No. 7 Northwest Missouri State pulled a role reversal on No. 1 Pittsburg State, scoring 31 straight second half points to rally from a two-touchdown deficit for a 31-21 win Saturday in a weather-delayed Fall Classic XI at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Bearcat comeback occurred a year after Northwest gave up a 22-point halftime lead to Pittsburg State at Arrowhead and enabled them end a streak of two defeats to the Gorillas.
Northwest (6-1, 5-1) won for the fifth straight week and moved into a second place tie with Pittsburg State (5-1, 5-1) and Missouri Western (5-1, 5-1) in the MIAA.
This win guaranteed that if the Bearcats win out, they will be MIAA champions.
Shut out in the first half for the first time since a 2010 first round playoff win over Missouri Western, the Bearcats followed up with a 31 point second half.
All 31 points came after Pittsburg State scored on its opening drive of the second half to take a 14-0 lead with 12:14 left in the third quarter.
These would be Pitt's final points until 2:02 remained in the fourth.
Northwest cut it to 14-10 by the end of the third quarter and made a crucial fourth and inches stop on a fullback dive by Mandel Dixon at the Bearcat 12 to keep it a four-point game.
An interception by Travis Manning on an errant pass by Pittsburg State's Anthony Abenoja set Northwest up with the ball at Pitt's 35 with 11:46 left.
Less than two minutes later, Northwest took the lead on a 29-yard connection from Trevor Adams to John Hinchey. It came on a fourth and four play with 10:18 left.
Pitt went three-and-out on its next possession and punted back to Northwest.
The Bearcats ran five straight times with James Franklin III before Adams hit tight end Vincent Defeo on an 18-yard completion down to the Gorilla 3-yard line.
Franklin III scored on a toss sweep from three yards out to make it 24-14 with 5:06 left
This was the first of two touchdowns within 21 seconds of each other.
Safety Nate DeJong picked off a second down pass from Abenoja and returned it to the Gorilla 14. Franklin III ran in from 14 yards out on the next play, lifting Northwest's lead to 31-14 with 4:45 left.
Pitt ended Northwest's 31-point run with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Abenoja to John Brown with 2:02 left.
Northwest recovered the onside kick and ran off most of the remaining time on the clock before sacking Abenoja to end it.
Pitt edged Northwest in most offensive categories, with the exception being rushing yards where Northwest outgained them 159-95.
Page 2 of 2 - Limited to seven yards on five carries in the first half, Franklin III carried it 15 times in the second half for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
Adams rebounded from a sub-par first half to finish 17-30 with 192 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He threw both touchdowns in the second half and both interceptions in the first when he was 4-9.
Neither interception led to points.
Hinchey led the Bearcats with four catches for 63 yards and a touchdown. Jordan Simmons also had four catches for 36 yards and a touchdown.
For Pitt, Abenoja finished 25-46 with 278 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He was sacked four times in the second half.
John Brown, who averaged 178 yards against Northwest in two games last year, finished with eight catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns. His longest grab was 14 yards.
Anthony Castaneda added seven catches for 68 yards. Running back Briceton Wilson hammered his way to 71 yards on 13 carries.
The game was delayed by close to an hour due to storms in the area. Another 30-minute delay occurred in the first quarter.
From then on, rain was not an issue.
Both offenses got off to slow starts, with a combined eight punts on the first nine drives. Northwest went three-and-out on each of its first three series and its first five ended in less than five plays.
Pitt put together a 13-play, 84-yard drive that consumed 4:54 to get on the board with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Abenoja to Brown.
This gave Pitt a 7-0 lead with 5:04 left in the second quarter and marked the first time Northwest had trailed since week two.
The Bearcats moved into Gorilla territory before the half, but Adams was picked off by Pitt State's De'Vante Bausby for the second time with less than two minutes remaining.
Both teams were content to go into the half with the score still 7-0.
Pitt opened the second half with a 7-play 87-yard drive that finished with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Abenoja to Luke Rampy.
Six of Pitt's seven plays on the drive went for 10 yards or more.
Northwest responded with a six-play 75-yard drive and scored its first points on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Adams to Simmons.
A 31-yard field goal by Todd Adolf made it 14-10 with 2:11 left in the third.
Northwest went three-and-out on its next two drives before the one that put the Bearcats in front to stay.