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Kearney, Neb. – True freshman Brian Covarrubias booted a 24-yard field goal with eight second left to help Nebraska-Kearney edge Washburn, 17-16, Saturday afternoon in Topeka.
On a cold and windy day, this was the season finale for both teams. The Lopers and Ichabods both finish with 5-6 records with UNK snapping a nine-game losing streak in the series. Kearney hadn’t beaten Washburn since 1985 and hadn’t won in Topeka since 1984.
The Lopers came in having lost four games by a total of 21 points. Another close setback was a possibility as the ‘Bods scored 16 unanswered points to grab a one-point lead with 4:34 remaining. Senior kicker Perry Schmiedeler made field goals of 20, 34 and 38 yards as well as running 20 yards on a fake punt to setup WU’s lone touchdown. That score came at the end of the first half and made it 14-10.
After Schmiedeler’s 38-yarder to give his team its first lead of the day, UNK took over at its own 32-yard line. Junior back Darrius Webb (Allentown, Pa.) ran for six yards on third and two and then junior quarterback Alex McGinnis (Crete) hit junior back Dayton Sealey (Hastings St. Cecilia H.S.) for eight yards on third and 10. However, a WU defender hit Sealey out of bounds, leading to a free 15 yards and automatic first down. That moved the ball to the ‘Bods 46-yard line.
One of the top rushing teams all season in NCAA Division II, UNK ran the ball on six consecutive plays and picked up 24 yards and two first downs in the process. Junior back David Goodwin (Lauderhill, Fla.) ran for three yards on third and two after Webb ran hard on a couple of prior plays.
With just seconds remaining, McGinnis tried to find Webb near the goal line but WU junior DB Nathan Mikoleit broke up the pass. That brought out Covarrubias (Grand Island H.S.) on third down and he made his 11th field goal of the season. He missed a 28-yarder six plays into the game and after WU fumbled on its first offensive play. Junior safety Dallas Vaughn (St. Louis) then secured the win when he recovered a fumble after WU tried a “hook and ladder”.
UNK out gained Washburn 372-285 despite running just one more play. Having a five minute advantage in time of possession, the Lopers averaged 5.8 yards per carry to end with 276. The season total came to 2,958 yards with 30 scores.
Six players carried the ball with Webb having a team-high 80 on 17 totes. He ends 2018 with 998 yards and 10 TD’s. Next, Goodwin had a 77-yard scamper late in the first quarter to setup UNK’s second TD with McGinnis (47) and Sealey (31) combining for 78 more yards.
In the air, McGinnis was 11 of 18 for 96 yards, one TD and an INT on a flea flicker early in the second half. He capped a 10-play, 65-yard drive late in the first quarter with a six-yard scoring toss to senior WR Trey Lansman (Harlan, Ia.). Thanks to Goodwin’s big run, UNK made it 14-0 early in the second quarter when Sealey ran two-yards for a score. That was a quick six play, 98-yard drive.
Defensively, UNK’s secondary limited WU senior star receiver James Brania-Hopp. He came in with 58 catches for 1,108 yards and eight TD’s. While he caught a 20-yard scoring pass late in the first half, he had only three other catches for 16 yards. Senior corners Famous McKinnon (Miami) and Malik Webb (Roper, N.C.) were among the Lopers to blanket him.
One of the top passing teams in the MIAA, Washburn ended with 126 yards in the air and 159 on the ground. Sophomore Mitch Schurig completed 16 of 30 passes and was sacked three times. Redshirt freshman back Will Evans ran 17 times for 133 yards after having just 94 through the first 10 games of the year.
Also for UNK, sophomore WR Trey Richards (Hutchinson, Kan.) had a big second half and managed 32 yards on four catches. McKinnon and junior ILB Sal Silvio (Kansas City) both had seven tackles with McKinnon forcing a fumble as well. Next, senior DE Tye Spies (Mullen), junior NG Jordan Ingraham (Miami) and junior DE Hinwa Allieu (Gaithersburg, Md.) recorded the sacks. Finally, junior S LaRoy James (Opa-locka, Fla.) had five tackles as the secondary finished with 28 and three PBU’s.
Kearney will begin spring ball in March 2019 with next year’s season opener set for Thursday, September 5 at Missouri Southern State. The home opener comes a week later against the Central Oklahoma Bronchos.