Pittsburg State Football enters 2014 at number 6 in our rankings. Check out our Top 25 Season Preview for more on the top college teams to watch this fall. Can’t find your team in the Top 25? View our full rankings to see where every team stands.
Last Season: 10-2 (7-1) Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association
The Gorillas had an excellent season in 2013 by almost any standard – any standard except their own. After all, you don’t become the winningest program in D2 history by missing playoffs and being cool with it. They started the season with six-straight wins before their first loss, 24-15, to eventual conference (and National) Champs Northwest Missouri State in the Fall Classic at Arrowhead Stadium. Pittsburg State turned the ball over four times in the game, had a punt blocked, and gave up two safeties – it wasn’t Gorilla football. They followed the loss with four-straight wins to keep their playoff hopes alive, only to have them dashed by Missouri Southern State in the season finale. The 35-21 loss marked the first time in 20 years the Lions beat the Gorillas. Because of the loss, Pittsburg State missed the playoffs for the second year in a row after they won it all in 2011.
-John Brown WR – AFCA All-American, second team Daktronics All-American, 61 receptions, 1,198 yards, 14 TDs
-Nate Dreiling LB – First team Daktronics All-American, 109 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 FF
What to Watch For
Air-Raid – Like a few of our top-ranked D2 teams (West Texas A&M, Northwest Missouri State, and Minnesota State-Mankato come to mind), the Gorillas like to get the job done through the air: they were third in D2 in passing efficiency and scoring offense last season with an average of 46.5 points per game. Unlike some of those other highly regarded teams however, Pittsburg State should have no problem duplicating (or even exceeding) last season’s performance. Quarterback Anthony Abenoja is a senior this year. He’ll have four of his top five receivers and most of his offensive line back, so even with the graduation of stud receiver John Brown (who will be catching passes from Carson Palmer of the Arizona Cardinals this fall), he’ll have plenty of targets to try to duplicate his 30 TD/5 INT season from a year ago.
It might be a surprise to see the Gorillas ranked so highly here after finishing third in the MIAA last season, but our rankings are based on conference strength and historical performance, i.e., a team’s winning pedigree. Pittsburg State has that in spades. Their 671 all-time wins are the most of any D2 program. The Gorillas play in an extremely difficult conference featuring last season’s National Champs – Northwest Missouri State – but remember, there are players on this team who have tasted National Championship glory as well. The October 18 game in Maryville, MO between Northwest Missouri State and Pittsburg State could decide the MIAA championship, and both teams should make the playoffs this season.