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The Antelope

Second half momentum stuns No. 23 Pitt State

Davis gets set to throw the ball in UNK’s home opener on Sept. 2.

The UNK football team hit the road to take on a tough No. 23 ranked Pittsburg State, last Saturday. Carnie Smith Stadium, also known as the “Jungle,” welcomed 8,036 fans for the Gorilla’s home opener. Pittsburg State is the winningest Division II team at home with an overall record 343-126 (73% winning percentage) since 1924. 

A second-half momentum swing helped the Lopers stun the Gorillas and improve its winning streak to five after taking down Pittsburg State 28-17.

The first half was not so kind to the Lopers. Despite an early 7-0 first-quarter lead from a 22-yard passing touchdown from T.J. Davis to Cody Nelson, Pitt State stormed back to score 17 unanswered points to take a 17-7 lead into the half. 

“They came out in a different scheme, it was a great scheme,” said UNK coach Josh Lynn on 93.1 The River after the game. “Give those guys some credit.”

Pitt State, who is a typically pass-first team, kept the ball on the ground. The Gorillas finished the first half with 102 yards rushing to the Lopers 90 yards. The second half saw the Lopers come back to life.

Davis found Michael Koch wide open in the endzone for a 30-yard passing touchdown to make it 17-14. Gorillas quarterback Mak Sexton marched them all the way down the field, but Lopers cornerback Gabe Amegatcher spoiled the drive by picking off Sexton at the UNK 5-yard line early in the 4th. 

With 10:56 left in the 4th quarter saw the Lopers regain the lead. Davis found Montrez Jackson wide open down the field for a 44-yard touchdown as UNK took a 21-17 lead. Davis would punch in a 3-yard rushing touchdown to make it a 28-17 score which would eventually be the final. UNK linebacker Jacey Nutter sealed the deal with an interception with 1:38 left in the game.

The Lopers’ defense was alive in the second half. First-year defensive Coordinator Levi Gallas’ unit only allowed 182 yards and no points in the last half. The secondary ended up picking off Sexton three times with interceptions by Zach Schlager, Amegatcher and Nutter.

“Defensively, turnovers were big, we knew going in our secondary needed to play well,” Lynn said. “Amegatcher, (Atoatasi) Fox had great performances. The defense definitely stepped up and held them to no points in the second half.” 

UNK finished the night with 199 yards on the ground. Davis finished with 105 yards and a touchdown and for the ninth time finished with 100 plus yards rushing. Dayton Sealey finished with 55 yards on the ground. 

The Lopers threw for 220 yards which is the most thrown in the Lynn era. Davis’ career-high saw him go 11-17 with 198 yards and 3 touchdowns while JerQon Conners threw 22 yards on a trick play. Jackson had 2 receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown. Conners had 56 yards and Koch had 52 yards with a touchdown. 

“We have never been known for a real good pass setting,” Lynn said. “I thought we did that enough to put points on the board and help the running game a bit.”

Pittsburg State quarterback Mak Sexton went 18-27 for 246 yards, one touchdown and three picks. Iowa State transfer wide receiver Jalen Martin caught six passes for 112 yards and one touchdown for the Gorillas. Caleb Lewis was their leading rusher with 16 carries for 64 yards. The Gorillas fell to 1-1 on the season. 

Lynn’s overall record improves to 19-19 over the five years he has been with the program. This is his second signature win over a top MIAA opponent. UNK upset No. 7 Northwest Missouri State 21-17 back in 2019.

“It’s huge and doesn’t get any easier, the MIAA is great,” Lynn said, “Overall, great team win.”

UNK received the No. 23 ranking in the AFCA Division II Coaches’ Poll on Sept. 13. The Lopers welcome the 2-0 Washburn Ichabods on Saturday, Sept. 18. The Ichabods are coming off a win against Central Missouri 29-10. The kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Foster Field.

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