line in the southern part of each state.
“This is a big rivalry game for both schools because we are only separated by 25 miles,” said Pittsburg State senior wide receiver Austin Daniel. “That makes it a big deal for both communities because you do see each other. You see the shirts of other opponents around town.”
The two teams will meet 2 p.m. CT Saturday at Carnie Smith Stadium in Pittsburg, Kansas. The game will be televised on ESPN3.
“I know the environment of playing at Carnie Smith Stadium is always an electric environment,” Daniel said. “I know Missouri Southern will travel well. It should be a lot of fun to play on TV. I know a lot of guys are excited to do that. It will be awesome for Pittsburg State. We think our atmosphere is the best in Division II. It will be fun to showcase that on television.”
The Gorillas come in with a 5-3 record and Missouri Southern is 1-7. Records, as the old saying goes, are irrelevant when the Gorillas take on the Lions.
“This game carries a lot of burden,” Daniel said. “You want to put on a good show for your town and represent your school and go out and get the win and have bragging rights for the year.”
Pittsburg State wants to finish the season strong. Seniors like Daniel want to help the younger players to gain greater understanding of what it takes to be a playoff team.
“You have to realize it is a process to become a starter,” Daniel said. “You have to put in the hours in the film room and put in the hours in the weight room. You have to understand the guys before you did the same thing you are doing. It is a grind and when you are younger to understand that. You have to stick it out, stay humble, work hard and know your time will come.”
Pittsburg State won four of its first five games and then hit a tough stretch in mid October when it lost in back-to-back weeks to Emporia State and Northwest Missouri State. The Gorillas bounced back last week with a win at Nebraska Kearney.
“There are a lot of very good teams in the MIAA this year,” Daniel said. “That’s how it has been the last few years. Being at Pitt State, we have had a lot of success. For this year particularly, it has been a grind every week. We know that the guys on the other team are on scholarship, too.
“You have to approach every game like you are playing the best team in America because anybody can beat you on any given day. That is how we are approaching this week. We are playing Missouri Southern. They are very hungry. They want to win as bad as everybody else we play. We have to look at it that we are playing the best team in the country because any team can beat you in the MIAA.”
Series history: Pittsburg State leads 37-9-11
Last meeting: Pittsburg State won 41-10, Nov. 1, 2014 in Joplin, Mo.
Total offense: Missouri Southern, 339.6; Pittsburg State, 396.0
Total defense: Missouri Southern, 471.1; Pittsburg State, 391.6
Points scored: Missouri Southern, 19.2; Pittsburg State, 32.1
Points allowed: Missouri Southern, 37.6; Pittsburg State, 27.1
Ashland will try to keep momentum going
A week ago, Ashland was staring at five-point deficit at Northern Michigan with 3:40 left in the game. The Eagles needed to go 75 yards to stay perfect on the season.
Ashland went on a 13-play drive that ended with sophomore quarterback Travis Tarnowski throwing a 10-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Adam Shaheen with 7 seconds left, lifting the Eagles to a 41-40 victory.
“It was awesome,” Tarnowski said. “Anytime you can go on the road against a team that plays that well in their stadium and get a win in college football, it is a plus. It was awesome to take one last drive, go down the field, command the offense and run the plays we know we can run. We executed pretty well. It was awesome to convert when we needed to convert and score on a play we thought would work and it worked.
“It was definitely emotional and took me an amount of time to gather my thoughts. It took a lot out of us.”
But Tarnowski said Ashland, 8-0 and ranked No. 5 in the AFCA top 25, will be ready when they take on No. 9 Grand Valley State, 7-1, at 7 p.m. ET Saturday at Jack Miller Stadium in Ashland, Ohio.
“We know how serious the game coming up this weekend is,” Tarnowski said. “We are ready to buckle down. The coaches will put a great game plan together and get us ready to go during the week with practice and meetings, coming up with a good scheme for another good team that will try to stop us from our ultimate goal.”
Since the summer, Tarnowski said the football players at Ashland have worked hard to make this a special season. They stayed an extra 30 minutes in the weight room or another hour in the film room to be ready each week.
“It was good to see,” Tarnowski said. “We knew we had potential. We had a lot of guys who wanted to step in roles. We had self-motivation. A lot of guys wanted it personally and that has made our team want it even more.
“I haven’t been part of a team that has shared a love and a compassion for each other like this team. We look at each other as family. If we are going down, we are all going down. There is no selfishness on the team. It doesn’t matter who gets a touchdown or who makes a play on defense, as long as it gets done, that has been the key point in our season.”
Tarnowski understand it is going to take another complete effort to beat Grand Valley.
“Grand Valley, you can tell by the scores, puts points on the board,” Tarnowski said. “They don’t allow teams to put points on the board. They are a really good football team. We are going to have our hands full.
“We have to stay balanced. This is going to be a competitive game and probably the hardest game we have had, yet. We have to treat it like it is the championship.”
Truman aiming for fourth consecutive win
Sometimes to measure the true character of football team you have to see how it responds to a poor start when there is no hope of postseason and very little opportunity to win a conference title, but more than half the season remains.
Truman was in those shoes when it lost its first three games and started the year 1-4 overall and 1-2 in the GLVC.
“We continued to play and continued to enjoy each other,” said Truman defensive end Devin Gillespie. “We continued to get better each week. That was the main thing.”
The Bulldogs have won three in a row and will carry a 4-4 record into its game at Quincy at 11 a.m. CT Saturday. The game will be televised on the American Sports Network.
“It is definitely a big opportunity for us,” Gillespie said. “Being on a national stage is what all student-athletes dream of. It is a big thing for our program and university to have a national stage like this.”