Delta State quarterback Micah Davis walked into the news conference Saturday after being beaten by Pittsburg State in the Division II football semifinals and sat down behind a table with a frown.
Adding to his downtrodden state were bumps, scrapes and bruises across his body. The Gorillas' defense had worn him down emotionally and beaten him up physically.
By the end of the game, which the Gorillas won 49-23 to advance to Saturday's national championship in Florence, Ala., against Wayne State (Mich.), Davis had to be dreading his dropbacks.
No. 7 Pittsburg State (12-1) pressured him constantly, forcing him into three interceptions, and the Gorillas' big lead made Davis throw 58 times. His battered appearance was a byproduct of PSU's aggressiveness.
"I thought they whooped us," Delta state coach Ron Roberts said. "We had trouble running the ball early. They put a tremendous amount of pressure and came relentless. We knew they were a tremendous defense coming in, and if we couldn't do something to stop them from pinning their ears back it was going to be a problem. And it was. They got to Micah early and often."
The Gorillas' front four did to Davis what they've been doing to quarterbacks throughout the season. Whether a quarterback has superior scrambling abilities, a strong arm and fast receivers, or steadiness that keeps the chains moving, few signal callers experiences comfort against PSU.
The four sacks against Delta State gave the Gorillas 39 in 13 games, ranking 15th in Division II. Junior lineman Gus Toca leads the unit with 11 sacks, followed by Spencer Worthington's eight. Fourteen players have at least half a sack. A massive offensive line for Delta State was no match.
"We have some good coaching," Toca said. "We work on our pass rush a lot, our take-offs. We have the challenge of having a huge offensive line like they did and trying to get past them."
As many problems as the Gorillas have caused opposing quarterbacks, they're equally efficient against the run. They have allowed 108 rushing yards per game, 17th in Division II, and often force opponents to abandon that facet of the offense.
Two playoff opponents, Delta State and Washburn, combined for 80 yards on 66 attempts.
"When you have somebody that's fairly balanced, you have to pick something and try to stop it," Pittsburg State coach Tim Beck said. "That's our philosophy most of the time, to try to stop the run first and try to make them one-dimensional. Our defensive line and our linebackers, and the support we get from the safeties, it's pretty hard to run against us."
The support allows the Gorillas to match up well against opposing running backs and quarterbacks. Running backs often find it nearly impossible to get through Pittsburg State's front line and a linebacking corps headed by All-American Nate Dreiling.
Passers are pressured so heavily that receivers have little time to create separation, allowing PSU to play man-to-man coverage with safeties behind them to read the quarterback. The Gorillas have 23 interceptions, fourth in the nation.
They have made two finalists for the Harlon Hill trophy, which goes to the nation's top D-II player, look average. Washburn's Dane Simoneau was throttled by during the playoffs two games before Davis.
"I think it's really fun," Toca said of playing against top competition. "I think all of our defensive guys think it's really fun. It's a big challenge, and when you rise up and stop them a couple times, it makes you feel good about it and makes you want more. It's momentum. After we get one stop, we want to keep going."