UNK football’s Davis repeats as MIAA Offensive Player of the Year
KEARNEY, Neb. (Press Release) - The Nebraska Kearney football team has placed 15 on the 2022 All-MIAA team with redshirt senior quarterback TJ Davis repeating as Offensive Player of the Year.
The league’s 11 head coaches vote on the makeup of the squad and cannot vote for their own players.Davis (Colorado Springs) is joined on the first-team offensive by senior left guard Hunter Hays (McCook) with redshirt senior safety Darius Swanson (Aurora, Colo.) representing the Lopers on the first-team defense. He was a first-team pick a year go with Hays named honorable mention. Since 1996, Davis joins Pittsburg State QB Neal Philpot (2003 & 2004) and Pitt running back Germaine Race (2005 and 2006) as repeat winners of Offensive P.O.Y.
Next, super senior running back Montrez Jackson (Trenton, Fla.) makes the second-team as an “all-purpose back”. This is his third All-MIAA honor and second time on the second-team (2018). End Tell Spies (Mullen) and corner Gabriel Amegatcher (Romeoville, Ill.) made the second-team defense. Spies was second-team last fall with Amegatcher earning his first all-conference honor.
Selected to the third-team are three senior co-captains in outside backer Atoa Fox (San Diego), inside backer Jacey Nutter (Thedford) and punter Hunter Kraus (Sargent). Each earns their second All-MIAA accolade. Finally, named honorabe mention are back Damien Cearns (Denver), inside backer Jimmy Harrison (Hobbs, N.M.), end Baylor Hellmuth (Hershey), center Jon Merten (Albion), outside receiver Cody Nelson (Albion) and safety Tre O’Guinn (Peoria, Ariz.). Each is All-MIAA for the first time.
Davis has similar numbers to his 2021 campaign when he ended up as the Harlon Hill Trophy runner up. He averaged 103.3 yards rushing and 124.5 yards passing per game with 29 touchdowns (16 passing and 13 rushing). He had the second most rushing yards by a QB in the NCAA, had eight straight games with a rushing score and five 100-yard days. Next, Davis had 10 straight games with a TD toss and went over 3,000 yards rushing and 4,000 yards passing his career.
A three-time All-MIAA pick, Davis completed 52% of his passes and guided an offense that averaged 33 points and 402 yards per game. Finally, he went over 1,000 rushing yards (1,136) for a third straight year, set a new UNK career scoring record (330) and is up to 102 career TD’s.
Two of the Lopers blocking and protecting Davis are Hays and Merten. Hays, a redshirt senior, started for a third year in a row with Merten a first year starter. He bounced back nicely after missing 2021 due to injury. Co-captain and left tackle Kooper Reece (Valentine) would’ve joined them on the All-MIAA squad but suffered a season-ending injury in week four.
The o-line powered a ground game that was among the nation’s best; 264 yards per game, 5.9 yards per carry and 27 TD’s.
Cearns (554 yards, four TD’s) and Jackson (304 yards, three TD’s) were two of UNK’s top ball carriers outside of Davis. Cearns was a 6.6 ypc with Jackson also providing 116 kick return yards. Finally on offense, Nelson ended the year at 12 catches with team-highs in both receiving yards (254) and TD’s (four).
Swanson will be up for All-American honors again as he recorded 66 tackles (39 solo), eight pass breakups and three interceptions for 44 yards and a TD. Also at 2.5 tackles for loss, he’s up to 190 career stops and part of a defense that held opponents to 18.7 points per game.Spies and Hellmuth were UNK’s starting d-ends, combining for 42 tackles, 9.5 TFL’s, 2.5 sacks, 10 QB hurries, three PBU’s and a forced fumble. Spies is a three-year starter with Hellmuth returning a pick 26-yards for a score in his final game.
Nutter (95) and Harrison (88) were tackle monsters all year long and rarely came off the field for a Loper defense that was minus 2021 All-MIAA ILB Zach Schlager due to injury. Nutter ends his career with the seventh most tackles in school history (251) with Harrison replacing Schlager in the starting lineup and promptly being one of the MIAA’s top tacklers. Both had multiple games with double digit tackle totals and combined for 18.5 TFL’s. At outside backer, Fox had 51 tackles including 9.0 for lost yardage (3.5 sacks). Also UNK’s top punt returner, the two-year starter also had six PBU’s, two forced fumbles, one INT and two QB hurries.
Finally in the secondary, both Amegatcher and O’Guinn had strong first seasons as starters. O’Guinn replaced stalwart Blake Bubak at strong safety and promptly ranked third on UNK In tackles (69) while also having three PBU’s and a 38-yard INT return. Amegatcher led the Lopers in PBU’s with eight and also had one forced fumble and 25 tackles (18 solo). Thanks to Amegatcher, Swanson, O’Guinn and the rest of the secondary, UNK ranked second in the MIAA in opponent completion percentage (54.5).
On special teams, Kraus was again one of the league’s top punters. He averaged 42.5 yards per boot with seven efforts traveling over 50 yards, 34% of his attempts landing inside the 20-yard line and 37% fair caught. Finally, he had a career-long punt of 73 yards vs. Emporia State and helped UNK rank first in the MIAA in net punting at 41.5. UNK went 8-3 this year, going 5-0 in true road games and receiving votes in the final AFCA Top 25 poll of the regular season.
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