Kearney, Neb. – After a nine-year break, the football teams from Nebraska-Kearney and Chadron State will renew their rivalry Saturday at Ron & Carol Cope Stadium. Saturday’s game can be heard on 93.1 KRVN FM and 106.9 FM in Kearney.
Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. from Foster Field. At the end of business on November 5, 70% of the available tickets have been sold. No game day sales will be allowed; log on to www.lopertickets.com. to buy tickets. UNK (1-0) is coming off a 31-26 win over Pittsburg State, its first victory against the Gorillas in 37 years. The Eagles (2-1) got this weird 2020 season started a bit earlier, picking up two wins over South Dakota Mines while losing at Colorado Mesa. CSC also had a home game vs. Black Hills (S.D.) State canceled.
The Loper-Eagle series dates by 99 years and has featured 71 games. UNK dominated in the early going and has won the past three meetings to grab a 49-21-1 advantage. Since 1990 when the programs entered NCAA Division II the Eagles have come out on top in 10 of the 18 meetings. Twelve of those games were decided by a touchdown or less.
Kearney sophomore quarterback TJ Davis (Colorado Springs) has reached the end zone an astounding eight times in the past two games. The vaults his career rushing scores total to 20; fellow QB Jake Spitlzberger (2008-11) holds the Loper record with 38. Senior back Dayton Sealey (Hastings St. Cecilia) added 105 rushing yards last Saturday as part of a Loper ground game that tallied 287 in 66 attempts (4.3). UNK has reached 270 rushing yards in each of its last six games; the Chadron defense is allowing 189 yards weekly with last year’s number at 197.
The Eagle defense features three senior and four sophomore starters and is surrendering 19 points and 370 yards per game. They have picked off five passes and allowed just nine red zone trips. Junior linebacker Justin Makahununiu has a team-best 24 tackles including 12 solo. Six-foot junior corner Bobby Peele has four pass breakups, three interceptions and 15 tackles with senior backer Travis Wilson at 23 tackles and a pick.
The UNK defense had two red zone stops against the Pitt offense as well as a stop at its own 26-yard line. The Lopers finished the day with eight PBU’s and two tackles for loss. Senior corner Terrell Williams (Miami) had three of the PBU’s with senior safety Blake Bubak (Columbus) at a team-best nine tackles. UNK gave up 28 points and 381 yards per game in 2019.
Through three games the Eagle offense is at 28 points and 419 yards per game. They are converting 37% on third down and have a 56% touchdown red zone (10 of 18) rate.
Former UCLA Bruin Jaylen Starks has five of CSC’s eight rushing scores. Averaging an even five yards a carry the 245-pounder tallied 136 yards and four TD’s for the Bruins in 2017. A fifth-year senior, Dalton Holst is completing 57% of his passes with four TD’s and three INT’s. He was a second-team All-RMAC QB as a junior thanks to setting new school-marks for passing yards (3,119) and passing TD’s (33). Finally, six-foot senior Cole Thurness was a second-team pick at both receiver and punt return with left tackle Justin Calderon a first-team all-league selection. He leads a veteran o-line.
UNK heads to Rapid City, S.D., next Saturday to face the SDMT Hardrockers while CSC closes out the fall with a road game at Black Hills (S.D.). State.