Two years ago, Washburn came into a raucous environment at Carnie Smith Stadium and knocked off No. 4-ranked Pittsburg State in front of 11,383 fans.
While the Ichabods fed off the atmosphere in that case, WU coach Craig Schurig knows it’s just as easy to get rattled by playing in the “The Jungle.”
“The biggest thing we try to get across to them is that you’ve got to really focus, particularly at the start of the game, and not get too riled by the fanbase and do your job really well,” said Schurig, who spent nine years on Pittsburg State’s coaching staff from 1993-2001. “Hopefully we can get off to a good start. A fast start would be great because then you kind of take the fans out of it a little bit.
“We know they’re going to be fired up and ready to play.”
Pitt State (2-2), which will play host to Washburn (3-1) at 2 p.m. on Saturday, will be looking to recover from a 45-11 loss to Lindenwood at home last week.
“We expect them to come out trying to fire on all cylinders and fighting hard because last week didn’t go as they planned,” said WU senior defensive tackle Trey Parker, who was a sophomore on the team that beat Pitt State 28-21 in Pittsburg. “And they saw that we had a big game last week, so they probably feel like we’re going to be resting on our laurels, which we won’t be.
“Personally, I feel like it’s one of the best (atmospheres) in Division II. Having the fans right there, breathing down your neck and yelling and screaming at you, it gets your adrenaline going.”
The game will hold a personal significance for WU sophomore quarterback Blake Peterson.
“I grew up going to Pitt State games. Both my parents (Jeff and Gayla) graduated from there,” Peterson said. “It’s really a Division I atmosphere, just a little smaller. Pitt State football, that’s people’s lives there in Pittsburg. I’m super excited for this game.”
Washburn is coming off its best all-around game of the early season against Nebraska-Kearney, rolling to a 60-28 win.
“We found the groove and we just started clicking,” said WU junior receiver Will Hamilton, who caught six passes for 88 yards against UNK. “I think we’re finding our stride right now.”
Pitt State quarterback John Roderique returned last week for the Gorillas for the first time since getting injured in the season opener. Roderique earned All-MIAA honors the last two seasons despite battling injuries.
“When he’s healthy, he’s one of the top players in the conference,” Schurig said. “And they do some different things offensively with him in their run-pass option game, and they’re excellent at it. It really keeps you off balance as a defense.”
Running back Michael Rose is averaging 90 yards rushing per game and 5.2 yards per carry for the Gorillas and safety Josh Hornback leads the Gorillas with 28 tackles.
WASHBURN AT PITTSBURG STATE
Kickoff: 2 p.m. Saturday, Carnie Smith Stadium, Pittsburg
Records: Washburn 3-1, 3-1 MIAA, Pittsburg State 2-2, 2-2
Radio: KTPK-FM (106.9)
Next: Missouri Southern at Washburn, 1 p.m. Oct. 7