The Student News Site of University of Nebraska at Kearney

The Antelope

The Antelope

The Antelope

Loper football restores UNK fan’s spirit through success

YEJIN KANG / ANTELOPE STAFF The Lopers warm up for the second half during a game earlier this season.

Growing up, I always enjoyed watching the Lopers play on Saturday at Ron and Carol Cope Stadium. The boom from the cannon could be heard through the whole town every time UNK scored. The stands were full of Loper blue. As I got older, I witnessed the changes in the program. Now, I have witnessed the rebirth of UNK football.

The rebirth for Loper football began on Jan. 4, 2017, with the hiring of Josh Lynn as the 18th coach in program history. I remember doing my part in looking up Lynn and learning of the success he had at Eastern New Mexico University. The questions I asked were “will this be the right guy for the job?” “Will he be like the last two?” And finally, “will the program be as successful as it was in the RMAC?”

The Lopers were successful in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. I don’t remember every RMAC team UNK faced, but I remember Chadron State. When UNK announced they would join the Mid-America Athletics Association, I was sad to know that the Chadron State rivalry was over. The Lopers were successful in the RMAC with four conference championships from 1996 to 2011.

The Lopers learned the hard way how tough the MIAA can be. UNK would start the season off 0-7 before winning their first game against Southwest Baptist University 34-20. The Lopers finished 3-8. With the poor play by the team, I had a bad feeling that it was just the beginning.

The next three seasons the Lopers finished 3-8. Morris was relieved of coaching duties after the 2014 campaign and the Lopers hired Josh Lamberson to take over. Lamberson only lasted two seasons, compiling a 1-21 record. I can recall the only win in the Lamberson era against Central Oklahoma since it was a shock to me that UNK finally won a game in two seasons. 

Lynn was hired to turn around the football program. During his press conference, his strategy was called “The Rise.” In his first season, Lynn finished 3-8.  In the 2018 season, UNK finished 5-6. As a college freshman in 2018, I found myself attending Loper football games again. This season was an eye-opener for me to see how Lynn and UNK were winning games in the MIAA. 

 In 2019, the Lopers had their first winning season in the MIAA at 7-5 and a Mineral Water Bowl victory. It was fun watching the team win again. I even felt comfortable attending my first away game at Fort Hays State and watching the Lopers lose in a heartbreaker. The best game of the year was the Mineral Water Bowl against Winona State. It had a home atmosphere for UNK. The 2020 COVID-19 year limited UNK to two games, but the Lopers won both.

This season has been a special one. The Lopers sit in second place in the MIAA with a 7-2 record, which ties the most wins in the MIAA era. Lynn’s “The Rise” strategy has finally broken through and has put life into this football program and fans. I have enjoyed the support Loper Nation has shown.

Earlier this season, the Lopers were ranked for the first time since the end of the 2011 season. Before Lynn took over, UNK’s record was 10-45 in the MIAA. Since then, the Lopers are 24-21. The Rise has been real at UNK and it’s exciting to cheer on the Lopers again.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Antelope

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Nebraska at Kearney . Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Antelope

Comments (0)

All The Antelope Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *