The Fall Classic between Pittsburg State and Northwest Missouri State has gotten into a habit of spoiling each other’s season.
Last year, the Gorillas were the top-ranked team in Division II but lost to Northwest 31-21 at Arrowhead after leading 14-0.
In 2011, the Bearcats were ranked first and owned a 49-game MIAA winning streak but lost to Pittsburg 38-35. Northwest led that game 21-0. The Gorillas went on to win the NCAA championship.
For Saturday’s game, neither is much of spoiler’s role.
The teams own identical records, 5-0 in the league, 6-0 overall. Northwest is ranked second and Pittsburg is No. 7 in the Division II coaches’ poll.
And they’ve been walloping opponents.
Average score of a Northwest game: 48-15. For Pittsburg: 48-19.
“We’ve gotten better each week,” Northwest coach Adam Dorrel said. “We haven’t taken things for granted. I really like the way we played against some opponents where we have more talent. We’ve been focused and taken care of business.”
The Bearcats are coming off such a game, thumping Central Oklahoma 72-10. Quarterbacks Trevor Adams and Brady Bolles combined to complete 23 of 27 passes for 367 yards and four touchdowns. Adams is the nation’s top-rated passer and also leads Division II in accuracy, completing 74.5 percent.
The Bearcats also are spreading the wealth at running back with Billy Creason and Robert Burton combining to average 100.3 yards per game with 11 touchdowns.
Pittsburg State is getting big numbers from individuals, starting with wide receiver John Brown, who averages 19.2 yard per reception and 125 yards per game. His 11 touchdowns stands second in the MIAA, one fewer than teammate Jeff Seybold, the league’s second-leading rusher at 114.5 yards per game.
“I really think (Brown) is one of the best players in the country,” Pittsburg State coach Tim Beck said. “And the good thing is, he’s one of our hardest workers. He was picked as one of our captains, and that speaks volumes for his character.”
Gorillas quarterback Anthony Abenoja, who has thrown 17 touchdown passes with three interceptions, turned in a monster game with 442 yards and five touchdowns — both school records — against Lincoln earlier this season.
Saturday’s winner will have a leg up in the MIAA race, but both have rugged schedules down the stretch.
Both programs have to face fourth-ranked and defending league champion Missouri Western, with the Gorillas traveling to St. Joseph next week.
Northwest ends the regular season against three ranked teams: Washburn, Emporia State and Western.
“That’s just how it goes in this conference,” Dorrel said. “That’s why it’s the best conference in Division II.”