The University of Central Oklahoma football team fell short 37-35 in a dramatic season opener Thursday night at Wantland Stadium.
The Bronchos trailed 34-7 at halftime, but took a 35-34 lead with 3:20 to go in the game. PSU however would ultimately have the last say, kicking a 20-yard field goal as time expired to earn the victory.
"The game comes down to, you got to start," UCO head football coach Nick Bobeck said. "We made some plays to get back in the football game, but when you start slow, it puts you in a bad position that we can't do."
Central Oklahoma found itself in a hole as early as it gets Thursday. The Bronchos allowed a 100-yard kickoff return to open the game and it was 7-0 with just 14:45 to go in the first quarter.
The Bronchos responded in a big way, marching off a 7-play, 78-yard touchdown drive. Will Collins capped it off with a 5-yard touchdown run to tie the game, 7-7, with 11:51 to play in the first quarter.
But then PSU took over, going on a 24-0 run over the next 25 minutes of play. Central was down at the half in a big way before it flipped a switch.
Pitt State forced a UCO three & out to start the third quarter, but would soon give it right back to the Bronchos. PSU fumbled the ball and Christian Maloy jumped on it for the turnover at midfield. Though UCO didn't capitalize right away, the turning of the tide had begun.
PSU punted on its next possession before fumbling the ball away on each of the next three possessions.
UCO went 63 yards on six plays later in the third quarter and scored on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Collins to Josh Moore. That made it 34-14.
On the next possession, Kaelin Murray forced a fumble that Drequan Brown recovered. UCO then went 71 yards on nine plays capped off by a big, 35-yard touchdown run by T.J. Roberts that made it 34-21.
Then Bryan Burns forced a Pitt State fumble that Stephon Starks recovered. UCO followed that with a 4-play, 37-yard scoring drive finished off when Collins found a wide-open Dustin Basks in the end zone for a touchdown to make it 34-28.
Pitt State coughed it up one more time, this time on their own, as a bad exchange on a run play left the ball bouncing back in UCO's favor. Dillon Hall scooped up the loose ball this time and darted 20 yards into the end zone to tie the game, 34-34. Alex Quevedo's PAT gave the Bronchos the lead with just over three minutes left to play.
Pittsburg again though would march 67 yards on 11 plays over the next 3:14 to kick the game-winning field goal.
At the game's end, Pittsburg State and its split-back offense, held the ball for 37:10 to UCO's 22:50. PSU outgained the Bronchos 434-369, with 290 of those yards coming on the ground.
UCO was led by Roberts on offense. The junior running back had 79 yards on nine carries with one touchdown and also totaled 56 yards on four receptions. Chandler Garrett added 34 yards on five carries, while Collins had 24 yards on 10 carries. Taj Griffin chipped in with 20 yards on four carries.
Collins finished the day 14-for-24 with 212 yards and two touchdowns. Josh Moore had 70 yards on three catches with a touchdown. Mekail Hall (3-30), Dustin Basks (2-29), Diego Richards (1-20), and Amonte Phillips (1-7) also added to the Broncho passing attack.
Burns led the UCO defense with 11 tackles. O'Shay Harris and Jakarri Hunt each had 10.
Central Oklahoma will get back on the field next Thursday, taking on Nebraska-Kearney on the road Thursday, Sept. 12 at 7 p.m.