By BEN JOHNSON
PITTSBURG, Kan. — Pittsburg State was faced with an early decision on Saturday night.
Settle for a field goal or try to pick up two yards on fourth down while at Northeastern State's 4-yard line. Based on what followed the rest of the night, it was a no-brainer.
Pittsburg State running back Steven Sullivan not only picked up the first down, but he also eased into the end zone and the Gorillas were out to an early lead.
The rest of the night followed suit.
No. 21 Pittsburg State amassed 582 yards of total offense and annihilated NSU, 45-6, in front of 10,374 at Carnie Smith Stadium on Saturday night.
"Well, you know, it's not the game plan — or the type of game — that we imagined," NSU head coach Kenny Evans said. "I don't think it was any kind of indication of the type of team we have."
The RiverHawks — 0-1 overall, 0-1 in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association — logged only 244 yards of total offense, 115 of which came in the fourth quarter with the game already decided.
Offense for Pittsburg State, on the other hand, came quite easy. The Gorillas averaged 8.3 yards per play — 9.3 yards per snap through three quarters, before the play-calling became conservative in the final period.
"I thought offense and defense, they complemented each other very well in the first half," said Pittsburg State head coach Tim Beck, whose team improved to 1-0 both overall and in league play.
"Nice to see our offense go out and on very first drive and take it down and score. Nice to see the defense have several three-and-outs."
For the second straight season, Pittsburg State quarterback Anthony Abenoja spearheaded a lethal offensive attack. The junior signal caller had 228 yards and three touchdowns on 18 of 24 pass attempts. He also ran for 86 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.
Jeff Seybold Jr. was the Gorillas' leading rusher, piling up 132 yards on six carries. It was Seybold Jr. — making his first career start — that delivered the decisive dagger in the second half.
After forcing NSU to punt early in the third quarter, Pittsburg State took over and Seybold Jr. raced 80 yards up the middle of the field for a touchdown. That gave the Gorillas a 35-0 lead with 12:32 left in the third period.
Leading Pittsburg State in the receiving department was John Brown, who hauled in six catches for 78 yards. However, the preseason All-American did not find the end zone, instead deferring to Gavin Lutman and Luke Rampy for those honors.
Lutman had four catches for 71 yards and two touchdowns. The first score was an 18-yard reception in the first quarter, and the second came in the second quarter on a 28-yard toss by Abenoja.
One of Rampy's two catches on the night was a 23-yard touchdown catch late in the second quarter.
Joel Rockmore paced NSU on offense, collecting 99 yards on 19 rushes.
The RiverHawks' lone score came in the fourth quarter when reserve quarterback Thor Long ran for a 1-yard touchdown with 9:51 left.
Long — on in relief after starting quarterback Johnny Deaton suffered an injury late in the first half — finished the game six of 16 for 103 yards.
"Offensively, the whole first half, really, we were never able to get anything going," Evans said. "We've got to make some adjustments and simplify some things on defense. Offensively, we're going to have to make a couple of changes."
NSU football notebook: Thor Long takes over at QB for RiverHawks
Johnny Deaton hoisted up a pass to Prince McJunkins that fell incomplete. While all the other Northeastern State players jogged to the sidelines for what would be another Dylan Beers punt, Deaton, NSU's senior quarterback, failed to get up.
NSU trainers rushed out the the 10-yard line to examine Deaton's ailing leg. A few moments later, Deaton would walk off the field under his own power.
But he would not return to the game. Instead, Thor Long, a sophomore from Sherman, Texas, took over as the RiverHawks' signal caller for the rest of what turned out to be a 45-6 loss for the RiverHawks against Pittsburg State at Carnie Smith Stadium in Pittsburg, Kan.
"Johnny had either an ankle injury or a severe bruise," NSU head coach Kenny Evans said. "Don't know how bad it is, but at the point that it happened there was no reason to leave him in the game. We wanted to get Thor in in some early games, and with the score where it was there was a chance to do that."
Long — who played sparingly during his redshirt freshman season in 2012 — said it was nice to get an opportunity to show what he could do.
"It was just nice to get my feet wet," Long said. "I've just been looking forward to that opportunity and to get some playing time."
Long finished the game six of 16 for 103 yards. He was also the only RiverHawk to score a touchdown against the Gorillas, getting into the end zone on a 1-yard run with 9:51 left in the fourth quarter.
"It doesn't really mean much to me," Long said of his first-career touchdown. "I just want to win. That's all I want to do...stats don't matter. If we lose, it doesn't matter."
As for Deaton's status for NSU's next game, Evans said that will be determined later this week.
Passing decoy: Pittsburg State's John Brown — a preseason All-American selection — did his fair share of damage Saturday night against Northeastern State. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound wide receiver from Homestead, Fla., led the Gorillas with six catches for 78 yards.
However, he did not find the end zone at any point.
No, he left that to his running mate, Gavin Lutman. With Brown drawing the majority of the attention from NSU's defensive backs, Lutman hauled in four catches for 71 yards and two touchdowns.
"Gavin is a good player, and he had a really nice evening," Pittsburg State head coach Tim Beck said of Lutman, who doubled his touchdown output in one night, compared to his first two seasons with the Gorillas.
"Everybody is going to be aware of who and where John is at, so that really kind of opens up something things for some other guys and our other guys took advantage of it."
Harger in, Deaton out: Deaton and his backup at Charles Page High School in Sand Springs, Darrack Harger, were on opposite sidelines in Saturday night's MIAA opener for both clubs.
And in an ironic twist, Deaton went down with an injury in the second quarter and never went back onto the field. Meanwhile, with the game already in hand in the fourth quarter, Harger went out and took charge of Pittsburg State's offense.
Harger didn't log any passing yards, and he only ran twice for minus-three yards.
On the board: When NSU scored a touchdown late in the game, it avoided being shutout in a game for the first time since 2009. That year, the RiverHawks were blanked in a 6-0 loss to Tarleton State.
Up next: Northeastern State will host Missouri Southern on Saturday, while Pittsburg State will venture to Edmond to take on Central Oklahoma.
- Pittsburg State's 354 rushing yards were the most allowed by the RiverHawks since giving up 458 to Harding in 2011.
- The loss for NSU was its ninth season-opening defeat in the last 11 seasons.
- Linebacker Langston Jones led all players with 12 tackles on Brandenburg Field. It was the 11th game of Jones' career in which he's logged double-digit tackles. It was also his fourth game in a row to do so.
- A raucous crowd of 10,374 greeted both teams in southeast Kansas. It was the largest crowd to witness a NSU game since 56,743 packed the Alamodome in San Antonio to watch the RiverHawks take on Texas-San Antonio in 2011.
Pittsburg State 45, Northeastern State 6
NSU 0 0 0 6 -- 6
Pitt 14 14 10 7 -- 45
PITTSBURG STATE — Steven Sullivan 4-yard run (Connor Frazell kick), 11:28.
PITTSBURG STATE — Gavin Lutman 18-yard pass from Anthony Abenoja (Frazell kick), 3:30.
PITTSBURG STATE — Lutman 28-yard pass from Abenoja (Frazell kick), 7:49.
PITTSBURG STATE — Luke Rampy 23-yard pass from Abenoja (Frazell kick), 0:31.
PITTSBURG STATE — Jeff Seybold Jr. 80-yard run (Frazell kick), 12:32.
PITTSBURG STATE — Frazell 43-yard field goal, 5:46.
PITTSBURG STATE — Abenoja 17-yard run (Frazell kick), 13:17.
NORTHEASTERN STATE — Thor Long 1-yard run (conversion failed), 9:51.
First downs 14 28
Rush 6 14
Pass 5 14
Penalty 3 0
Rush-Yds 37-117 46-354
Pass Comp 7 18
Pass Att 19 24
INT thrown 0 0
Pass yards 127 228
Total yards 244 582
Punts-avg 7-36.4 1-35.0
Fumbles-lost 3-1 3-0
Penalty-yards 4-23 6-70
Northeastern State: Joel Rockmore 19-99, Thor Long 5-14, Terrance Dixon 8-11, Johnny Deaton 1-(minus 5).
Pittsburg State: Jeff Seybold Jr. 6-132, Anthony Abenoja 11-86, Marquise Cushon 3-48, Dre Holman 13-44, Steven Sullivan 9-39, Brian Poston 1-8, John Brown 1-0, Darrack Harger 2-(minus 3).
Northeastern State: Long 6-16-0 103, Deaton 1-3-0 24.
Pittsburg State: Abenoja 18-24-0 228.
Northeastern State: Jordan Robinson 2-69, Prince McJunkins 2-27, Terrance Dixon 1-16, Cruz Williams 1-8, Ray Dobbs 1-7.
Pittsburg State: John Brown 6-78, Gavin Lutman 4-71, Jeff Seybold Jr. 3-4, Luke Rampy 2-32, Austin Daniel 2-29, Steven Sullivan 1-14.