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Kearney, Neb. – The Nebraska-Kearney football team has another long road trip this weekend as it faces the Northeastern State RiverHawks in Tahlequah, Okla.
The game kicks off at 1 p.m. on Saturday. This is the first of three “Homecoming” games the Lopers (2-2) will be a part of in the next month. UNK is also the Homecoming for Northwest Missouri State (Oct. 13) and Central Missouri (Oct. 27); last week Kearney was the opponent on Pittsburg State’s annual “Family Night.”
The UNK and NSU (0-4) series dates back to 1960 and is currently all tied at four. Last year at Ron & Carol Cope Stadium the Lopers ran for 299 yards and five touchdowns as part of a 42-27 win. UNK got out to a 28-0 lead before the ‘Hawks went to star receiver Gary McKnight Jr. (154 yards and three TD’s) to score 21 points in the final 13 minutes. McNight Jr., who has since graduated, finished the year with over 1,100 receiving yards.
This ‘Hawks team is among the youngest in the nation as there are only two seniors starters in punter/kicker Blake Pearce and tight end/long snapper Jacob Drysdale. NSU also has had injury issues at quarterback where four players have taking turns. Three played last Saturday at Missouri Western State with sophomore Cade Yeager the leader of the group. He had 18 TD’s last fall in seven starts, one coming against the Lopers.
NSU is currently averaging 10 points and 217 yards per game. Freshman back/kick returner Craig Davis (108.5 ypg) and sophomore receiver Isaiah Upshaw (68.3 ypg) are the total offensive leaders. The ‘Hawks defense, led by sophomore OLB J’Quille Washington (29 tackles), is surrendering 52 points and 515 yards per game. Finally, Northeastern State is looking for its first win since a 32-29 double OT decision over Missouri Southern State last October.
UNK comes ranked high in many MIAA categories. The offense is first in rushing yards per game (269.8) and carries (205/51.3 pg), second in rushing TD’s (11) and third in time of possession (30:41). Defensively, the Lopers have allowed the fewest passing TD’s (three) while ranking second in passing yards allowed per game (169.8) and third in total yards allowed (314.5 pg). On special teams Kearney is second in net punting (38.0 avg.) and third in kick cover (40.9 net avg.).
Looking for its sixth all-time road win in the MIAA, the Lopers had three second half TD’s in its last trip to Tahlequah. However, UNK couldn’t erase a 24-0 deficit as they started the game with five punts and two turnovers. Falling 31-21 the Lopers were out gained 464-357.
Four years ago at NSU, QB Bronson Marsh rumbled for 242 yards and four TD’s as part of a 34-7 Loper win. Subsequently named the MIAA Offensive player of the Week, Marsh’s scoring runs came from 1, 1, 59 and 87 yards out. For good measure UNK had a 62-yard “pick six” to finish its scoring.
UNK returns home next Saturday to face the Lindenwood Lions (2-2). Kickoff is set for 11 a.m.