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Kearney, Neb. – The Nebraska-Kearney football team rushed for 474 yards and pitched its first shutout in 10 years to blast Missouri Southern State, 45-0, Thursday night at Ron & Carol Cope Stadium at Foster Field. This marks the second straight season opening win for UNK, the first time that has happened since 2003 and 2004. On the other side of the ball, the Lions drop a 16th consecutive game dating back to October 2016. “We have lot of things to be excited about and it was a good team win. The defense answered the bell all night and our special teams was outstanding,” said Loper head coach Josh Lynn. “Offensively, we had some lulls. We executed things well overall but we have to do a better job of maintaining drives.” Behind a balanced rushing attack, a swarming defense and some fortuitous early bounces, UNK dominated from start to finish. The Lopers led 7-0 after the first quarter, 24-0 at the break and then scored 14 points in the final eight minutes. “The big (offensive) plays were nice, especially the ones on third down. It starts up front and those guys did a good job of keeping linebackers and interior linemen off our backs. And our backs hung on to the ball tonight and made a play when it was there turn,” said Lynn.
The offense held the ball for nearly 35 minutes and reached its rushing total in 56 carries (8.5 avg.) with nine different players toting the rock at least once. The Loper “D” registered three sacks, broke up four passes, recovered two fumbles and made a goal line stand. Historically, the rushing total ranks fifth best in school history, third best in the Division II era (1990-present) and tops in the MIAA era (2012-present). The five rushing TD’s are two off the school mark with the 45-point margin of victory the second highest in the MIAA era. Individually, junior newcomer Darrius Webb (Allentown, Pal) carried the ball eight times for 162 yards and had scoring runs of three, 10 and 98 yards. The 98-yarder ties the school record, set by Kearney native Rustin Dring in a 2008 road game, and came right after a goal line stand. Having a stable of backs this year, UNK brought in junior David Goodwin (Lauderhill, Fla.) in the second half and he finished with 113 yards and two scores on eight carries. A 2017 red shirt, he reached the end zone from 38 and 58 yards out, respectively. To start the scoring, sophomore back Dayton Sealey (Hastings St. Cecilia) caught a 10-yard scoring pass from junior quarterack Alex McGinnis (Crete). Sealey now has seven TD’s (five rushing and two receiving) in 70 career touches. “Alex would probably like to throw it a bit more but he threw it when we needed him to and was very productive,” said Lynn. “He made a lot of good reads in the run game.”
Facing an offense with a new coordinator and an unknown scheme, UNK held MSU to 246 yards (70 rushing and 176 passing). In a 16-6 loss to the Lopers last fall, the Lions mustered only 288 yards. Prior to tonight, the last UNK shut out was a 24-0 win over Fort Lewis in October 2008. Overall, Mo Southern was forced to punt nine times, had only two drives that garnered more than 40 yards and was stuffed on first and goal from the Loper two-yard line midway through the third quarter. “Every defense I know wants to get a shutout. Their back was against the wall (on the goal line stand) and they answered the call,” said Lynn. “Our defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage all night.” On the goal line stand, a false start penalty pushed the Lions back to its own seven-yard line and then safety Dallas Vaughn (St. Louis) and linebacker Sal Silvio (Kansas City) tackled receiver Eric Diedrick Jr. at the six-inch line to keep the shut out intact. A Loper tackle for loss and incomplete pass followed and set up fourth and goal from the two. After a timeout, senior corner Malik Webb (Roper, NC) broke up a pass from QB Sean Kelly. Down 17-0 in the second quarter, MSSU went for it on fourth and nine from the Loper 33-yard line. Receiver Aaron Willis dropped a pass that likely would’ve resulted in a first down; that was one of three drops on third or fourth down for the Lions and stalled a 12-play, 42-yard drive. Early on, it was a fumble recovery by the Loper offense that preserved a 7-0 lead and the momentum. An errant pitch by McGinnis on an option play was recovered by Webb at the UNK one-yard line.
Three plays later, Kearney’s good luck continued as a sophomore safety Blake Bubak (Columbus) forced punt returner Carson Day to fumble. Bubak was actually blocked in the back on the play but managed to stick his arm out and knock the ball loose and it was recovered by junior linebacker Rakid Hill (Kansas City) at the Loper 34-yard line. UNK promptly marched 66 yards in 10 plays with Webb’s first scoring capping things. Kearney got the ball right back as Caleb Batie fumbled on second down while trying to gain more yards in the middle of a pile. Safety Dallas Vaughn (St. Louis) pounced on the loose ball and that setup a 28-yard field goal by true freshman Brian Covarrubias (Grand Island). The final first half score, a 10-yard run by Webb, came after that fourth down stop by the defense. The drive featured a 22-yard reception by receiver Trey Lansman (Harlan, Ia.), playing his first football game after a stellar basketball career. He finished the night with three catches, two coming on the sidelines. In his second career start, McGinnis had a team-high 18 carries for 94 yards. That included a long scamper of 20 yards. In the air he was 12 of 17 for 111 yards and no INT’s and completed passes to seven teammate.
Backups Carson Walters (Lincoln East) and Cody Summers (Denver) then saw action in the fourth. Next, Lansman had a team-best 45 receiving yards with Webb also catching three balls. On special teams, junior newcomer Kendall Raschein (Red Bluff, Calif.) averaged 39.6 yards in five attempts with a long effort traveling 53 yards. He also saw six of his eight kickoffs result in touchbacks. Defensively, Silvio had a team-best eight tackles with Bubak, senior safety Tashan Finley (Indianapolis) and sophomore linebacker Travis Holcomb (Cairo) each making five. Finally, Holcomb, junior backer Alec Sovereign (Lincoln SW) and sophomore nose guard Shane Henderson (Elkhorn South) each recorded a sack. UNK heads to Central Oklahoma next Thursday night. The Bronchos fell at Central Oklahoma, 21-7, in its season opener.