Mules upset bid falls short in 30-21 loss at Pittsburg State

Written by Muleskinner Staff

(PITTSBURG, Kan.) — The Mules’ upset bid fall short Saturday in a 30-21 loss to No. 1-ranked Pittsburg State.
UCM rallied from a 14-0 deficit to take a 21-17 lead in the third quarter, but couldn’t hang on in the end.
Neither team was able to get much going early on. On Central Missouri’s (4-2, 4-2 MIAA) second drive Matt Jordan‘s punt was blocked and the Gorillas (5-0, 5-0 MIAA) took over at the UCM 29-yard line. Four plays later PSU had first and goal at the eight, but John Brown was hit and fumbled at the four. Reggie Dilworth recovered the fumble and rumbled 47 yards to the Pitt State 49 yard line.
The Mules weren’t able to do anything after the fumble and were forced to punt. Starting from their own 14, the Gorillas drove 86 yards in nine plays to score the first touchdown of the game. The drive was highlighted by completions of 19 and 24 yards and capped off by a 13-yard toss from Anthony Abenoja to John Brown to give PSU a 7-0 lead.
The Mules drove to midfield on the ensuing possession, but were again forced to punt. The Gorillas drove out to their own 31 yard line, but were forced into a fourth and six. PSU ran a fake and John Brown caught a pass and took it 32 yards to the UCM 37 to extend the drive. Seven plays later, Trezz Tillman took it in from 1 yard out and the Gorillas led 14-0.
After a UCM punt the Mule defense stiffened and stopped the Gorillas near midfield. The PSU punt was downed at the UCM 2-yard line with just under four minutes to play in the half.
After a pair of incompletions, Colter Smith rolled to his right in the end zone and hit Ralph Watson for a gain of 59 yards to the Pitt State 39. The next play Smith hit Ronrei Lloyd for 31 yards to the eight. After a loss of four on first and goal set up a second and goal from the 12, Smith rolled right and scrambled into the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown run to put the Mules on the board at 14-7.
John Brown took the ensuing kickoff 52 yards to the UCM 48 to set up the Gorillas with great field position and just 1:36 to play in the half. Completions by Abenoja of 17, 10 and 20 gave the Gorillas a first and goal at the 1. The UCM defense rose up and stopped PSU on the next two rushing plays to force a third and goal with just six seconds in the half. Calling their final timeout of the half, the Gorillas opted for the short field goal try and Connor Frazell’s 18-yard attempt missed wide right keeping it 14-7 at halftime.
Pitt State received the ball to start the second half and on their second play from scrimmage Ricky Spratley recovered an Andrew Casteneda fumble and gave the Mules great field position at the PSU 37. A three and out forced a punt and Jordan’s punt was downed at the PSU four. The Mules forced a three and out of their own and got the ball back near midfield after a 52-yard punt.
On third and 10 from the PSU 43, Smith hit Lloyd over the middle for 24 yards to the 19 yard line. Two plays later LaVance Taylor weaved his way into the end zone from 15 yards out to tie the game at 14.
After a couple of stalled drives the Gorillas got the ball back at their own 35. A 40-yard scamper by Jason Spradling gave PSU a first down at the UCM 23. The defense stiffened and forced a field goal try. This one from 32 yards was good and Pitt State regained the lead 17-14.
The lead didn’t last long as the Mules took the ensuing possession 69 yards in eight plays to regain the lead. Taylor had a 22-yard run to open the drive and Smith had completions of 23 yards to Ralph Watson and 11 to Taylor to give the Mules a first and goal at the one. Smith took it himself on a quarterback sneak to put the Mules back in front 21-17 just into the fourth quarter.
The Gorillas responded, driving 68 yards in seven plays on their next drive. On third and 11, Abenoja hit Brown for 46 yards to the UCM 23. A 15-yard run by Spradling gave the Gorillas a first and goal at the eight and on third and goal from the one Mandel Dixon plunged over the pile to put the Gorillas back on top. The PAT was no good and the lead was 23-21 with just over 11 minutes left in the game.

Anthony Kirkwood returned the ensuing kickoff 34 yards to set up UCM in good field position. A completion of 15 yards to Ronrei Lloyd gave the Mules a first down at the Pitt State 48. After a false start penalty moved UCM back five yards, Smith hit Lloyd for 19 yards to the Gorilla 34, but the play was waived off with an offensive pass interference call. The drive went backwards from there as UCM was pushed all the way back to their own 19 and the Mules were forced to punt.
The Mules nearly got a gift on the punt when Brown tried to pick up a rolling ball and fumbled it, but he was able to get back on it and keep possession with the Gorillas at their own 38.
Pitt State wasted no time adding to their lead. A 39-yard completion to Luke Rampy moved the ball inside the UCM 30 and Abenoja hit Brady Letchworth with a 2-yard scoring strike to give the Gorillas a 30-21 lead with 6:20 to play in the game.
After a three and out and subsequent punt, the Gorillas were driving again, but Ricky Spratley came up with his second turnover of the game picking off an Abenoja pass in the end zone to halt a potential scoring drive.
The Mules drove near midfield, but turned the ball over on downs on the ensuing possession and one kneel down by the Gorillas ended UCM’s upset try.
Smith finished the day 16-of-32 for 256 yards. He added 14 carries for 53 yards and two rushing TDs. Lloyd had eight catches for 123 yards and Watson had three grabs for 88 yards.
Defensively, Patrick Lewis led UCM with 10 tackles and a forced fumble. Brett Ginn had nine stops and David Bax had eight as the Mules tallied six tackles for loss and two sacks.
Abenoja was 23-of-38 for 336 yards with a pair of touchdowns and one interception for Pitt State. Jason Spradling ran 18 times for 134 yards and John Brown and Luke Rampy had nine catches each. Brown went for 157 yards receiving with a score while Rampy tallied 144 yards. Nate Dreiling led the Gorilla defense with 10 tackles.
The Mules are back in action next Saturday as they return home to host Central Oklahoma on Homecoming. Kickoff at Walton Stadium/Kennedy Field is set for 1:30 p.m. It will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools.