The Emporia State football team overcame a halftime deficit to defeat Pittsburgh State 17-14 last Saturday. Big plays on both sides of the ball in the second half led to a Zachary King field goal with 1:07 left in the game to put ESU up for good.
“I aged about five to seven years today,” said Head Coach Garin Higgins. “What a great win for these kids, especially these upperclassmen that have been in the program for a few years now. We really showed a lot of character today.”
After the worst loss of the season last week, it looked like it could be another long afternoon with the Hornets trailing 14-0. The win was the first against the Gorillas since 2003 and has ESU off to one of its best start at 5-2.
Pittsburgh State got on the board first after the Hornets were pinned deep in their own territory which led to a safety. After two quick touchdowns by PSU and a stagnant Hornet offense, ESU went into the half down 14-0.
“I told the guys that they still had an opportunity to win this game,” Higgins said during halftime. “I told the offense that we needed to have some people step up and make some big plays to get us back in the ballgame.”
The Hornets responded with two touchdown passes by Tyler Eckenrode to Shjuan Richardson and Charleston Johnson to tie the score at 14. The second occurred on a broken play in which Eckenrode eluded a pass rush, scrambled right and threw about 50 yards for the tying touchdown.
With only 2:30 left in the game, defensive back Wayne Burgess made one of the biggest plays of the day on an intercepted pass at the PSU 28-yard line. King would make his 38 yard field goal to give the Hornets the lead 17-14 with 1:07 left in the game.
“For my kick, it was a big kick that I am just glad it went through,” King said. “You have to go into the kick with the mentality that it’s just another kick.”
The special teams for the Hornets came through as Julian Dozier blocked the potential 57-yard game tying field goal.
King wasn’t as nervous when PSU kicker Jake Craig took the field, even admitting that he was yelling as loud as he could during the kick.
“I just told him he wasn’t going to make two game-winning/game-tying kicks two weeks in a row,” King said. “It was in good fun, but I am just glad we got this must-win game. This is a real confidence booster.”
ESU travels to #6 Northwest Missouri next week. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.