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The Antelope

Lopers drop final game to Washburn, secure best regular season record since 2010

TJ Davis receiving the ball

JD Rader

The Washburn Ichabods came to Ron and Carol Cope Stadium Saturday and spoiled UNK’s final game of the season, winning 57-41.

A disappointing first half where Washburn went six-for-six on drives ending with a touchdown, five-for-six on third down conversions, and amassed 452 yards of total offense, ultimately proved the difference.

“Disappointing first half,” Head Coach Josh Lynn said. “Our kids have answered the bell all year long when it comes to getting ready for games but came out flat today and Washburn did a great job. You have to play four quarters of football because every team in the MIAA is very good, and I thought that was very evident today.”

The Lopers didn’t go down without a fight, however. After Washburn scored once again on their first drive of the third quarter, making the score 48-14, redshirt-junior Dayton Sealey (Hastings) got UNK back on track with a 33-yard touchdown run.

The offense continued the momentum, putting up 20 points in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough. Washburn scored one more touchdown and returned UNK’s last PAT attempt to make the final score 57-41.

The Ichabods used a dynamic run game to gain the advantage over the Lopers. Washburn had a total of 343 rushing yards on 46 attempts for an average of 7.5 yards per carry with five touchdowns.

Redshirt-freshman TJ Davis (Colorado Springs, Colo.) led the UNK in rushing with 123 yards and one touchdown. The Loper quarterback also had 187 yards through the air and two touchdowns.

Senior LaRoy James (Opa-Locka, Fla.) and redshirt-sophomore Jacey Nutter (Thedford) totaled double-digit tackles on the day.

The Lopers finished the season 6-5 and fifth in the MIAA, their best finish since joining the conference. Overall, it has been the best season for UNK since 2010, where they went 10-2 and made the Div. II Playoffs.

“I’m proud of where we are with Loper football,” said Lynn. “I’m going to say this too … we have a good athletic program here in Kearney, Nebraska. We have a volleyball team that tonight has a chance to go undefeated. We have a top-five wrestling program. We got a football team that is making strides to be better. We’re knocking down walls. I’m proud to be part of that.”

The 25 seniors that were honored for senior night on Saturday have had their fair share of struggles, but have shown improvement during their time at UNK. In 2015, UNK didn’t win a single game. Now, even when Lopers don’t come out victorious, they are battling every game and losing close. Most people, including Lynn, believe this trend will continue.

“We took this thing over three years ago and nobody ever counted on the Lopers,” he said. “This group has made leaps and strides up, and they are really the foundation of this football program as we move forward here.”

For the second time in program history, UNK football is bowl bound. They will play Winona State (8-3) out of the NSIC in the 53rd annual Mineral Water Bowl in Excelsior Springs, Missouri at 12 p.m. on December 7.

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