Story and photo courtesy of Pittsburg State Athletics
PITTSBURG, Kan. - Tony Abenoja tossed a touchdown pass and ran for another two scores to help lead No. 1 Pittsburg State to a 34-19 victory over Central Oklahoma Saturday (Sept. 8) before a the second-largest crowd in Brandenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium history.
The Gorillas (2-0, 2-0 MIAA) built a 24-7 halftime lead over the Bronchos (0-2, 0-2 MIAA) then held off a second-half rally by the MIAA newcomer.
Abenoja completed 21 of 32 passes for 296 yards. He tossed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Bradley Argabright on the Gorillas' first offensive possession to stake Pitt State to a 7-0 lead.
After Connor Frazell extended the Gorillas lead to 10-0 with a 28-yard field goal, Abenoja made it a 17-0 game with an 18-yard scoring run with 13:46 remaining in the second quarter.
UCO countered with a 10 yard pass from Adrian Nelson to Derrick Ingram 44 second later to draw back within 10 points, at 17-7.
Briceton Wilson, who rushed the ball nine times for a team-leading 108 yards, added a 14-yard touchdown jaunt with 4:05 to play in the second period, leaping a UCO defender at the Broncos' seven yard line and scooting into the end zone.
The Bronchos sliced into the 17-point margin with a safety and a 19-yard Chris Robbs field goal to make it a 24-12 game going into the fourth quarter, but Abenoja found the end zone again -- this time on a 17-yard run -- with 11:07 remaining in the game.
John Brown caught seven passes for 127 yards, while Andrew Castaneda added six catches for 100 yards to lead the Gorillas' aerial attack. Brown also had two rushes for 69 yards.
Abenoja rushed the ball 18 times for 54 net yards. He was sacked four times in the contest.
Nelson completed 18 of 35 passes for 191 yards but was intercepted twice -- by Keeston Terry and Aries Herrion.
Joshua Birmingham rushed 19 times for a game-high 122 yards and a toucdown for UCO.
Nate Dreiling made a game-high 12 tackles (three solo) with 1.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
A total of 10,754 fans attended the home opener for the defending NCAA Division II national champions.
The Gorillas will travel to Bolivar, Mo., next Saturday (Sept. 15) to face Southwest Baptist University at 1 p.m. (CDT).