PITTSBURG — After watching Pittsburg State do everything in its power to control the clock and limit Washburn’s opportunities with constant running plays, WU coach Craig Schurig was ready to take a couple chances.
Schurig found the right time to gamble midway through the third quarter, and the Ichabods cashed in with an onside kick recovery and a flea-flicker to take the lead.
WU remained in front the rest of the way, notching a 35-20 win at Carnie Smith Stadium to move to 4-1 on the season.
Schurig called for the onside kick after a 53-yard touchdown run from Zach Willis cut Pitt’s lead to 17-14 with 6:01 left in the third.
“It was a great situation to do it because we just scored and we wanted to keep the momentum,” Schurig said. “It was risk versus reward, but I felt like with the skill level of Perry (Schmiedeler), it was worth taking.”
Instead of a traditional onside kick, Schmiedeler nudged the top of the ball and then waited patiently for the ball to roll 10 yards before covering it up.
“We work on it all the time, every day in practice,” Schmiedeler said. “What I do is just go out there, hit the top of the ball and let it roll 10 yards. When everyone is going to block someone, then I jump on it.
“It did feel like it was in slow motion (waiting for the ball to go 10 yards). We actually ran that play two years ago here and we didn’t get it then. It was good to get it, for sure.”
On the next play, Mickeel Stewart took a handoff and flipped the ball back to quarterback Blake Peterson, who hit a wide-open Carey Woods for a 54-yard touchdown.
“We had a couple special plays where we were like, ‘Man, that looked good in practice,’ and we wanted to take a shot,” Schurig said. “We threw the ball down the field a lot (in the first half) and we just couldn’t connect. It was frustrating. But we did connect on that one, so that was fun.”
Washburn led 21-20 after breaking up a third-down pass from Pitt State at their 6 and forcing Pitt State to settle for a field goal early in the fourth. WU then used ground and pound to put the Gorillas away, getting a 40-yard touchdown run from Willis and a 19-yard TD from Stewart.
Pitt State (2-3) abandoned its passing game in the first half, with all 148 yards of Gorillas’ offense coming on the ground.
Quarterback John Roderique rushed for 91 yards in the first half and tied up the game at 7 on a 2-yard plunge with 11:18 left in the second half. PSU led 10-7 at halftime, despite attempting just one pass.
The Ichabods’ defense kept better tabs on Roderique in the second half and allowed Pitt State’s offense just three points after halftime.
“We knew they were going to run, but we didn’t know they were going to run it just about every play,” WU junior linebacker Derrick McGreevy said. “We stepped up to the challenge and I think we did real well.
“A couple of plays we just didn’t fill our holes very well and then at halftime we shored everything up. We came out in the second half and did a real good job.”
After Pittsburg State blocked a punt and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown to go up 17-7 early in the third, Willis gave the Ichabods a spark with the 53-yard run.
“We knew that it was there the whole time, we just had to stick with it,” said Willis, a 5-foot-8, 195-pound native of Belton, Mo. “We started off real slow and we preached, ‘Just stick with it and it’s going to open up,’ and it did.
“We definitely needed something. I know we didn’t execute things the way we wanted to, and everyone just kind of needed that kick-start. I’m happy to get it going for them.”
McGreevy had a game-high 16 tackles and was joined at the other inside linebacker spot by a committee of underclassmen after senior Cedric Gonzalez left early in the game with an apparent ankle injury. Hayden product and redshirt freshman Brooks Peavler was among those that helped fill in for Gonzalez, notching his first career interception late in the game. Redshirt freshman linebacker Garret Barnett-Kruger also recorded half a sack.
“It’s a tribute to them because they don’t get a lot of reps in practice, those young guys, but they’ve learned,” Schurig said. “Now they’re going to get more reps because of the injury bug. They’re very capable physically and they’re very good football players.”
Willis finished with 122 yards on eight carries and two TDs while Stewart had 71 yards on 12 carries with a pair of scores.
WU quarterback Blake Peterson completed 16 of 30 passes for 182 yards with a touchdown and still hasn’t thrown an interception this season. James Brania-Hopp was his top target, catching six passes for 74 yards.
Washburn finished with 425 yards of offense while Pittsburg State had 308. Roderique had 87 yards on the ground and 98 through the air.
Washburn (4-1, 4-1) … 7 … 0 … 14 … 14 … — … 35
Pittsburg State (2-3, 2-3)… 0 … 10 … 7 … 3 … — … 20
WU — Stewart 26 run (Schmiedeler kick), 11:18. Drive: 9 plays-83 yards, 3:42 time of possession.
PSU — Roderique 2 run (Vincent kick), 11:18. Drive: 12-52, 5:10.
PSU — Vincent 26 field goal, 3:55. Drive: 7-54, 2:59.
PSU — Baldwin 48 blocked punt return (Vincent kick), 11:43.
WU — Willis 53 run (Schmiedeler kick), 6:01. Drive: 3-65, 1:22.
WU — Woods 54 pass from Peterson (Schmiedeler kick), 5:49. Drive: 1-54, 0:12.
PSU — Vincent 23 field goal, 14:49. Drive: 9-38, 4:05.
WU — Willis 40 run (Schmiedeler kick), 12:47. Drive: 6-69, 1:55.
WU — Stewart 19 run (Schmiedeler kick), 7:38. Drive: 8-63, 4:05.
Attendance — 7,315.
GAME IN FIGURES
… WU … PSU
First downs … 18 … 18
Rushes-yards … 35-243 … 53-210
Passing yards … 182 … 98
Comp-Att-Int. 16-30 … 8-17-1
Punts-Avg. … 7-35.0 … 6-34.2
Fumbles-lost … 0-0 … 4-1
Penalties-yards … 4-19 … 2-10
Time of possession … 27:42 … 32:18
RUSHING — WU: Willis 8-122, Stewart 12-71, Peterson 12-52, Peroo 2-2, Woods 1-(minus) 4. PSU: Rose 25-101, Roderique 17-87, Horak 2-16, LePage 3-3, Panko 1-2, Nordic 1-1, Edwards 2-1, Schuerich 1-0.
PASSING — WU: Peterson 16-30-0 182 yards. PSU: Roderique 8-16-1 98 yards, Horak 0-1-0.
RECEIVING — WU: Brania-Hopp 6-74, Stewart 3-27, Woods 2-54, Hubert 2-5, Peroo 1-10, Hamilton 1-7, Horner 1-5. PSU: Wilson 2-32, Nordic 2-25, Franklin 2-9, Panko 1-19, Otting 1-13.
PUNTING — WU: Schmiedeler 6-40.8. PSU: Anchors 4-48.0, Horak 2-21.0.
LEADING TACKLERS — WU: McGreevy 7 solo, 9 assisted, Olmstead 7-3, Tucker 3-6. PSU: Taylor 4-4, Hornback 3-5, Fugitt 5-2.
SACKS — WU: Pfannenstiel 0.5, Barnett-Kruger 0.5. Pittsburg State: Fugitt 1.
INTERCEPTIONS — WU: Peavler.