Story and photo courtesy of Lindenwood Athletics
The Lindenwood football team earned one of the biggest wins in program history on Saturday afternoon when it went to No. 18 Pittsburg State and came away with a dominating 44-33 victory over the defending NCAA Division II National Champions.
For the second straight week, Lindenwood’s big-play offense was the difference. This game, it was running back Denodus O’Bryant who made the big plays. He scored three touchdowns of 80 yards or more to spark the Lions to the win.
O’Bryant’s first touchdown came on the first offensive play of the game when he caught a pass and went 80 yards for a touchdown. That was the only points of the first quarter for both teams as Pittsburg State drove twice on its first two possessions but got no points after a punt and a missed field goal.
After the missed field goal, Lindenwood had another one-play touchdown drive. This time, O’Bryant found the open field on a rushing play and went 80 yards for the score. Pittsburg State answered on its next drive but Justin Broome blocked the extra point to keep the game at 14-6. Lindenwood added 10 more points in the quarter on a James Neal field goal and an Andrew Helmick touchdown reception. The half ended with Lindenwood leading 24-12 after Pittsburg State scored seconds before the half ended.
The Gorillas appeared poised to take over early in the third quarter. Pittsburg State scored on its second possession of the half to pull within five points, and the Lions looked like they were headed for a punt with a third-and-13 on its 13-yard line. On that play, O’Bryant caught another pass and broke several tackles on his way for an 87-yard touchdown.
That was the turning point as Lindenwood forced a three-and-out and got the ball back on Pittsburg State’s 29-yard line. The Lions then had their third one-play scoring drive when Nate Orlando found the endzone on a 29-yard run. Another fumble late in the third quarter gave Lindenwood the ball back in the redzone and led to another Neal field goal. Neal added another field goal in the fourth quarter and the Gorillas scored two touchdowns in the final eight minutes of the game to cut into Lindenwood’s final margin of victory.
The Gorillas outgained Lindenwood 525-437 and had a 28-14 advantage in first downs. They had two fumbles though and the Lions won the field-position battle, especially in the second half when they started their drives on average at their 42-yard line. Lindenwood averaged 9.1 yards per play, compared to 6.4 for Pittsburg State.
O’Bryant finished the game with 147 rushing yards and 167 receiving yards. He averaged 10.5 yards per carry and 83.5 yards per catch. He became the first Lindenwood player with over 3,000 career rushing yards and recorded his second 1,000-yard rushing season.
Dillon Miller finished the contest with 226 passing yards and he threw three touchdowns. The true freshman did not throw an interception in the contest. Helmick finished with three receptions for 40 yards.
The offensive line, including starters Matt Andreolli, JT Young, Matt Atley, Latham Johnson, and Jacob Heneisen, helped open up holes for 211 rushing yards and allowed just one sack against the No. 5 NCAA Division II team in that category.
Defensively, Connor Harris led the team with 15 tackles. Broome and Jaz Granderson both had 10 tackles and a fumble recovery. Brock Reed forced one of the fumbles. Joe Day, Jon McComb, and Cody Reider each had a sack.