They did it again; Pittsburg State escapes Southern with 19th straight win


Willie Brown, The Chart

Gorilla wide receiver John Brown sneaks into the corner of the endzone in the first quarter of last weekend’s game in Joplin. Pitt State would go on to win the game 26-14.

Every year since 1993, Pittsburg State has dominated Missouri Southern on the gridiron.

This season was no different.

Despite a 14-10 lead early in the second half, the Lions were unable to hold on for their first win in nearly 20 years, losing 26-14 in Joplin.

“Big players make big plays in big games at big times, and you know what? We didn’t do it,” first year Head Coach Daryl Daye said. “We didn’t make the plays we had to make in the fourth quarter. We didn’t get it done. There’s no excuse about it. The kids did their best; I didn’t see anybody quit.”

As always, the game was surrounded by hype from fans and media alike, but this game had a little different flavor. For what may have been the first time in 19 years, many felt the Lions were the favorite.

This was largely due to the Gorillas’ late season free fall, losing three of four games and showing scarce offensive production compared to last year’s national championship team.

The Lions, on the other hand, came into the game with a top-ranked rushing offense, and a team loaded with potential riding high on just their second winning season in well over a decade.

Still, the team wasn’t able to get it done in the annual rivalry game, and the team is already preparing for next year’s contest with a crop of young talent, including what’s expected to be a hot recruiting class.

“After these next two weeks, we’ll have as long as we had [to recruit] all last year,” Daye said.

Daye and his staff had only two weeks to fill a team last season, starting with about 35 players and bringing in about 70 new players to buy into the coaches’ new system.

A full recruiting season should help build on a foundation and tradition started by the players who decided to stick with the team through a coaching change.

Players like Kellen Cox, Brandon Williams and Landon Zerkel, all seniors, are among those who stayed. After productive seasons, they’re all leaving the team.

“It’s a lot easier [sending them off] winners,” Daye said. “That’s the thing. They laid a foundation here for us that we can build upon and start a winning tradition.”

Some of those players, like Cox, already have players on the team waiting in the wings.

Freshman Jay McDowell, who had his redshirt status lifted after an injury sidelined backup quarterback Kyle Webster, is the heir apparent to Cox’s throne in this triple option attack, and he’s had a good role model in the senior leader.

“We’d be in meetings, we’d be watching film, and I’d say, ‘Jay, if you learn from all of my mistakes, you’re going to be a darn good player,’ and he really has done an awesome job this year,” Cox said. “I mean for just turning 18 years old, I think he’s got an amazing future ahead of him.”

And that’s the way many feel about this team’s future. They’re young. They’re hungry. Most of all, they’ve got a winning season under their belts to build confidence as they grow together.

While Cox and the others leave the team to make lives for themselves, Daye and the rest of the Lion coaches will be back on the road, picking up players to fit their schemes from wherever they can.

If this year’s team, held together with chewing gum and paper clips, is any indication, the Lions are in for a world of success in the future.

“Next year, they’re only going to get better,” Cox said. “They’re going to have better personnel for the triple option … I think having that winning season to build off of is going to better their chances at getting better recruits … It’s all going to come off this winning season, and that was huge for us. I think they’ll be an 8- or 9- or 10- game winning team next season.”