Pittsburg State used big plays, including a 61-yard jaunt by quarterback Mark Smith with 1:45 to play, to edge Chadron State 38-31 in a non-conference football match-up between ranked opponents here Saturday afternoon.
The Gorillas also scored on pass plays of 56 and 77 yards triggered by Smith while snapping the Eagles’ 25-game regular-season winning streak.
Both teams had scored four times on pass plays and added a field goal before Smith’s long run decided the outcome.
Smith’s winning romp was on a quarterback draw. It came after Chadron State had come from a 31-21 deficit entering the fourth period to tie the score. The Eagles initially got a 23-yard field goal by Travis Atter and then knotted the count with 7:48 to play on a six-yard pass from quarterback Joe McLain to Brandon Harrington to cap a nine-play, 96-yard drive.
McLain completed 38 passes, the most in Chadron State history, for 387 yards and four touchdowns. But his final pass was intercepted by freshman Caleb Sanders with 1:06 to play after the Eagles had driven from their own 15 to midfield while racing against the clock.
Chadron opened the scoring on a 16-yard pass from McLain to Isaac Stockton with 1:05 left in the first period. But the Gorillas scored 24 points in the second period to put the Eagles in the hole.
Pittsburg’s first touchdown came with 2:07 gone in the second period on a two-yard pass from Smith to Todd Hertzog three plays after the Eagles had fumbled a punt that the Gorillas’ Dustin Heckroth recovered at the Chadron State nine. Less than two minutes later Smith hooked up with Harrison Kush on a 56-yard pass play to give Pittsburg a lead it would never relinquish.
The Gorillas went on top 17-7 midway in the second period on a 39-yard field goal by Jared Witter. Chadron responded with a 17-yard scoring pass from McLain to Joel Schommer with 4:19 left in the quarter. But Pittsburg answered right back when alternate quarterback John McCoy completed three consecutive passes, including a 35-yarder to Marques Nelson with 2:20 left before halftime, to give the visitors a 24-14 intermission lead.
The teams traded touchdowns in the third period. Chadron State scored first on a 15-yard pass from McLain to Stockton to cap a 10-play, 80-yard drive, but Pittsburg answered when Smith hooked up with Kendall Fisher on a 77-yard bomb with 3:08 to play.
Late in the third period, McLain completed five straight passes to lead the Eagles from their own 20 to the Pittsburg 12. On the first play in the fourth quarter, CSC picked up a first and goal at the Gorillas’ three, but fumbled on a pitch play and had two passes fall incomplete, necessitating a 23-yard field goal by Travis Atter.
The big play of the Eagles’ scoring drive that tied the game was a 55-yard pass from McLain to Harrington down the left sideline. Three plays later, the same combination connected on a six-yard pass in the end zone.
The teams exchanged punts before Pittsburg got the ball on its 31 with three minutes left. Smith completed a 12-yard pass to Nelson, then lost four yards on a keeper before racing to the end zone untouched on the quarterback draw that surprised the Eagles’ defense and stunned the large CSC crowd.
The Eagles finished with 435 total net yards and the Gorillas with 419. While Chadron State managed just 48 yards on the ground, Pittsburg rushed for 154, including 111 yards by tailback Caleb Farabi, who had 101 of them in the first half.
Smith completed 11 of 19 passes for 214 yards. Nelson caught five passes for 93 yards to lead the Pittsburg receivers. Harrington grabbed 13 for 182, including seven for 87 yards in the fourth period, for Chadron State.