UNK Football: Lopers Edge UCM, 31-28
(Warrensburg, MO) – Redshirt junior quarterback TJ Davis ran in from a yard out with 22 seconds left to help No. 16/21 Nebraska-Kearney rally past Central Missouri, 31-28, Saturday afternoon in Warrensburg.
The "Last Minute Lopers" improve to 4-0 and snap a seven-game losing streak to the Mules (0-4). UNK also wins a second straight game in the final minute as Davis ran for an eight-yard score with 57 seconds left in last Saturday's 28-24 home win over Washburn.
"It's our kids. We go in there and we preach being blue collar and working and all that. Those kids believe, they keep working. The thing I love about them is that they just keep coming. It doesn't matter if we're down 14, 21 points they just keep coming at you. They keep executing and they care. When you get a team that cares about each other that sure does help in these situations," said UNK head coach Josh Lynn.
UNK grabbed its first lead of the game when Davis (Colorado Springs) hit junior receiver Kylan Herrera (Coppers Cove, Texas) from 31-yards out with 7:58 left. The lofted pass came on third down, one of three the Lopers converted on the drive. However, UCM needed just five plays to regain the lead as junior QB Logan Twehous hit senior receiver Cameron Saunders in the corner of the end zone.
Both teams went three-and-out on their next drives with redshirt junior outside linebacker Atoa Fox (San Diego) having a key sack on second down. UNK's got the ball back at its own 31-yard line with 3:04 left. Davis completed passes to three different teammates but faced 4th & 2 from the Mule 42-yard line. Davis managed a five-yard gain and then completed two more passes to get the Lopers closer. A pass interference penalty in the end zone then setup UNK at the two. After a one-yard run by Davis, he not surprisingly called his own number again and rushed for his ninth TD of the year.
"We got it done. We threw the ball well and TJ created with his feet as he normally does. And our receivers made plays. TJ is putting it on the money and those guys are doing something with it," said Lynn. "Great job defensively in the second half. We put them back on their heels. Made plays when we had to and created a turnover when we needed one. They threw some stuff at us in the first half and our defensive coaches came in at half time and got it adjusted. They (defense) did a great job of keeping us in it."
UNK saw UCM run 23 more offensive plays in the first half but the Loper D made those adjustments, stiffened up and allowed only that late score in the fourth. UCM, which held leads of 14-6 and 21-13, ran two more plays in the end, 72-70, while also having a slight advantage in total yards, 490-468. Finally, UNK was 4 for 4 in the red zone, blocked a field goal and recovered a fumble at its own 33-yard line to stop a potential Mule scoring drive.
"Ugly win but it's still a win. I didn't think we played very good in the first half. Give Central Missouri credit … that offense was clicking today. Anybody that's ever been around those guys in the league knows that if they are clicking, have a good scheme going and a quarterback that's operating … they are tough to beat," said Lynn. "Our unsung hero today was our special teams play. The blocked field goal was huge and Montrez Jackson had a nice kick off return late."
Davis finished 13 of 20 for 225 yards and two TD's while rushing 21 times for 45 yards. He had similar numbers (43 rushing yards, two TD's; 221 passing yards, three TD's) in a 47-40 loss to UCM In 2019. Next, graduate back Dayton Sealey (Hastings St. Cecilia) ran 14 times for 71 yards with redshirt freshman back Damien Cearns (Denver) having a 49-yard burst down the sidelines to tally a team-best 79 rushing yards. Finally, redshirt junior receiver Michael Koch (Columbus) had five grabs for 80 yards and first quarter score.
A Washburn transfer, Twehous was 25 of 44 for 312 yards and three TD's. He was sacked twice, ran for 39 yards and completed passes to nine teammates with Saunders (eight for 138 yards) having a big day. Finally for the Mules, senior back Koby Wilkerson ran 15 times for 84 yards with senior safety Codi Bell providing eight tackles.
Forcing three second half punts, the Loper D got 11 tackles and a couple of pass breakups from redshirt junior strong safety Darius Swanson (Aurora, Colo.) with redshirt senior inside backer Jacey Nutter (Thedford) at six solo stops. Finally, super senior outside backer Travis Holcomb (Cairo) blocked a 28-yard field goal in the second quarter, redshirt senior end Blake Schroeder (Holdrege) had a sack and redshirt sophomore inside backer Zach Schlager (McCook) had six tackles and recovered that third quarter fumble.
"Extremely happy with the win and one in which we had to overcome some adversity. Not that we haven't before but this was a different case. Our kids dug deep and won the football game,” said Lynn.
UNK is at Fort Hays State next Saturday night. The Tigers (2-2) downed Missouri Southern State today, 42-21.