Bronchos Rumble in the Pitt
After last season’s 31-28 loss to Pittsburgh State, the University of Central Oklahoma head football coach Nick Bobeck said he believes a fast start will lead to a different result.
“I want to see them start fast,” Bobeck said. “I want them to go play sound football. If you can execute and eliminate mistakes, you give yourself a good chance to win.”
Last year, the Bronchos scored with 2:30 left in the game, but couldn’t come up with a stop as Pittsburgh State ran out the clock. Bobeck said if a similar situation arises that his defense will make the stop.
“We could’ve made the stop last year, we just had a kid bust an assignment,” Bobeck said. “I feel like we can make those stops and will make those stops.”
The defense is tasked with stopping a rushing attack that averaged 229.2 yards per game last season, including 229 yards in last year’s matchup. While last season’s leading rusher graduated, Pitt State’s Tucker Horak takes over after running for 405 yards.
“Number one with those guys is you have to stop the run,” Bobeck said. “It’s all about tackling. It’s all about getting people lined up.”
The defensive line, led by senior nose guard Carson Smith, will be a key part of stopping the rushing attack. Bobeck said the defense is up to the challenge.
“We’re talented along the front seven and we’re hoping that’s an advantage for us,” Bobeck said.
When Pitt State does go to the air, look for quarterback John Roderique to get the ball in the hands of wide receiver Lorenzo West, a Lawton native and high school teammate of Broncho quarterback Will Collins. Last season, West had 40 receptions for 518 yards, five touchdowns and averaged 12.9 yards per catch.
Roderique, a Sam Houston State University transfer, is a two-time team captain who played in nine games last season, throwing for 919 yards with three touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Bronchos will be tested in both areas, but Bobeck said he likes the talent of his defensive unit.
“I feel like we’re better on the defensive side of the ball and I don’t think many people are going to argue with me about it,” Bobeck said. “We’ve got a pretty good, talented group on that side of the football.”
Offensively, the Bronchos enters the game with new players in different roles. Bobeck has decided on one of the key questions: who will be the quarterback?
“We’re going to play all three of them,” Bobeck said. “They’re all going to have separate roles.”
Keats Calhoon, Will Collins and Chandler Garrett, who all competed for the starting job, will all play. While Bobeck did not go into detail about each player’s role, he did say that he is looking forward to see how each handles the crowd and first game jitters.
“They’ll have some adversity they’ll have to overcome,” Bobeck said. “It’s going to be really important we start fast and get them moving in the right direction.”
For the Bronchos to come away with a win, Bobeck says they have to capitalize on the big play opportunities that they missed last season.
“Last year was a game of missed opportunities,” Bobeck said. “We had a lot of big balls that we missed in the pass game and that was a key part of it.”
Bobeck said he also wants to create plays in the run game to help his quarterbacks.
“We’ve got to do a great job of blocking in the run game to create explosive plays,” Bobeck said.
To do that, an offensive line, which had some injured players in the spring, will have to come together quickly. Bobeck said he likes the talent he has and sees the spring injuries as a positive moving forward.
“It’s really a blessing in disguise,” Bobeck said. “Those guys can play multiple positions so we just have to figure out who is our best five and put them out on the field.”
Kickoff is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. in Pittsburgh, Kansas.