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Kearney, Neb. – The Nebraska Kearney football team racked up 34 first downs and 531 yards to roll past Northeastern State, 42-27, Saturday afternoon at Ron & Carol Cope Stadium at Foster Field.
The Lopers improve to 3-8 while the RiverHawks (0-8), from Tahlequah, Okla., lose an 11th straight game dating back to last season. To stop a two-game losing streak to Northeastern, UNK held the ball for a season-high 42:24 and ran a season-high 91 plays. The play tally is the eighth most in school history. The yardage and first down totals are not only season-highs but also the best in the MIAA era. Finally, the first down tally was two shy of the school record, set in a 1970 win over Missouri Western State.
“Credit goes to the players. We had a good week of practice and also felt like we needed to come out and put together a good first quarter and first half. I think we did that today,” said Loper head coach Josh Lynn. The Loper defense also had a big day, forcing NSU to punt the first six times it had the ball. After picking off ‘Hawks quarterback Cade Yeager to end the first half, UNK forced another punt to start the second half. NSU tallied 21 of its points in the fourth quarter with 14 coming over the final 3:13.
“Our defense played great again … they had two three-and-outs right off the ball and got us the ball,” said Lynn. “Our offensive line came out and got after it. Our running backs blocked and ran well and Darrien (Daniels) was an example of that.”
UNK scored 14 points in the first quarter, led 21-0 at the break and 35-6 early in the fourth quarter. The Lopers slowly worked its way down the field all day long, having scoring drives of 53, 66, 70, 76, 77 and 90 yards. Four of these drives went at least 10 plays.
A balanced attack saw eight different ball carriers and nine different pass catchers. Sophomore quarterback Steve Worthing (Elkhorn South) played just over three quarters and went 16 of 20 for 202 yards and one TD while rushing seven times for 29 yards and two scores (four and five yards). Backup Alex McGinnis (Crete) also saw action, running eight times for 36 yards and one TD. In the air, he went 2 for 2 for 30 yards.
“This was a good example of what we like to do offensively. We used a lot of options and took advantage of the numbers they gave us. We ran where they weren’t,” said Lynn.
Hastings redshirt freshman back Dayton Sealey had his best day as a Loper, rushing 13 times for 96 yards and a TD. He had several long runs with his best covering 18 yards. His one-yard plunge capped a 66-yard drive early in the fourth that made it 35-6. Next, slot receiver Darrien Daniels (St. Louis) was used more out of the back field today and he had 17 carries for 78 yards and a score. Also catching one ball for 10 yards, he began the scoring with an eight-yard run at the 8:55 mark of the first quarter.
Finally on the ground, workhorse sophomore back Thomas Russell (Millard West) played only in the first half and managed 58 yards on 14 carries. He had a 15-yard run, one of five Lopers to have a run of 10 yards or more.
Junior tight end Alex Harms (North Platte) and junior receiver Marvin Marshall (Orlando, Fla.) both had four catches to lead the Lopers. Harms had a team-high 83 yards thanks to a one-hand tip catch in the first half that covered 41 yards. Later, Marshall literally jumped the final five yards of a 10-yard TD reception midway through the second quarter.
“Ninety percent of the time we were in a good play, run or pass. In option football, they have to account for the quarterback and the running backs. We even pitched the ball several times today to our cruisers (tight end),” said Lynn.
The Loper defense sacked Yaeger four times, for a loss of 30 yards, and that led to NSU to rushing for 18 yards on 14 carries. He did get hot late to finish 25 of 42 for 275 yards and four TD’s. The true freshman’s favorite target was senior receiver Gary McKnight Jr. (seven recep., 154 yds., three TD’s.). He came in as one of the MIAA’s leaders in receiving yards per game.
Individually, Elm Creek junior end Jake Bartling had four tackles, including two sacks for 13 yards, and a forced fumble. Next, junior corner Famous McKinnon (Miami) and redshirt freshman inside backer Ty Botsford (Sussex, Wisc.) both had four solo stops with junior OLB’s Ciffond Taylor (Miami) and Fred Wortham (Chicago) having the other sacks.
Defensively for NSU, senior linebacker La’More Wise had 19 (12 solo) tackles. He came in as one of the MIAA leaders in that area. “We’re happy with the win and we now want to go get some more. We need to take another stop and win a game against someone we’re not supposed to beat,” said Lynn. UNK is at Lindenwood next Saturday at 1 p.m. The Lions (2-5) fell today at No. 1 Northwest Missouri State, 19-0.