by JACOB WOERTHER
(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) — While the scene Thursday night at Walton Stadium/Kenedy Field appeared to be similar to one that fans witnessed last year in the season opener, it was offensive players who were not on the field for last season’s game that fueled the University of Central Missouri Mules 28-23 victory over the Pittsburg State Gorillas.
On his first snap as the Mules starting quarterback Brook Bolles formally introduced himself to those in attendance with a 45-yard completion to Kyrion Parker. Bolles concluded the drive with a 13-yard rush for the Mules’ first touchdown of the evening.
After trailing for the majority of the first half, Bolles tied the game up at 16 in the third quarter with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Seth Hebet. Bolles completed 15 of 37 passing attempts totaling 226 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. He also ran for 65 yards and a touchdown.
“He had very few poor throws, most balls were right on the money,” Head Coach Jim Svoboda said. “I thought he was really poised and really good on his legs.”
Redshirt freshmen Kolby Wilkerson stepped onto the field for the first time in a Mules jersey Thursday night but quickly established himself as a threat on the ground. Wilkerson led the team with 122 yards on 13 attempts. His longest carry of the contest was a 29-yard run at the start of the second quarter.
“I though he played incredibly well,” Svoboda said, “He really just displayed what we loved about him when we recruited him. He has terrific balance, great hands…and he just kept his legs turning.”
Wilkerson split reps in the backfield with fellow redshirt freshmen, Devante Turner; who made his presence felt late in the game. With just under 4 minutes remaining the Mules led the Gorillas 22-16 with possession on the 50-yard line. Turner covered half the length of the field and ran in the Mules’ final touchdown of the game. Turner totaled 69 yards on nine carries.
In contrast with new starters on offense, familiar playmakers led the Mules defense. Kolsen Crane had a team-high nine tackles and two sacks, Alex Lackey totaled nine tackles and half of a sack, and Dylan Albertson finished with eight tackles and a sack.
The Mules defense saw two different quarterbacks, John Roderique in the first half and Thomas LePage in the second, but heavily pressured both. They recorded five total sacks on the night.
Although the Mules let up 16 points in the first half, they held the Gorillas scoreless through nearly the entire second half. The Gorillas’ only points after halftime came via a touchdown pass from Thomas LePage with just 1:23 left in the game.
The Mules’ new offensive starters will once again take the field Thursday, Sept. 7, as the team travels to Hays, Kansas, to take on the Fort Hays Tigers.