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Lopers beat Central Missouri in explosive showing

Bailey Torres had two plays of 40-plus yards in the 38-6 win over Central Missouri. Photo provided by Shelby Berglund / Antelope Staff

Explosive. That was the story of the Lopers’ 38-6 victory over Central Missouri.

UNK (3-1) only ran 17 plays in the first half but managed to put up over 300 yards and 28 points on the Mules heading into the locker room.

The Lopers didn’t give up any momentum, adding 10 points while shutting out UCM in the second half. In total, the team ran six plays of 40-plus yards.

“Over the last two years, we go out in the first half and we get all over people, but then we kind of have a lull there in the third quarter,” said UNK coach Josh Lynn. “Our message this week was we had to have a great third quarter. Good teams do that. I was pleased with the way we got that done today.”

With 366 rushing yards and 174 in the air, the Lopers had a lot of contributors on offense. 

Bailey Torres started the show with a 40-yard run, followed up by quarterback TJ Davis scrambling 21 yards into the end zone.

Lightning quickly struck again for the Lopers, with a 51-yard bomb from Davis to Torres. Two straight runs from Davis resulted in a 14-yard touchdown. 

Davis ended the first quarter with more magic, connecting on a 64-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Joe Stiffend. 

“For us to be successful, when we take those shots and feel like we have something then we need to go execute,” Lynn said. “I didn’t feel like we did that very good in the first two games, but we’ve kind of come on here lately in the last two.”

With only eight plays and 3 minutes, 41 seconds of possession in the first quarter, UNK held a 21-3 lead.

After one incompletion to start UNK’s opening second-quarter drive, the Davis show continued with a 68-yard rushing touchdown.

“I’m just out there playing football,” Davis said. “Coach always preaches that every day we’re always going to have one man to beat. That’s what I try to do.”

The UNK dominance didn’t stall in the third quarter, as Davis once again escaped pressure on third-and-11 with a 44-yard scramble up the middle. The Lopers made it down to the 1-yard line, and on fourth down Montrez Jackson got a rushing touchdown off a pitch from Davis to increase the lead to 35-6. 

“We were just clicking,” Davis said. “I feel like we haven’t played our best football yet. Today there were still minimal mistakes, but I feel like we still haven’t played our best football. There are still mistakes that we can clean up, but overall a good team win.”

Davis had 134 passing yards and one touchdown in the win, along with 191 rushing and three touchdowns on the ground in only 15 attempts. With the big performance, Davis is the third Loper ever to reach 3,000 career rushing yards, moving his total to 3,061. 

The UCM offense had success moving the ball downfield with 395 yards. Once the Mules reached Loper territory, however, the UNK defense stiffened.

Central Missouri went for it on fourth down five times and only converted one of them. One of those fourth downs came on the UNK 3-yard line, where linebacker Jimmy Harrison met running back Avian Thomas in the backfield for a 1-yard loss. 

“We have some dogs on our defense,” Harrison said. “Even though they’re driving down the field, we’re not going to give up. If we have a blade of grass to stand on, we’re going to play as hard as we possibly can.”

Central Missouri coach Josh Lamberson coached at UNK in 2015-16, going 1-21. While the Mules are still winless under him this season, the Lopers put extra preparation into the contest after barely grinding out a tough 31-28 win a year ago.

“They played three of the harder teams in the conference and we knew what we had to do to win,” Lynn said. “I was extremely pleased with not only today but the way we prepared all week to get ready in practice. Our young men showed up and really kind of took another step in preparation.”

UNK will be back at home on Saturday to face off against Fort Hays State (1-3) at 7 p.m.

TJ Davis was named the MIAA Football Offensive Athlete of the Week for his performance versus Central Missouri. Photo provided by Shelby Berglund / Antelope Staff
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KEVIN BURD, Sports Edior
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