Anthony Abenoja threw for 296 yards and accounted for three touchdowns Saturday night, and Pittsburg State (Kan.), the No. 1-ranked team in NCAA Division II football, downed Central Oklahoma 34-19 before 10,754 fans at Carnie Smith Stadium.
The defending national champion allowed UCO to draw within 12 points with 7:19 left in the game, but the Gorillas (2-0 overall, 2-0 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association) answered on their next possession with Connor Frazell's 29-yard field goal. Pitt State ran out the final 2:04 after Arles Harrion intercepted Adrian Nelson's pass at the Gorillas' 24-yard line.
Central Oklahoma's Joshua Birmingham had a game-best 122 yards rushing, including one touchdown. Nelson threw for 191 yards and a TD.
The UCO defense was smacked for 540 total yards, but it did sack Abenoja four times.
UCO, which remains winless after two games under first-year coach Nick Bobeck, will play at Emporia State (Kan.) next Saturday.
TIGERS DECK SOUTHERN NAZARENE
East Central charged to a 21-point lead in the first quarter and went on to beat Southern Nazarene 37-15 at Norris Field in Ada.
Titus Mobley finished with 119 yards and two touchdowns rushing, both coming in the Tigers' big first quarter. East Central quarterback Cody Miller helped account for two TDs, including a 10-yard scoring pass to Mobley in the second quarter.
East Central (1-1) defensive end Armonty Bryant had eight tackles, two forced fumbles and two pass breakups. He sacked SNU quarterback Dylan Terry three times for minus-35 yards. Terry threw for 158 yards and one TD, but the first-year starter was intercepted three times.
Southern Nazarene (0-2) will play its third consecutive road game next Saturday, at Friends (Kan.).
NORTHEASTERN RALLY FALLS SHORT
Jermaine Sherman caught seven passes for 133 yards in Northeastern State's 27-21 loss to Missouri Southern in Joplin. Sherman caught a 69-yard touchdown pass from Johnny Deaton with 2:13 left in the game, helping draw the RiverHawks within six points. Northeastern State failed to recover the onside kick, and Missouri Southern (2-0, 2-0 MIAA) ran out the clock.
Deaton threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns.
Northeastern State (0-2, 0-2 MIAA) will play at Washburn (Kan.) next Saturday.
RANGERS FAIL IN UPSET BID
Northwestern Oklahoma State fell to 0-2 after its 41-24 loss to Colorado State-Pueblo in Alva. The Rangers recovered from a 20-point deficit and owned a 21-20 lead in the third quarter. But Colorado State-Pueblo quarterback Ross Dausin rallied the Rocky Mountain Athletics Conference school with three touchdown drives. Dausin helped account for four TDs on the afternoon.
Colorado State-Pueblo (2-0, No. 6 in NCAA Division II) has won 17 consecutive regular season games.