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Lopers struggle to find groove vs. Gorillas

UNK students cheer on the Lopers during the homecoming game against Emporia State Uiversity. The Lopers lost to the Hornets 20-17. This weekend, the Lopers traveled to Pittsburg, KS to take on the Pittsburg State Gorillas.

More than 10,000 packed the stands of Carnie Smith Stadium to watch the No. 15 Pittsburg State Gorillas defeat the UNK Lopers 30-17 Saturday night. 

“The crowd and the energy around the stadium before and during the game was electrifying,” said Alex Achtermann, former UNK baseball star and now Pittsburg State baseball player. “Since it was family weekend, there had to have been twice the amount of people than there was our first weekend against Central Oklahoma.” 

The Lopers (2-2) got off to a quick start when they intercepted D-1 Sam Houston State transfer John Roderique on the game’s first possession. After a three-play drive that accounted for minus 7 yards, the Lopers punted the ball back to the Gorillas and they responded with a six-play scoring drive that ended with a 2-yard Rodrerique rushing score. 

The Gorillas, who came into the game allowing less than eight points a game defensively, stuffed the Lopers again on their next drive which started at their own five-yard line. This time, they not only forced the Lopers to punt the ball back to them but secured two points with a safety.

After two offensive possessions against the juggernaut Gorilla defense, the Lopers box score on offense read as so: six plays, minus 12 yards. 

“They’re solid and loaded the box to stop our run,” said David Squiers, UNK’s senior center. “We didn’t really have an answer for a while.” 

After the Loper defense responded with a three-and-out, the Lopers tried to get things rolling on offense. After finally getting into positive yardage, the Lopers turned it back over to the Gorillas via an interception. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Roderique again used a short field to bulldoze into the end-zone with a 1-yard scoring run. 

Trailing 16-0, the Lopers finally found a spark in the second quarter when their defense forced a punt that gave the offense field position at Pittsburg State’s 36-yard line. A quick four-play drive was capped off by a 21-yard strike from the right arm of quarterback Alex McGinnis, who connected with wide receiver Trey Lansman and his 6-foot-6 frame to cut the score to 16-7.

The Lopers quickly got on the board again when freshman kicker Bryan Covarrubias nailed a 43-yard field goal after an eight-play, 42-yard drive.

Just 3:30 from going into halftime down six, the Lopers were unable to stall a final Pittsburg State drive as the Gorillas went 61 yards, capped off by a 23-yard touchdown run by Tyler Adkins. 

The Lopers went into halftime trailing 23-10. 

“Things didn’t go our way and that was mainly our own fault,” said Tye Spies, UNK’s senior defensive end. “We had mental errors and penalties that hurt us early and most of the game. We had to just relax and play our game and when we did, we had success.” 

After a quiet third quarter, the Gorillas secured a rather comfortable 20-point lead when they marched 90 yards in 6:36 to give themselves a 30-10 lead. 

However, the 23 points secured in the first half were plenty for the Gorilla defense. They blanked the Lopers in the third quarter and only allowed a touchdown when back-up QB Cody Summers led an eight-play 73-yard drive to score with 16 seconds left in the contest. 

The Gorillas will travel to Lindenwood (2-2) next week.

The game was the latest lesson in UNK’s journey back to gridiron success.

“We learned a lot against Pitt,” Squiers said. “It was a perfect example of a team that knows how to win vs. a team that’s still learning. We did too many little things wrong, especially early in the game, to win against a good team.”

In some good news for the Lopers, Central Oklahoma, who they beat earlier in the season, defeated No. 4 Northwest Missouri State on Saturday.

The Lopers will travel to Northeastern State this weekend. Northeastern State hasn’t finished within 28 points in any of their contests thus far this season.

The contest with a weaker opponent provides another test for the Lopers.

“We need to take our loss like men and learn from the best team in our conference currently,” Squiers said. “Next week needs to be a big week for us to get back on track… got to take Northeastern serious.”

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