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The Antelope

The Antelope

Lopers stung by Hornets for first loss


By Chris Langin
Antelope Staff

UNK Football dominated their way to a convincing 17-0 lead over Emporia State at intermission on Saturday. Unfortunately, the Hornets of Emporia State returned the favor with 20 unanswered second half points and left Kearney with a 20-17 victory.

On a significantly windy Saturday afternoon, the Lopers (2-1) took their first drive of the game and went 82 yards on 10 plays, capped off by a Darrius Webb nine-yard touchdown run. Not to be outdone by the offense, the Loper defense managed to turn over Emporia State (2-1) on their first drive via a Malik Webb interception that he returned for 62 yards to the Emporia State eight-yard line. Darrius Webb made sure that at least one Webb was credited with a touchdown, as he took the next play into the endzone for his second touchdown of the first quarter to make it 14-0 UNK.

The Lopers had the wind at their backs in the second-quarter and got a 31-yard field goal from freshman Brian Covarrubias, extending their lead to 17-0.

Emporia State’s offense, led by Braxton Marstall, one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in D-II, finally got deep into UNK territory late in the second quarter. With 18 seconds remaining, the Hornets were at the Loper six-yard line and had a snap fly over Marstall’s head that preserved the first-half shutout for the Lopers.

At halftime, Emporia State had a dreadful 61 passing yards on 18 attempts. The Hornets had a net loss of 1 passing yard when accounting for Malik Webb’s interception yardage. Marstall had previously averaged 290 yards per game, passing for the Hornets a season ago.

Defensive end Tye Spies credited the scheme for the disruption in Marstall’s production. “We only sent three and had a spy on the quarterback and dropped everyone else,” said Spies. “He didn’t have his first or second read, so it gave the defensive line time to create pressure.”

Emporia State changed course and ran the ball nine times on their opening third-quarter drive and had one complementary 20-yard completion that led to a six-yard touchdown run by Kai Callins to make it a 17-7 game.

After the Hornets forced UNK into their first three-and-out of the game, they moved the ball down to the UNK three-yard line. On fourth down, the Loper frontline swarmed Emporia’s Kai Callins on the thirteenth play of the Hornet drive to preserve the 10-point lead.

Another three-and-out for the Hornets defense gave them the ball at UNK territory to start, and this time, the Hornets cashed it in as wide receiver Tyler Harris lined up in the wildcat and ran outside for a two-yard touchdown run to make the score 17-14 UNK.

The Lopers struggled to move the ball in the third quarter as they managed just one yard and ran just seven plays. Emporia State had over 11 minutes of possession during the quarter.

“I didn’t execute very well,” said Loper quarterback Alex McGinnis. “Missed a few opportunities to get to the perimeter. I haven’t watched the film yet, so I can’t really say for sure.” McGinnis came into the game with a 191.5 rating and was 5-for-8 with 87 yards passing during the first half. “I was supposed to step up; it was my fault.”

The Lopers had their third drive of the second half stall after a very questionable no call was made when Dylan Reifeis was hit 10 yards downfield and fell to the ground, unable to complete his designated route. As such, McGinnis’s pass sailed a good 20 yards beyond him. Following a punt, UNK coach Josh Lynn was flagged 15 yards while stating his case and protecting his player.

Starting at the UNK 40, Emporia State again marched inside the UNK 10 and this time Marstall found Justin Brown for an 8-yard score to make it 20-17; the Hornet extra point was blocked by the 6’ 7” Trey Lansman.

McGinnis finally got the offense back on track late in the fourth-quarter as he commanded a 13 play 61-yard drive. On third down and the twelfth play of the drive, he appeared to hook up with former Loper hoops starter Trey Lansman with a 15-yard Touchdown pass The referees disagreed, stating that Lansman had stepped out of bounds. A replay might have disagreed with that call, but the game quickly moved on.

With 4th down looming, the Lopers elected to kick a 32-yard field goal into a 25 mph wind. The kick had the distance but went off the right cross-bar and gave the ball back to the Hornets.

The Loper Defense was able to utilize their two timeouts and force an Emporia State punt with 46 seconds left Their punter utilized a rugby style kick that went off one of the Hornets players and gave the Lopers promising field position at their own 43.

After a couple of completions, the Lopers had the ball at Emporia State’s 37-yard line for one final play, McGinnis was hit as he threw to the endzone, so the motion of the throw was affected, and any last second heroics were neglected as the pass fell incomplete.

“It was a tale of two halves,” Lynn told members of the media. “Emporia did a good job with adjustments at halftime. I thought our defense did an outstanding job against a high-powered offense. Their offense controlled the clock in the second half and made us work. It does sting,” said Lynn. “It’s homecoming, and we had a chance to win.”

While the loss stings for UNK, it is worthy to mention that a game like this may have been seen as a morale victory a year ago. Marstall threw for 435 yards on 36 attempts last season and managed just 132 on 35 attempts this time around.

The Lopers look to get back in the win column next Saturday as they head to Pittsburg, Kansas to face an undefeated Pittsburg State.

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