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UNK Football smokes Northeastern State in regular season finale

The Lopers now await their fate, to see if they’ll be selected for the NCAA D2 Playoffs
Published: Nov. 13, 2021 at 7:15 PM CST
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KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - The No. 21/22 Nebraska-Kearney football team scored two touchdowns in the first five minutes and held Northeastern State to 204 yards in a 56-10 route Saturday afternoon at Ron & Carol Cope Stadium at Foster Field.The Lopers (9-2) now hope to claim one of the seven playoff spots from “Super Region 3.″

UNK is currently ranked seventh with the playoff committee (both regional and national) meeting again Sunday morning prior to the release of the 28-team bracket at 4 p.m. central at www.ncaa.com

UNK did get some help today as East Central upset No. 8 Southeastern Oklahoma State, 30-28, but No. 10 Ouachita Baptist bested No. 6 Henderson State, 31-28. Thus UNK, OBU, HSU and Washburn all end the year at 9-2 and fighting for two playoff spots.

”So, so proud. Great group of kids and we needed them to answer the bell one more time. Sometimes these games are tough to get up for but our guys have responded all year long. Extremely proud of the effort and the way we came out today,” said UNK head coach Josh Lynn. “I’ll credit this again to a great week of practice and preparation. These last two games that’s definitely shown on Saturday.”

There was no drama today against a young and overmatched RiverHawks (2-9) team that has now dropped four in a row to UNK by a combined score of 200-54. The Lopers ran for 352 yards, passed for 234 more, recorded seven tackles for loss (3.0 sacks) and forced seven punts. It was 14-0 just five minutes in and 42-0 at the break.

Redshirt junior quarterback TJ Davis (Colorado Springs) etched his name into the school record book as he now is UNK’s all-time leader in career rushing touchdowns with 39. He had a one-yard scoring run in the first and then scrambled for a 17-yard TD late in the second. On the play, he was looking to pass but saw nothing but open turf to the left and sauntered in for number 39. That bests the previous record set by QB Jake Spitzlberger (2008-11).

Davis finished with 47 rushing yards, giving him 1,037 for the year. He joins all-time leading rusher Mike Miller (’04) and Roger Suelter(’84) as the only Lopers to have multiple 1,000-rushing yard seasons in a career. Finally, the nation’s most efficient passer went 6 of 9 for 150 yards and two more TD tosses. That gives him 21 for the season and with his yardage total at 2,051.

A 65-yard flea flicker from Davis to redshirt junior receiver Cody Nelson (Albion) started the game and scoring. UNK then saw senior holder Grant Buschkoetter (Kearney Catholic) flip a pass to outside backer Travis Holcomb (Cairo) on the PAT try. It was good and UNK quickly led 8-0. After forcing NSU to punt, the offense needed just four plays to travel 80 yards. This time Davis hit senior back Dayton Sealey (Hastings St. Cecilia) from 61-yards out and the route was one.

”We wanted to have fun and we knew that if we could get going early it would carry over to the rest of the game. Establish a lead early where we could get up and play with a lot of confidence,” said Lynn. “That’s the reason for the trick play and I made a promise to Travis earlier in the week, no matter what the numbers were, we were going to run the fake (PAT).”

Also having rushing TD’s today were Sealey, backup QB Shaun Ross (Raytown, Mo.) and redshirt freshman back Miko Maessner (Kearney H.S.). Backup QB Jacob Green (Frederick, Colo.) Green finished 6 of 6 for 75 yards with Ross at 55 rushing yards and a 2 of 2 effort in the air for nine more yards.

Defensively, UNK limited NSU to 70 rushing yards on 25 attempts (2.8 avg.) with two QB’s combining to go 11 of 21 for 134 yards and a score. The Lopers got two TFL’s from Holcomb and junior ILB Sione Taufalele (Santa Clara, Calif.) with Holcomb and junior end Tye Spies (Mullen) having two of the team’s three sacks. Finally, Taufalele had a team-best seven tops with Holcomb at six in his final game at Foster Field.

Oklahoma State transfer Taoheed Karim had a game-high nine tackles with junior receiver Mark Wheeland at six catches for 70 yards to pace NSU.

”We play in the toughest Division II conference in the nation and we’re outright number two in that conference,” said Lynn regarding UNK’s playoff hopes. “We’ve gone on the road six times this year and was the only school to have two back-to-back road games (Pitt State & Central Missouri; NW Missouri & Central Oklahoma). We’re definitely one of the top 28 teams in the nation.”

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