PITTSBURG, KS (DSU ATHLETICS) - A trip to the NCAA National Championship game was on the line Saturday night, as the Statesmen took on Pittsburg State. When it was all send and done, Pittsburg State punched their ticket to Florence, Ala. with a 49-23 victory over the Statesmen.
The Statesmen (11-3) offense took the field first, and the Pittsburg State defense responded. After two negative plays, and an incompletion, the Statesmen were forced to punt. John Brown took Andrew Jones's punt back 43 yards for the touchdown. The score put the Gorillas up 7-0 early.
The second drive for the Statesmen came to an abrupt end, as Micah Davis fumbled while being tackled, and the Gorillas recovered. A review of the play upheld the call on the field, and the Pitt State offense took the field. The Statesmen defense held the Gorilla offense, as they forced Pitt State to punt.
The Statesmen offense looked to be going three and out, but a fourth down run by senior quarterback Micah Davis kept the drive going for the Statesmen. After the fourth down run, the Statesmen offense kept on the march towards the end zone. That march came to an end on the Pitt State 1-yard line, and the Statesmen got on the board with Matt Dean 19-yard field goal.
Once again the Statesmen defense came up big. After a big run for Pitt State by running back Eric Love, the Statesmen defense tightened up. Senior linebacker Robert Hogan sacked Pitt State quarterback Zac Dickey on the next play, and senior corner Dominique Davenport intercepted Dickey's pass on the next play. That pick was the 14th of Davenport's career putting him first on the Delta State career interceptions list.
The Gorillas defense held strong after the turnover, and forced a punt by the Statesmen. The defensive battle continued, as the Gorillas had a drive end on a fumble by Dickey on the DSU 16-yard line. The fumble was the second turnover of the game for Pitt State.
After a Delta State punt, the Gorilla offense took the field on the DSU 45-yard line. The drive almost resulted in another Gorilla turnover, as Statesmen linebacker Ixavier Triplett stripped the ball from Castaneda. The ball however bounced out of bounds, and the Gorillas remained on offense. The offense took advantage of the good fortune, as Mandel Dixon scored form one yard out. The score put the Gorillas up 14-3 late in the first half.
Needing an answer, the Delta State offense took the ball down the field. Davis found receiver Bill Franks on a 51-yard completion to the Pitt State 19. The Gorilla defense held the Statesmen on the next three plays, and once again Delta State settled for a field goal. Dean's
On the next Gorilla drive, the Statesmen special teams closed the deficit. The punt by Jake Craig was blocked by Melvin Griffin, and returned by Franks for a touchdown. The extra point cut the Gorilla lead to just one.
Just when delta State grabbed the momentum, Pittsburg State took it right back. After starting the drive on the Delta State 47, Dickey found receiver Jon Thomas for a 38-yard touchdown. The Gorilla defense then came through with a turnover, as Nate Dreiling picked off a Davis pass when receiver Chance Dennis bobbled the ball. The Gorillas took advantage of the turnover as Dickey found Brown on a 38-yard pass to the end zone. The Score put the Gorillas up 28-13.
Things went from bad to worse for the Statesmen, as they fumbled on their next drive, and the Gorillas took over with a minute left in the half. Once again the Gorillas found the end zone, as Dickey passed back to Castaneda, who then passed it to Levi Kuntzsch in the end zone. The touchdown put the Gorillas up 35-13 at halftime.
Defense was the story for much of the third quarter. Both teams traded three and outs, before the Statesmen came up with another turnover. Dickey fumbled, and the Statesmen took over on offense. The Statesmen seemed to be driving up the field, but failed to convert a fourth and three.
Pittsburg State drove down the field, and looked to be headed into the end zone. However, Dickey fumbled going into the end zone, and the Statesmen recovered for the touchback. Triplett forced the fumble, and Davenport recovered the ball.
The Statesmen offense drove the ball down field, and needed to convert a fourth and three. The Statesmen came up short on 4th down, and Pittsburg State took over on downs late in the third. The Statesmen defense once again came up with a huge play, as they forced and recovered another fumble with just seconds remaining in the third quarter.
While no team put points on the board in the third quarter, the Statesmen made sure that was not the case in the fourth. Dean added his third field goal of the game to cut the Pitt State lead to 35-16. The Statesmen tried to get the ball back with an onside kick, but the Gorillas recovered.
Pittsburg State (12-1) took advantage of the short field, and came away with their first points of the second half. Jason Spradling broke free, and scored on a 25-yard touchdown run. The scamper put the Gorillas up 42-16 with 11:27 left in regulation.
The Statesmen offense, needing points in a bad way, once again drove down the field. Just when the Statesmen offense seemed poised to go into the end zone, the Pitt State defense made another play. Davis was picked off for the third time tonight, and Paul Robinson took his interception 91-yards to the end zone. The score put the Gorillas up 49-16.
In what was a theme for the game, the Delta State offense drove down the field, but was not able to find the end zone. The Statesmen had the ball on the one-yard line, but could not score as Pitt State took over on downs.
The score was still 49-16 when the Statesmen added one more touchdown for the season with under a minute left. Davis hit Clayton for the 35-yard touchdown. The score made it a 49-23 game for Pitt State. After recovering the onside kick the Statesmen offense took the field. The Gorillas made one last play as they forced a fumble, and took a knee to come away with the 49-23 victory.
The supply of turnovers tonight surely outpaced the demand. The Statesmen turned the ball over six times with three fumbles, and three interceptions. The Gorillas turned the ball over five times, four on fumbles, and one interception. Davis finished the game 27-of-58 for 365 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. Dickey finished the game 12-of-28 for 168 yards, two touchdowns, and one pick. The Statesmen rushed for just 58 yards compared to 246 for the Gorillas.
With the loss, the Statesmen's season comes to an end in the NCAA semi-finals. The Gorillas advance to take on Wayne State in the NCAA Div. II National Championship, next Saturday in Florence, Ala. The Statesmen finish the season as Gulf South Conference Champions, and Super Region 2 Champions.
(COURTESY: Delta State Sports Information Department)