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Lopers lose heartbreaker: Fall to Pittsburg State on late TD bomb

Anthony Orajekwe was right there. He was just half a second too late.

The defensive lineman got a hit on Pittsburg State quarterback, Chad Dodson Jr., but not before he was able to get rid of the game-winning touchdown pass with 12 seconds left.

“The only thing in my head was to hit him,” Orajekwe said. “He threw it right before I got to him. It’s pretty much like I was right there, but I wasn’t really close to it.”

The 72-yard pass was perfectly thrown by Dodson Jr. to wide receiver Bryce Murphy, who caught it at the 40-yard line after he got behind UNK cornerback Armani Webster.

“We just got complacent,” said UNK football coach Josh Lynn. “We didn’t make the play. I thought our situational awareness wasn’t very good and that’s on me. The quarterback made a great throw too.”

The Gorillas started the drive with 46 seconds left on their own 8-yard line. After a 5-yard run and a timeout, UNK safety Darius Swanson was called for a 15-yard pass interference penalty. Pittsburg State then hit the bomb down the right sideline. 

“We talked about it beforehand, the big play was probably going to determine this,” Lynn said. “Give Pittsburg State credit. They made the play there late. It’s unfortunate the way we lost, but that’s the way it happened.”

Dodson Jr. finished the game with 290 passing yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 70 yards, mostly on key quarterback scrambles. 

“We got some pressure sometimes, however, the quarterback scrambled on us,” Lynn said. “We didn’t do a good job after the quarterback broke the pocket. Those scramble yards hurt us.”

The Lopers opened the game well, putting up a 21-7 lead in the second quarter. A late touchdown before halftime and two more in the third quarter put Pittsburg State up 28-21. 

“They came out in something we hadn’t seen out of them,” Lynn said. “It was kind of a hybrid defense and it took us a little while to figure out what they were doing.”

The Lopers were able to strike back in the fourth quarter with a 7-yard touchdown run by running back Zane Schawang. This tied the game at 28-28 with 7:24 remaining.

UNK had a few key injuries on the defensive line as CJ Sunui and Jack Nickolisen went down during the game. 

“We just have to keep going,” Orajekwe said. “We just gotta keep pushing. They were key players for us. We just have to hope for a speedy recovery and keep pushing and pushing.”

The defensive line depth was a key point of the preseason talk surrounding the team. Now that depth has been depleted with key injuries through only two games.

The Lopers were led in rushing by quarterback TJ Davis, who ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns. UNK’s receiving leader was Xavier Delk with two catches for 34 yards and a touchdown. 

On defense, Jacey Nutter led the Lopers with seven tackles, including three tackles for loss. Tre O’Guinn posted six tackles and Swanson had five.

UNK will now face Washburn on Sept. 17, who enters the game with a 2-0 record.

“We have a lot of football to play,” Lynn said. “We can sit here and pout, get mad and upset, or we can respond as men do. That’s the message. We’ve got another great opponent in Washburn. We’ll get these mistakes cleaned up and we’ll get ready for the Ichabods.”

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GRANT TIGHE, Sports Editor
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