Northwest Missouri State senior tight end Marqus Andrews grew up just a few miles down the road from Arrowhead Stadium.
So it was fitting that the Blue Springs native picked Saturday’s MIAA showdown against Pitt State, with dozens of family in attendance, to have one of his best games in a Bearcats uniform.
All three of Andrews’ receptions went for touchdowns as Northwest Missouri state rolled to a 38-17 victory over the Gorillas in a battle of unbeaten teams in the home of the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Bearcats (6-0, 6-0 MIAA) put the game away with a 31-point first half, and Andrews was the in the middle of it all.
His third touchdown catch was his best.
Northwest came out for a field goal on fourth and 7 before shifting to a pooch-punt formation. The Bearcats ran a fake, and Andrews was all alone in the middle of the field. He got the ball and hurdled a Pitt State defender for good measure on his way to the end zone.
“We didn’t know what they were going to do. If they’d have called a timeout I think we still could’ve come out and executed it,” Andrews said. “I faked the guy I was blocking, slipped behind the safeties, come downhill on the run and it was open. I made the play.”
Northwest head coach Rich Wright asked his offensive staff to come up with some new razzle-dazzle for the Gorillas, and that play was the culmination of those efforts.
“Pitt doesn’t really rush hard, so we had to come up with something different,” Wright said. “Coach (Charlie) Flohr came in the next morning and said, ‘I think I’ve got something.’”
The Bearcats had a whole lot of somethings. Saturday marked the first time since 2013 that two MIAA schools met with at 5-0 records or better. That matchup featured the same two schools meeting at Arrowhead.
Pitt State (5-1, 5-1) struck first Saturday when Brandon Miekus hit Lorenzo West for a 78-yard touchdown pass. But other than that touchdown and another long pass play that set up Pitt State’s second touchdown drive, the Gorillas didn’t do much. Especially considering they came into the game averaging 47 points per contest.
“We weren’t consistent enough in the run game. We knew their defensive line was very good, and they do a great job of stopping the run like they always have,” Pitt State coach Tim Beck said. “We were able to hit Lorenzo a couple of times, and in the third quarter we were able to generate some three-and-outs. We just didn’t generate enough offense to keep them off the field long enough.”
Pitt State alternated between a classic triple-option look and four-wide sets, rotating between Miekus and Mak Sexton at quarterback.
Wright, a defensive-minded coach, wasn’t thrilled with allowing 87 yards on the ground to Pitt State.
“Our goal was 50,” Wright stated matter-of-factly.
Still, Northwest managed to stymie a rival and what was the fifth-highest-scoring offense in Division II football coming into Saturday.
“I think getting off on third down was a big emphasis for us. In the past we’ve kind of struggled with that,” sophomore linebacker Sam Phillips said. “As much as we could, we stressed getting off on third down.”
It worked. Pitt State converted just five of 19 third down opportunities, and Phillips finished with a team-high 11 tackles.
Northwest had plenty to celebrate on the ride back to Maryville. But given the hardscrabble nature of the MIAA, and the Bearcats’ national-title aspirations, the celebration won’t last long.
“It was a game. It was a good game and we won it,” Wright said. “(Sunday) I’ll be right back at the office doing what I do. We’re going to get back to work because we’re not a finished product yet.”