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The Antelope

The Antelope

Lopers off to best start in ten years with home win

Jiyoon Kim / ANTELOPE STAFF Davis celebrates after the game-winning touchdown run.

The No. 23 UNK Lopers squeaked out another hard-fought comeback win against the undefeated Washburn Ichabods on Saturday. The 28-24 victory for the Lopers was UNK’s first home win against Washburn in program history and their second win ever in the series.

The Loper’s wanted to rebound after losing to Washburn 57-41 in 2019. 

“Maybe that game in 19’ prepared us for this,” said UNK coach Josh Lynn. “We went out and laid an egg in 2019. I told the guys all week long, I think certain things prepare you for certain games.”

With the game tied at 21-21 in the fourth quarter, the UNK offense was trying to get a drive going. After getting a first down, disaster struck for the Loper offense. UNK quarterback T.J. Davis fumbled as he was hit for a sack by Ichabod defender Braden Rose. Washburn defensive end Malick Fall recovered the ball at UNK’s 39-yard line with 9:54 left in the game. 

After a 28-yard run by running back Taylon Peters on the first play of the drive, the Ichabods were set up at the 11-yard line. UNK’s defense toughened up in the red zone and they were able to get the monumental stop that allowed only a field goal for the Ichabod offense to give Washburn a 24-21 lead. 

“I think the drive of all the drives was when we turned the ball over and held them to a field goal,” Lynn said. “Super proud of our effort.”

With 4:52 to go, UNK started its game-winning drive at its own 35-yard line with a balanced passing and rushing attack. Davis went 3-7 passing for 35 yards and rushed for 28 yards on the final drive. That included an 8-yard rushing touchdown to take the lead with 57 seconds left. The Lopers also converted three third-downs on the 65-yard drive.

“I knew coach trusted me to put my team in the right position. I honestly just went through my reads, Davis said. “I didn’t try to do nothing spectacular. Just make sure I go through my reads and it happened how it happened.”

On Washburn’s final drive, quarterback Mitch Schurig was intercepted by UNK safety Darius Swanson to seal the game. 

“We knew that we had to play smart and keep everything in bounds,” Swanson said. “We just knew that they were gonna take some deep shots and we were able to capitalize on that.”

Washburn punter Lane Spiker had a punt in the second quarter that bounced perfectly out of bounds at the UNK 1-yard line. The bad field position would not hinder the Lopers though, as they drove the length of the field with the help of a 30-yard and a 62-yard run by Davis. Running back Damien Cearns was then able to punch the ball in for the second Loper touchdown.

A couple of those big runs were set up by the blocking of the UNK receivers.

“Our wideouts, they come to work every day, they block their butt off, and a lot of people don’t see that,” Davis said. “That’s not in newspapers. Not a lot of people check out the wideout’s notes. Everybody’s bought in and they’ve bought into what we’re doing and we’re gonna keep doing that.”

Swanson also had a forced fumble earlier in the game and he finished with eight tackles. Davis finished with his career-high in rushing yards with 258 and three rushing touchdowns. Peters ran for 113 yards off of 13 carries for the Ichabods and Schurig was 17-31 passing for 214 yards.

“We’ve got young men in our program that have bought in,” Lynn said. “They come to work every single day. It’s fun to go out and coach when we go out there and have great days of practice all week long.”

The Lopers improved to 3-0 on the season and the Ichabods fell to 2-1. This is UNK’s best start to a season since 2011. UNK also jumped seven spots in the poll to No. 16 following their win. They will be on the road in Warrensburg to take on Central Missouri on Sept. 25 with the game starting at 1 p.m. 

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