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The Antelope

Lopers come up short in Oklahoma to start season

Wide receiver JerQon Conners blocks for quarterback TJ Davis on the perimeter. Courtesy Photo

The Loper football team was unable to complete their comeback at Central Oklahoma Thursday night, falling 24-21 in their season opener.

The turning point for the Lopers was a roughing-the-punter penalty after stopping the Broncho’s drive in the final minutes. 

“I’m beating myself up a little bit because I went for the punt block at the end, instead of going for the return,” said UNK’s coach, Ryan Held. “We would have had the ball with a couple of minutes left, and when you have a guy like TJ Davis, you want him to have the ball and I took it out of his hands.” 

Despite the strong start, the Lopers fell short 24-21 in the final minutes. 

“Our kids never quit,” Held said. “They’re gritty, they fought to the end. You know, at the end of the day, there’s just four or five plays that if we just executed it would have changed the whole game.”

On the Lopers first possession of the game, senior quarterback TJ Davis threw a 26-yard pass to receiver Cole Brown for a touchdown, giving them confidence going into the second quarter.

Lopers led 7-3 out of the first quarter, but Central Oklahoma answered with a 33-yard passing touchdown two plays into the second quarter. Putting them ahead, 10-7.

Central Oklahoma stretched their lead to 17-7 with another touchdown near the end of the first half. 

Coming back from halftime, UNK had some ground to cover, and Davis shrunk the lead with a 4-yard run into the endzone. Making it 17-14, Central Oklahoma. 

With 4:37 left in the third quarter, Davis threw an interception, which was returned for a 54-yard touchdown by defensive back J.K. Moore. This put Central Oklahoma ahead 24-14

However, UNK cut into the lead when Davis threw a 26-yard pass to Zorian Stanton for a touchdown late in the third quarter.

 However, the Lopers failed to take back the lead in the fourth quarter.

The Lopers plan to fine tune the details in practice this week to prepare for Saturday nights home game against Northeastern. 

“We’ll watch the film, get back on the practice field, start working technique and fundamentals,” Held said. “Low Detail things and just getting ready for this game home opener. We don’t have to travel, and we know we just have to go out and execute better.”

UNK had a total of 273 yards compared to UCO’s 417. While the Lopers had more passing yards, a majority of the Broncho’s yardage was from rushing with 247, while the Lopers had just 88.

“I just want to see a group that’s just going to stick together and just keep getting better,” Held said. “We look forward to hopefully having a big crowd on Saturday.”

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Shelby Berglund
Shelby Berglund, Photography Editor
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