Pittsburg State at Northeastern State
When: Thursday night at 6.
Where: Doc Wadley Stadium/Gable Field (12,000 capacity).
Radio: The air locally on AM-1350, KTLQ.
Nicknames: Northeastern State RiverHawks; Pittsburg State Gorillas.
Records: First game for both teams.
Rankings: NSU is not ranked in the NCAA Division II coaches poll; Pittsburg State is No. 1.
Coaches: NSU (Kenny Evans, 16-29, fifth season); Pitt State (Tim Beck, 19-7, third season).
Series record: 13-12-2.
Last meeting: In 1987, Pitt State shut out NSU, 57-0 in Pittsburg, Kan.
News to know: Pittsburg State beat Wayne State, 35-21, in the Division II national championship game in 2011. ... Pitt State now owns two D-II national titles in football. ... Pitt State’s lone loss last season was to Washburn, 43-25. ... Pitt State is 170-36-1 in Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association play since 1989. ... Northeastern State was picked to finish ninth in the MIAA coaches poll. ... Northeastern State ranked 30th last season in total attendance in Division II football.
Players to watch
NSU: Johnny Deaton (QB), Langston Jones (LB)
- Deaton returns for his sophomore campaign after leading the RiverHawks with 2,520 yards and 26 touchdown through the air in 2011. The Sand Springs native completed 52.1 percent (162 of 311) of his pass attempts while tossing 13 interceptions.
- Jones, a junior from Whitesboro, Texas, returns as NSU’s leading tackler in 2011 with 93. He also had 10 tackles for loss coupled with two sacks. Jones, one of two outside linebackers, will work along side Cayle Shambaugh and Jack Gray.
Pitt State: Anthony Abenoja (QB), John Brown (WR), Nate Dreiling (LB)
- Abenjoa, a sophomore from Overland Park, Kan., takes over under center after the departure of All-American Zac Dickey. Abenoja played in seven games last season as a freshman, and this season will rely heavily on the Gorilla’s running game, which is centered around Briceton Wilson.
- Brown, at 5-11, 171 pounds, is a dynamic playmaker at receiver, after hauling in 61 passes for 1,216 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2011.
- Perhaps Pitt State’s most important defensive weapon, Dreiling anchors the Gorialls’ defensive unit at middle linebacker. As an All-American last season, Dreiling posted 139 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and seven interceptions.
At stake: A 1-0 mark to begin the season in the MIAA.
Looking ahead: Northeastern State will venture out on the road, playing at Missouri Southern on Sept. 8, the same day Pitt State will open at home against Central Oklahoma.