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Offense struggles in first loss to Lions since 2016

Quarterback TJ Davis looks on as Missouri Southern runs out the clock during the final possession of Saturday’s game. Photo by Traeton Harimon / Antelope Staff

It was a day to forget for the UNK football team as the Lopers hosted Missouri Southern on Saturday. Offensive miscues and penalties hurt UNK in an 18-13 loss.

The Lopers also struggled with time of possession. Missouri Southern ran 20 more plays and held the ball over 13 minutes longer.

“We at times didn’t look like we practiced,” said UNK coach Ryan Held. “I told these guys that we’re tough enough to be in all these games, but you can’t have these sequential disaster plays that put us in a position where you don’t win these.”

The first play of the game resulted in a penalty after the Lopers committed a personal foul on the opening kickoff. That would already move the Lopers back, inside their own 15 yard line. UNK moved the ball to its own 44, but then TJ Davis threw an interception, which gave the Lions possession in UNK territory.

The Loper defense held strong, and only forced a field goal from 48 yards out.

After a Loper punt, Missouri Southern would run a quick five play drive and go ahead 9-0, after the Lopers blocked the point after try.

UNK would again move the football but faltered, ending the drive with a 45-yard missed field goal by Gabe Heins.

The Loper defense stood tall again, and the Lopers would finally get a touchdown with three minutes left in the first half on a two yard run by Tamicus Napier. So even with all that went wrong in the first half, the Lopers only trailed 9-7 at halftime.

Missouri Southern got the ball to start the second half, and took a lengthy six and a half minute drive to extend its lead, but again had the extra point blocked, so the Lopers were only down by eight.

UNK struggled significantly in the second half, running only seven total plays until their final touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. Missouri Southern added a field goal with five minutes left in the fourth, making it 18-7 Lions.

The Lopers would get a touchdown with around a minute left in the fourth, going 78 yards in four plays, capped off by a 14-yard touchdown pass to Cole Brown.

“That drive pleased me but it also agitated me because we should have been doing that a lot of the game,” Held said. “It just shows that if we execute our plays, we can move the ball.”

Due to miscommunication on plays throughout the game leading to timeouts, the Lopers had no way to stop the clock. The onside kick failed, and the Lions took a couple of knees to win the game 18-13.

Davis led the way again for UNK, going 20-25 for 220 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Lopers could only muster 56 rushing yards, averaging under three yards per carry.

Davis, a usual in the rushing game, only ran eight times for negative two yards.

“I went into the game saying I wasn’t going to run TJ and get him all beat up,” Held said. “We just have to be able to execute at a higher level from play calling to pass blocking to route running and maybe we have to keep it a bit simpler.”

The Lopers fall to 1-2 on the season, and will take on nationally ranked and undefeated Pittsburg State on the road Sept. 23, with kickoff set for 2 p.m.

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Jon Willis
Jon Willis, Reporter
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