PITTSBURG — Pittsburg State quarterback Zac Dickey does not forget a slight.
"We were picked to finish fifth in our conference," Dickey said. "And now we're one of the top four teams in the country. Picking us there... that burnt me a little bit. Still does, I guess."
In a pouring rain, Pittsburg State defeated Northwest Missouri 41-16 in the NCAA Division II quarterfinals in front of 9,047 fans at Carnie Smith Stadium. Saturday's victory pushed the Gorillas into the national semifinals for the first time since 2004.
Pittsburg State will host/travel to Delta State (Miss.) next Saturday. The location is expected to be announced today.
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"It seemed like in the second half, our defense kept ratcheting up the intensity every time they went out," second-year Pittsburg State coach Tim Beck said. "Every time, they cranked it up a little bit more."
Dickey, a Pittsburg native, made sure the Pittsburg State offense did its part, rushing for 147 yards and throwing for 266 yards and three touchdowns — all to John Brown.
Trailing 10-0 after the first quarter, the Gorillas rallied to tie the score 10-10 at halftime on a touchdown from Mandel Dixon and a 27-yard field goal by Chase McCoy.
"I trust my quarterback to come back and get stuff right," said Brown, who finished with 174 receiving yards. "We did what we had to do."
The Gorillas took the lead on back-to-back touchdown passes from Dickey to Brown, the first on a 78-yard score where Brown outran the Northwest defense along the Pitt State sideline, then again on an over-the-shoulder catch at the left pylon.
"Throwing to (Brown) is like being on the craziest ride you can imagine at Disneyland," Dickey said. "It's nuts. He's an amazing athlete."
Northwest's comeback attempts in the second half were snubbed by two Pittsburg State interceptions — the first by Elijah Olabode to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Dixon, and the second by MIAA defensive player of the year Nate Dreiling to set up a 15-yard touchdown pass from Dickey to Brown for the final margin of victory.
Pittsburg State's defense gave up just 297 yards of offense after allowing 125 in the first quarter.
"After Brown scored that first touchdown, you could feel the momentum shift away," Northwest coach Adam Dorrel said. "After that, it kind of snowballed."
Two years ago, Beck took over the Gorillas amid turmoil, fresh off the heels of their first losing season in 30 years and the resignation of longtime coach Chuck Broyles.
Now, the program is back among the nation's elite.
"We've got a group of guys that don't panic," Beck said. "They get behind and they do not fret. They have faith in each other and I have faith in them."
Northwest Missouri (11-3) 10 0 0 6 — 16 Pittsburg State (10-1) 0 10 14 17 — 41
NW — Franklin 20 run (Adolf kick)
NW — Adolf 22 FG
PSU — Dixon 1 run (McCoy kick)
PSU — McCoy 27 FG
PSU — Brown 78 pass from Dickey (McCoy kick)
PSU — Brown 42 pass from Dickey (McCoy kick)
PSU — McCoy 25 FG
PSU — Dixon 1 run (McCoy kick)
NW — Franklin 28 pass from Christopher (run failed)
PSU — Brown 15 pass from Dickey (McCoy kick)
Rushing — Northwest Missouri, Simmons 18-97, Franklin 9-43, Adams 5-14, Christopher 1-(-1). Pittsburg State, Dickey 20-147, Spradling 16-77, Wilson 10-33, Dixon 3-3, Brown 2-2, Team 1-(-1).
Passing — Northwest Missouri, Adams 5-16-58-0, Christopher 6-11-94-2. Pittsburg State, Dickey 12-25-266-0.
Receiving — Northwest Missouri, Simmons 5-35, Soy 2-38, Kilgore 1-38, Franklin 1-28, Mosley 1-7, Pierce 1-6. Pittsburg State, Brown 6-174, Castaneda 2-43, Kelley 2-31, Spradling 1-11, Kuntzch 1-7.