Kearney, Neb. – A sellout crowd awaits the Nebraska-Kearney football team when it ventures to 15th-ranked Pittsburg State Saturday night. The Lopers (2-1) have the luck of being Pitt’s 2018 “Family Night” opponent. This annual event has drawn well over 10,000 fans the last couple of seasons. Carnie Smith Stadium’s (aka The Jungle) capacity is listed as a little over 8,200; UNK fans are already being told tickets are sold out. Since joining the MIAA in the fall of 2012, the largest road crowd the Lopers have seen is 8,986, coming at Central Missouri in 2014. The largest crowd UNK football has ever played in front of came in 2004 at Nebraska-Omaha (13,000).
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game be over by nine as these two teams like to run the football. Pitt, which has won nine games in a row dating back to October 2017, has an MIAA-best 163 rushing attempts (54.3 per game) with UNK right behind at 159 (53.0 pg). Head coach Josh Lynn talks about the task of bouncing back after losing last week to Emporia State. Click here to listen
The Gorillas have broken into the national polls thanks to that rushing attack and a defense that is allowing just nine points and 228 yards per game. The unit features six players who earned All-MIAA honors last fall and they are allowing the opposition to convert just 17% on third down. Pitt has also seen the opposition reach the red zone only four times. Looking for its first win in the series since 1983 and hoping to stop a 10-game skid to Pitt, UNK leads the league in rushing yards per game (316), rushing touchdowns (10) and sacks allowed (one). Kearney has scored a bit quicker this fall, thus its time of possession is fourth in the MIAA (31:05). By contrast, the Gorillas rank first (37:31).
Individually, UNK junior back Darrius Webb (Allentown, Pa.) lead the conference in rushing TD’s (six), overall scoring (36 points) and is second in rushing yards per game at 105. Junior quarterback Alex McGinnis (Crete) has a team-best 53 carries while completing 58% of his passes for 135 yards per game and two TD’s. In last year’s 34-13 win at Cope Stadium, Pitt staring QB John Rodrique (6-5, 220 lbs.) didn’t see a lot of action due to injury. He’s thrown for 432 yards and four TD’s so far while rushing 27 times for 63 yards and two TD’s.
A balanced attack also includes junior receiver/kick returner Lorenzo West (5-11, 170 lbs.) and sophomore back Tyler Adkins (5-10, 195 lbs.). The line includes 2017 All-MIAA left guard Zach Thomas (6-4, 310 lbs.). The Gorilla defense already has racked up 27 TFL’s (14.0 sacks) and broken up 16 passes. Linemen Simanu’a Thomas leads in TFLs with 5.5 with nose guard Bradley Pane one of seven Pitt defenders to have at least one sack. Finally, the secondary has three returning all-league players.