EDMOND — Two of the most successful football programs in small college history squared off Saturday night at Wantland Stadium.
The difference between the two: Pittsburg State (Kan.) has maintained its winning ways, while Central Oklahoma has floundered to the tune of seven losing seasons in the last eight years.
Not much has changed so far in 2013 as No. 16-ranked Pitt State blasted UCO 65-24 in the Bronchos' home opener before a crowd of 5,100.
Pittsburg State improved to 2-0 this season and 664-329-48 in its history. Central Oklahoma dropped to 0-2 and 597-368-46 since its first football season in 1902.
“The light is going to come on eventually,” said Nick Bobeck, in his second year as UCO coach and charged with rebuilding a two-time national championship program. “Athletically, I didn't think we were that far off from them, but we've obviously got a great deal of work to do. We've just got to circle the wagons and continue to press on.”
Central Oklahoma surrendered more than 50 points for a second consecutive week. The Bronchos gave up 52 at Missouri Southern on Sept. 5, but the difference between then and Saturday night was UCO kept the Lions on their heels by scoring 38 points. Against Pitt State? UCO was simply on another planet.
UCO's defense produced a few big hits that kept the crowd awake, and senior running back Joshua Birmingham gave folks something to cheer about when he shook loose for 73- and 16-yard touchdown runs in the second half. But Pitt State's offense was efficient as could be, punting just twice on 13 possessions and rolling up 599 yards for the game.
Pitt State quarterback Anthony Abenoja, who was named Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Offensive Player of the Week last Monday after leading the Gorillas' 45-6 rout of Northeastern Oklahoma State, will be up for the honor again next week. The junior completed 19 of 24 pass attempts for 211 yards and three touchdowns. He added 55 yards and a TD rushing.
Former Putnam City North standout Dre Holman led the Gorillas in rushing with 66 yards on 10 carries, and Jeff Seybold added 59 yards and two TDs by rush.
“We just didn't tackle very well on the defensive side of the ball ... we have to decide whether we want to put our face in the fan,” Bobeck said. “We're not going to beat them up mentally, but our kids are going to have to grow up in a hurry because it's not going to get any easier. We have some more tough games coming up.”
Pitt State, with just one losing season since 1977, was in control by halftime, leading the conference game 34-3. The Gorillas scored on their first, third, fourth, fifth and seventh possessions while churning out 243 yards on UCO's scrambling defense.
Even some of the smallest victories came at a cost for UCO. The Bronchos sacked Abenoja for a big loss, but a couple of defensive players were so thrilled that they were penalized 15 yards for excessive celebration. Thus, Pitt State's offense went on to score for a 20-0 lead.
Frustration and carelessness accounted for other penalties, including a 15-yarder for face mask and another for unnecessary roughness for pushing a Pitt State player out of the end zone after he scored.
“We've got some talented football players here,” Bobeck said after a long postgame meeting with his club. “We've got some good kids. But we've got to put some pressure on the older guys — and we don't have many of them — to teach the younger kids leadership and how to be successful. We're (coaches) are trying to teach them, too, but teaching leadership isn't easy.”
UCO finished with 431 yards. Birmingham ran for 152 on 17 carries. Quarterback Adrian Nelson added 194 yards passing, including a 21-yard TD to Marquez Clark with 4:14 left in the game.