Pittsburg State‘s Carnie Smith Stadium might still be buzzing after last weekend’s record-setting performance by wide receiver Gavin Lutman. Lutman snagged 10 catches, 4 touchdowns, and set both school and MIAA records with 268 receiving yards. His 75-yard scoring-grab from QB Anthony Abenoja just before halftime gave the Gorillas the momentum they needed to knock off Emporia State 45-17.
Even Lutman himself couldn’t believe what had just happened when he spoke after his record-shattering performance. “Never in my life have I ever (had success) like that. Not even in high school. The passing game was on. Tony was in his zone and we had plenty of time in pass protection. The passing game was just clicking today.”
Other than a one-point loss to Fort Hays State two weeks ago, the Gorillas have truly been firing on all cylinders. They’ve outscored opponents by an average score of 32 to 7, more than doubled their opponents’ first downs (132 to 63), and held opposing offenses to just under 93 rushing yards per game.
Perhaps most impressive of all has been the performance of Abenoja. The senior quarterback has thrown for 1,664 yards, 14 touchdowns, and amazingly, zero interceptions in six games this season.
As impressive as they’ve been, the Gorillas will need to play a nearly perfect game to upset undefeated Northwest Missouri State. The Bearcats have been on cruise-control of late (in a good way). Their only real challenge came in a 37-15 home-win against Central Missouri earlier in the season.
The Bearcats’ offense has been phenomenal, averaging 40.7 points and a mind-blowing 200 rushing yards per game. Headed into this weekend’s showdown, running backs Robert Burton and Phil Jackson are tied for the team-lead, each with 247 yards on the season. It’s truly been a team effort in the backfield as five different runners have churned out at least 121 yards on the ground so far.
Like Pittsburg State, Northwest Missouri State‘s defense has been solid. They’ve forced 11 turnovers so far and are allowing under two TDs per game — 12.7 points on average. The rushing defense has been just smothering, holding opponents to a miniscule 60-yard per game average. Part of that is because teams have to throw to try to catch up, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
On paper these two squads match up almost perfectly, but even the best of teams run into a juggernaut from time to time. Northwest Missouri State hasn’t lost since 2012, and are about as close to a sure-thing you’ll find in D2 football, but if Abenoja and Lutman can put up even half the yards they did last week, if the Gorillas can mount some semblance of a running game to keep the defense honest, if the Pittsburg State D plays their best game of the season, Pittsburg State could walk out of Bearcat Stadium with a stunning upset.