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64 years in the making: UNK wins second bowl game

Lopers celebrated with coach Josh Lynn after their 50-33 victory in the Mineral Water Bowl.


UNK football secured its first bowl victory since the Botany Bowl in 1955 with a 50-33 win over Winona State in the 54th annual Mineral Water Bowl in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. In the program’s history, it is only their fourth postseason win all-time. 

“If you would have told me this would be a shootout earlier in the week I would’ve argued with you,” said UNK football coach Josh Lynn. “Offensively we went out and executed and defensively got enough stops, against a very good Winona rushing attack it helps to get out on top of them, just for the fact it makes them throw the ball, something they don’t like to do. Overall it was just a great team win.”

After the Warriors went three and out on their first possession, the Lopers moved down the field in huge chunks on their way to their first score. 

Darrius Webb (Allentown, Pennsylvania) took the first handoff of the game and gained 15 yards. A quarterback keeper by TJ Davis (Colorado Springs, Colorado) on the next play resulted in a 54-yard gain and a score.

Instead of kicking the extra point UNK handed the ball off to Travis Holcomb (Cairo, NE). The redshirt-junior linebacker rumbled up the gut into the end zone to put the Lopers ahead 8-0.

Winona State gained six yards on the first play of their second drive, but a tackle in the backfield by Blake Bubak (Columbus, NE) and a sack by Sal Silvio (Kansas City, Missouri) resulted in a loss of 13 yards.

With the ball on the Warrior 39-yard line to start the second possession, Davis gained 25-yards and 14 yards on his way to his second rushing touchdown of the game. Junior Gonzalez (Corning, California) extra point put UNK up 15-0.

The Warriors didn’t roll over, getting a 35-yard field goal by Paul Ortiz and then a 23-yard rushing score by Miguel Benjamin. After the score, Winona State went for two, but Tyler Anderson pass was off the mark, putting the Lopers ahead 15-9.  

Big runs of 33 yards by Dayton Sealey (Hastings, NE) and 18 yards by Webb set up Davis for his rushing TD.  

At the end of the first quarter, UNK was out to the commanding 22-9 lead.

Trailing by two scores the Warriors went to the air to start the second. After dinking and dunking to start the drive, Owen Burke took a shot down the field and it paid off, connecting with Sawyer Maly for a 51-yard passing touchdown.

Despite the touchdown, Winona State defense still had no answer for the legs and arm of the Lopers quarterback Davis. On the first two drives of the second, he had a 36-yard rushing touchdown and a 23-yard pass touchdown pass to Montrez Jackson (Trenton, Florida).

“I was reading the defensive ends on all the pull keys and guys downfield were setting me up with great blocks,” said Davis. “I was executing on offense and just playing Loper football.”

At halftime, UNK went into the dressing room with a 36-19 advantage.

In the third quarter, the only points scored was a 33-yard pass by Burke to Tyler Knutson for a Winona State touchdown.

The Lopers slam the door shut on a Warrior comeback in the fourth with a 23-yard touchdown run by Webb and a one-yard touchdown run by Luke Quinn (Scottsdale, Arizona).

Most Valuable Players of the Mineral Water Bowl were offensively Davis with 54 passing yards and one passing touchdown and 144 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. On defense, it was Silvio with seven solo tackles and one sack.

With the bowl win, UNK says goodbye to 25 seniors who have helped build a winning culture within the Loper football program. Many of them were members of a 1-10 team in 2016.  

“This is our third year and most of the seniors before we got here had only won one game,” Lynn said. “Over the course of two years, they bought into me being an outsider and what we wanted to do here. Most importantly they put themselves aside and really sacrificed for the team in academics and really bought into the overall team system.”

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