January 28, 2023

Dawson County Journal

Dawson County, Nebraska

Lopers Clipped at the End by Gorrillas

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Kearney, Neb. – Sophomore quarterback Chad Dodson threw a 72-yard touchdown pass to senior Bryce Murphy with 12 seconds left to help No. 29 Pittsburg State stun No. 11/12 Nebraska Kearney, 35-28, Thursday night at Ron & Carol Cope Stadium. The Gorillas (2-0) stop a two-game losing streak to the Lopers (1-1) and remain unbeaten at Foster Field since 1982.

“I thought we played hard, the effort was outstanding, and the atmosphere was great. We talked about it beforehand that the big play probably was going to determine this,” said Loper head coach Josh Lynn. “Give Pitt State credit; they made the play there late. It’s unfortunate the way we lost but that’s the way it happened. That’s a good MIAA football team and in these top-end games its’ going to be one score and it went there way tonight.”

In a game with more twists than and turns than a mountain road, UNK poised to be the “Last Minute Lopers” once again as they stopped Pitt on 4th and 5 from the Gorilla 48-yard line with 4:35 left. Redshirt junior QB TJ Davis (Colorado Springs) ran for two yards on 4th and one soon after and the Lopers were on the move.

However, a subsequent third down pass fell incomplete and UNK punted the ball away with 46 seconds to go. Instead of taking knee and heading into overtime, Pitt was aggressive as a run moved the ball out to the 13-yard line. A pass interference call on the ensuing play moved the chains once again and set up the game-winner.

Dodson dropped back to pass and was crushed by junior noseguard Anthony Orajekwe (Nigeria). However, he still threw a dime down the right side of the field where Murphy caught the ball at about the Loper 40-yard line and raced into the end zone for an unlikely six points. Three years ago, Central Missouri threw a 63-yard “Hail Mary” to beat the Lopers at Cope, 47-40. 

“They had three timeouts left. They ran it, didn’t call timeout and then we got the pass interference. That meant we had to play a little bit tighter … they could throw and catch it, get down the field and call timeout. They hit us on the big one. Pretty simple and we should’ve took it away,” said Lynn.

UNK held leads of 14-0 and 21-7 but the Gorillas settled in on both sides of the ball and scored 21 unanswered to grab its first lead with 3:59 left in the third. The Lopers first three drives (72, 80, 85 yards) resulted in TD’s but the next four totaled 28 yards. On the flip side, Pitt’s first two drives resulted in punts but then they recorded TD drives of 69, 85, 46 and 63 yards in a row.

“They came out (second half) on defense in something we hadn’t seen them in before .. kind of a hybrid defense. It took us awhile to figure it out what they were doing. We figured it out, got going and were able to tie up the game late,” said Lynn.

Dodson, in just his third collegiate start, went 20 of 29 for 301 yards, four scores (7, 2, 36 and 72 yds.) and no interceptions. He also ran 11 times for a team-best 57 yards with most of his damage coming on third down scrambles. The Gorillas ended up 7 of 11 on the money down with UNK 6 of 11.

“We got pressure sometimes but that QB scrambled on us. We didn’t do a good job after he broke the pocket. Just on scramble yards alone he hurt us,” said Lynn.  

Murphy totaled 119 yards on six grabs with 6-6 junior tight end Devon Garrison at five catches for 79 yards and that key PI call. Next, All-MIAA linebacker Morgan Selemaea and All-MIAA lineman Zeke Wall had 10 tackles apiece with All-MIAA backer P.J. Sarwinski at nine (one TFL).

Pitt out gained UNK 415-351 but the Lopers had nearly a 10-minute advantage in time of possession. Running more option than at Missouri Southern, the Blue & Gold averaged 5.4 yards per carry and totaled 283 rush yards overall.

“Really happy with the first half in all phases. That (late first half score) was big … you go from a two-score game going into half with the ball second half to them putting in one late. That’s the margin of victory in these types of games,” said Lynn.  

Davis led the way with his 14th career 100-yard day (139). He also ran for two scores (two and eight yds.) with this just the third loss (11-3) for UNK when Davis reaches the Century mark. The All-American also was 6 of 11 in the air for 84 yards and a 10-yard TD strike to receiver redshirt senior receiver Xavier Delk (Aurora, Colo.). Next, UNK’s stable of backs totaled 128 yards and one TD on 26 carries. That group consists of Montrez Jackson (Trenton, Fla.), Damien Cearns (Denver), Miko Maessner (Kearney) and Zane Schawang (Waverly).

The defense saw senior backer Jacey Nutter (Thedford) and junior safety Tre O’Guinn (Peoria, Ariz.) have five stops apiece with lineman CJ Sunui (American Samoa) having a nine-yard sack with outside backer Willie Fair (Chula Vista, Calif.) and end Tell Spies (Mullen) combining on a two-yard one.

“We’ve got a lot of football to play. We can sit here and pout, get mad and upset and whatever or we can respond as men do. That’s the message,” said Lynn.   The Lopers head to No. 26 Washburn (2-0) next Saturday. The Ichabods held off Central Missouri (0-2) tonight on the road, 40-32.

Source: Regional Sports