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The Antelope

Wild ending sends Lopers to the next round of DII playoffs

JIYOON KIM / ANTELOPE STAFF Loper football runs onto the field in a previous game against Northeastern State


The Lopers’ magical run continued after scoring a late fourth-quarter touchdown. A final nail-biting drive saw UNK defeat Western Colorado 31-24 and advance to the second round of the DII playoffs. This is the Lopers’ second-ever playoff victory.

Western Colorado’s jets clicked in the second half and built momentum. Western Colorado marched all the way down to the Lopers three-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. Western quarterback Connor Desch pitched the ball to Josh Cummings who dived into the end zone to tie the game at 24 with 6:16 left.

That’s what good teams do, they rally and come back,” said UNK coach Josh Lynn. “Western Colorado has a very good football team.”

T.J. Davis, who is a deadly weapon with the football in late-game situations, directed a nine-play, 74-yard touchdown drive that took 4:19. With the Lopers in Western Colorado territory, a third-and-7 kept the drive alive after Davis found Michael Koch wide open for a 19-yard completion. Davis would punch in the go-ahead touchdown from the two-yard line.

“Credit Coach Thatcher,” Lynn said. “We went to our counter option game which we hadn’t run all day. That’s who we wanted to go to (Davis).”

Two pass interference calls on the Loper defense would help move the ball for Western Colorado. Desch found receiver Kai Emmsly open for just enough to get a first down off a fourth-and-7 situation. Desch hit receiver Cole Riters for a 25-yard completion and was brought down at the Lopers three-yard line. Western tried to spike the ball with one second left, but a false start was called on Western offensive lineman Mathyus Su’a and per NCAA rules resulted in a ten-second clock runoff. This resulted in the end of the game and the Lopers defeating Western Colorado 31-24.

“Gosh you got right down to the two and who knows if we don’t get that penalty late and what happens,” Lynn said, “Glad to come out of here with a win.”

The Lopers are now 7-0 all-time against former RMAC foes Western Colorado. This season, UNK is 4-1 in one-possession games. The wins feature Pittsburg State, Washburn, Central Missouri and now Western Colorado. UNK’s only one-possession loss is to Fort Hays State.

“I can think of four last-minute, fourth-quarter drives for us this year,” Lynn said. “That probably pays off today.”

The Lopers’ offense finished with 464 total yards. Coming into this game, Western Colorado’s defense only allowed an average of 84 rushing yards, but the Lopers would finish with 281 rushing yards. Leading the rushing attack was Davis who finished with 100 yards and two touchdowns. Next, Dayton Sealey ended his day with 61 yards and two touchdowns.

Through the air, Davis would go 14-18 for 183 yards. UNK’s top receiver was Montrez Jackson who had five catches for 52 yards. Michael Koch would finish with 35 receiving yards while Zorian Stanton ended with 28 yards.

The defense ended its day by giving up 385 total yards of offense. Western Colorado had 235 passing yards and 150 rushing yards. Leading the defensive side of the ball was Jacey Nutter with seven tackles while Jaylen Perkins, Terrell Williams, Zach Schlager and Tell Spies all had five.

The Lopers move on to the next round and take on No. 2 seed Angelo State. Angelo State dominated Minnesota-Duluth 48-14. The game is scheduled to take place in San Angelo, Texas with kickoff set for 1 p.m.

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