KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It took seven years for a No. 7 Northwest versus No. 13 Pittsburg State rivalry battle between undefeated teams to return once again to Arrowhead Stadium.
Similar to 2013, the Bearcats came away with a victory, rolling over the Gorillas with a final score of 38-17 Saturday.
But Northwest (6-0) didn’t get off to the hot start they wanted, as Pittsburg State (5-1) led 7-0 early off of a 78-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
“It gives us a sense of urgency,” said sophomore linebacker Sam Phillips, who recorded a career-high 11 tackles. “We just have to remember to put the ball down when we have the chance.”
Once the Bearcats got their rhythm going in the first half, an end to their high scoring was nowhere in sight.
After a four-play drive with 8:33 left in the first quarter, Bearcat sophomore quarterback Braden Wright connected a shovel pass to Marqus Andrews to tie the game.
Redshirt freshman Mike Hohensee was next in line to help the scoring as he connected with Andrews for his second touchdown of the game on a back-shoulder catch in the corner of the end zone to lead 14-7.
“I probably had like 30 family members watching, and it means alot to perform the way I did today in front of them,” Andrews said.
Heading into the second quarter, the Bearcats capitalized on a reverse handoff to Imoni Donadelle for a 59-yard touchdown to extend their lead to 21-7.
The Bearcats had some tricks up their sleeve as they scored next when they audibled out of a field goal, and Hohensee lobbed a pass to Andrews down the middle, giving Northwest a 28-7 lead with 6:21 left in the second quarter.
“I put the offensive staff in charge of coming up with a unique fake because Pitt doesn’t really rush hard and so we had to come up with something different,” head coach Rich Wright said.
Pittsburg State cut the lead to 28-14 before the half, while Sampson added a 41-yard field goal to give the Bearcats a 31-14 lead at halftime.
“What I stressed to the kids all week was just finding a way to win a football game and you never know what that’s going to look like until you get out there on Saturday afternoon,” Northwest head coach Rich Wright said. “I was really pleased with our defense, particularly in the second half.”
The Bearcats held the Gorillas to just a field goal in the second half and forced a total of three turnovers on two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Pittsburg State sophomore quarterback Brandon Mlekus added, “They have a really good D-line and they’re really disciplined in everything that they do. It makes it tough on an option team to get it going, especially when they do their job as well as they do.”
Toward the end of the game, the Bearcats finished off Pittsburg State with as Braden Wright scored on a 48-yard quarterback keeper.
“I mean it’s just electric,” Braden Wright said. “I knew the defense was going to handle it regardless but it was just a good feeling to get into the end zone finally.”
Wright finished 13-for-24 for 102 yards and a touchdown, rushing for 100-plus yards in a game for the second time in his career.
Bearcat sophomore defensive back Trey Washington sealed the 38-17 triumph with an interception to let Northwest run the clock and take victory formation.
“We’re going to go back to Maryville and celebrate that tonight,” Rich Wright said. “And we’re going to get back to work because we aren’t a finished product yet.”
Pitt State came into the game averaging better than 200 yards on the ground and were held to just 87 on the day.
Northwest will look to remain unbeaten Saturday at Nebraska-Kearney with a kickoff time set for 2 p.m.