PITTSBURG — The Pittsburg State football team forced six turnovers on defense and capitalized on enough offensive opportunities to score a 20-10 victory over No. 1 Northwest Missouri State University Saturday at Brandenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium.
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The Gorillas (5-4, 5-4 MIAA) snapped the Bearcats' (8-1, 8-1 MIAA) 38-game winning streak as well as its 34-game MIAA winning streak in front of 6,541 fans. The last time the two-time defending NCAA Division II national champion Bearcats lost an MIAA game Pitt State handed them a 35-17 setback on Oct. 18, 2014, at Maryville, Missouri.
This marks the third time Pitt State has upset a No. 1 ranked Northwest Missouri team since the 2011 season. The Bearcats are 84-9 since the start of the 2011 season with four of those nine losses coming to the Gorillas.
Pitt State erased a 7-0 deficit with 17 unanswered points Saturday. Northwest cashed in on a short field to take a 7-0 lead four plays after the Gorillas failed to convert a fourth down pass on a fake punt at their own 35 yard line. Zach Martin completed the Bearcats scoring drive with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Shane Williams with 5:48 remaining in the first quarter.
Northwest Missouri State lost to Pittsburg State today, snapping its 38-game winning streak (2nd-longest in Division II history). pic.twitter.com/5MenOiWPWj— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 28, 2017
The Gorillas countered with a five-play, 48-yard drive to tie the score at 7-7. Thomas LePage, starting in place of injured quarterback John Roderique, fired a 20-yard touchdown pass to Austin Panko for the scoring strike at the 12:51 mark of the second period.
Three plays later, Josh Hornback grabbed the first of our interceptions by a Pitt State defender to set up the Gorillas offense. LePage, who improved to 3-0 on the season as the Gorillas' starter, then tossed a 32-yard touchdown pass to Lorenzo West to put Pitt State in front, 14-7, with 10:19 remaining in the second quarter.
Jared Vincent capped the first-half scoring with a 33-yard field goal with 4:35 to play in the first half. Vincent's field goal capped a nine-play drive by a Pitt State offense that managed a season-high 136 rushing yards against the No. 1 ranked defense in NCAA Division II. The Bearcats entered the game allowing just 39.7 rushing yards.
Northwest chipped back into the game with a 40-yard field goal by Brett Garner with 11:00 remaining in the third quarter. After that score, the Pitt State defense forced three straight turnovers – two interceptions and a fumble. The Bearcats then punted, fumbled and were held on downs on their final three offensive series.
The Gorillas limited Northwest to 265 yards of total offense and just 78 net rushing yards on 28 attempts.
Hornback and Paul Davis snared two interceptions apiece and the duo combined with their defensive teammates break up nine more pass attempts.
Martin completed just 16 of 41 passes for 187 yards in the contest with four interceptions.
LePage was seven of 11 passing for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Rose led Pitt State's ground game with 18 rushes for 50 yards, while Panko added six carries for 49 yards. Panko also had a team-leading four receptions for 49 yards.