The University of Nebraska at Kearney offense scored six touchdowns and the defense registered 10 tackles for loss, had three pass breakups and one interception to highlight the “Blue/White” Scrimmage Saturday at Ron & Carol Cope Stadium at Foster Field.
On Homecoming weekend, the Lopers ran around 100 plays over two hours with the first, second and third string units getting an even amount of work. UNK has been practicing since mid-September in preparation for a four-game fall schedule. This is the third consecutive Saturday UNK has had around a 100-play full-contact scrimmage.
“Offense started slow and then got going. I thought our quarterbacks ran the ball well … it’s kind of hard to run them when they are barely getting touched. We moved the ball offensively and defensively. I thought our first unit was strong. It was a good back-and-forth scrimmage,” UNK head coach Josh Lynn said.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback TJ Davis (Colorado Springs), the 2019 MIAA Freshman of the Year, started the scoring with a nifty 65-yard run down the left sidelines on the day’s eighth play. The Loper defense forced two three and outs on the first two possessions; most drives started on either 35- or 40-yard lines.
With several veteran backs held out, redshirt junior Garrett Meyer (Omaha Gross) and true freshmen Damien Cearns (Denver), Noah Ellens (Minooka, Ill.) and Derrick Strongs (Westchester, Ill.) got the majority of carries. The foursome combined for 173 yards on 36 carries (4.8 avg.) with Ellens having a one-yard scoring run in the second and Strongs catching a four-yard TD pass from Davis earlier in the quarter. All toll, the offense rung up 27 points between plays 25-50.
“I want to give credit to the o-line for doing a great job blocking and coming to work every day. Hats off to those guys because it’s hard in the trenches,” Davis said. “We’re (offense) not perfect and they (defense) aren’t perfect. The best thing we can do is compete every day.”
Redshirt freshman QB Shaun Ross (Raytown, Mo.) had a 36-yard TD run to highlight a 13 carry, 87-yard day with Davis totaling 78 yards on four attempts. All three Loper QB’s who played were wearing “gold’ jerseys and were not to be tackled. In the air Ross, Davis and redshirt sophomore Riley Harms (Fremont) combined to go 13 of 26 for 170 yards, two TD’s and one INT. They completed to 10 different teammates with no one having more than two catches.
Harms found true freshman receiver Landon Thompson (Columbus) from 36-yards out for the day’s final score. In the first half Harms ran around the right end and snuck the ball across the goal line for UNK’s third touchdown.
“(Sophomore receiver) Michael Koch from Columbus is doing a good job. The big surprise has been Landon … I guess Columbus puts out pretty good receivers. That (wide receiver room) is deeper than we’ve had in previous years. That’s a good sign,” Lynn said. “Those guys are also blocking well, which is big part of our run game.”
The defense had seven three and outs, 10 TFL’s from 10 different players, an INT and PBU from Homecoming king and redshirt sophomore corner Gabriel Amegatcher (Romeoville, Ill.) and sacks from linebackers Carson Pilkington (Elkhorn South) and Cameron Raffaeli (Ogallala). Thirty-one different Lopers were credited with a tackle, led by true freshman linebacker Nathan Pesek (Millard West) and true freshmen defensive back Matty Bartels (Aurora, Colo.) with seven apiece. Finally, junior newcomer and linebacker Nate Konecky (Wahoo Bishop Neumann) had two TFL’s.
“At interior linebacker we lost Sal Silvio (325 career tackles) … (senior) Quinn Brummer and (junior) Jacey Nutter seemed to do a good job there today. That position has a lot of competition and moving forward we’ll have to see who’ll be there,” Lynn said. “At running back our veterans didn’t go today, but we have a good little stable behind them.”
UNK will now prepare for a game at Pittsburg State on Halloween. That’ll be followed by scheduled games vs. Chadron State (Nov. 7), at South Dakota Mines (Nov. 14) and vs. Missouri Western State (Nov. 21).
“Our focus needs to change. We’ll continue to get everyone some work (over the next two weeks), but our focus is now on Oct. 31 and Pitt State. We’ve got to continue to get better as a football team every week because we’re only playing four games,” Lynn said.
Photos by Todd Gottula, UNK Communications