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The Antelope

Lopers fight through offensive troubles against rival

Luke Blatchford eludes a tackler while diving into the end zone for the first touchdown of his career. Photo provided by Zahira Lopez / Antelope Staff

The UNK football team aimed to get their first MIAA victory against Fort Hays State on Saturday night. After the Tigers cut UNK’s lead to one point, the Lopers were trying to find answers to help them on offense after stalling on seven of their nine offensive drives.

Freshman tight end Luke Blatchford stumbled into the end zone to spark the answer to UNK’s offensive troubles en route to a 38-20 victory.

“I stumbled a little bit,” Blatchford said. “You see that ball, it was kind of going slow motion in the air – first college pass to catch. I stumbled a bit and was able to regain myself and get into the end zone. It was a great feeling.”

The 48-yard touchdown pass came on a crucial third-and-2 with 2:21 left in the third quarter. Blatchford caught it up the seam at the 30-yard line and stumbled through a defender into the end zone.

“At the time we weren’t moving the ball,” said UNK coach Josh Lynn. “We knew that at some point we were going to need to take another shot. We’d been running a similar play to the short side of the field in just about every third down situation so we thought it was a good time to throw the play-action pass.”

The Lopers rolled from there as they closed the game out with two more passing touchdowns from quarterback TJ Davis and a field goal to boot.

“We drove the ball and took time off the clock,” Lynn said. “I think we needed to get that done to keep the defense off the field. We had to play four quarters tonight. It was a lot closer than what the score indicated tonight.”

Davis led the team in rushing with 78 yards and one touchdown. He added 133 yards passing with three touchdowns. Davis is now 20 yards short of 4,000 career passing yards.

UNK’s defense disrupted Fort Hays’ passing game with three interceptions, two of which came off of quarterback Chance Fuller. This was Fuller’s first game back from an ankle injury he suffered earlier in the year. 

The interception by Darius Swanson set up a key Loper touchdown to give them a 14-7 lead just before the half. Tre O’Guinn’s interception earlier in the second quarter helped the Lopers keep the Tigers out of the end zone. Atoa Fox’s interception in the fourth quarter led to the final UNK field goal. 

“All week coach Lynn has been harping on our guys to contest passes and get in there and break them up,” said UNK linebacker Jacey Nutter. “I think that was a big part of it. Guys just doing that extra little effort to get that ball out. We got a couple tipped up today and picked. It was good to see.”

Nutter led the Lopers defensively with 12 tackles and one pass breakup. Fox had eight tackles with one of them for loss and Swanson ended the game with seven tackles.  

This win keeps UNK tied for second in a tight MIAA conference race. The Lopers will be on the road to take on Missouri Western State this weekend in St. Joseph, Missouri.

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GRANT TIGHE, Sports Editor
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