February 2, 2023

Dawson County Journal

Dawson County, Nebraska

UNK Offense Explodes For 66

Coach Lynn Breaks Down Saturday’s win

Kearney, Neb. – The No. 34/22 Nebraska Kearney football team got four rushing touchdowns from reserve quarterback Sean Johnson Jr., tallied two special teams scores and recovered five fumbles to roll past Lincoln University, 66-17, Saturday afternoon in Jefferson City, Mo.

The Lopers (6-2) keep its playoff hopes alive while the Blue Tigers (0-8) lose a 24th straight game. UNK hosts No. 14/16 Northwest Missouri State (6-2) next Saturday for “Homecoming” in what basically is a playoff elimination game. Close to 15 teams are battling for seven playoff spots in “Super Region 3” with a 9-2 record likely a mandatory mark. The Bearcats dispatched of Northeastern State (1-7) today in Maryville, 36-3.

“In the last couple of years we’ve had opponents like this and haven’t been as focused as we needed to be especially in the first quarter,” said UNK head coach Josh Lynn on the KRVN radio post-game show. “I was really happy with my guys. They came out and executed right off the bat. We also needed to get some other guys in and those reps are valuable.”

UNK had won the last two meetings with LU by scores of 56-0 and 44-0 and wasted little time in grabbing an early lead and the momentum. The Lopers first six offensive drives resulted in TD’s with four covering at least 65 yards. Starting QB TJ Davis (Colorado Springs) played just 15 minutes as he had an 11-yard scoring run, a 37-yard run and an eight-yard TD toss to receiver Cody Nelson (Albion). A strip sack from OLB Atoa Fox (San Diego) on LU’s first offensive play gave the Lopers the ball in the red zone and back Zane Schawang (Waverly) capped things with a one-yard run. UNK led 21-0 by the 2:19 mark of the first quarter and the route was on.

The 66 points is the most in UNK’s MIAA era (since 2012) and the fourth most since 1980. The 1999 Lopers tallied 79 (vs. Fort Lewis, Colo.) and 70 (at Colorado Mines), respectively, with the 2000 team hanging 69 on FLC. 

“Everyone on the bus got some reps and this does a ton for morale. The MIAA schedule (11 conference games in 11 weeks) is a grind and it doesn’t just take a physical toll but a mental one as well. It’s good to get guys off the field and allow others that work just as hard some extended playing time,” said Lynn.

UNK ended with 375 rushing yards and six TD’s, one shy of tying the school-record. Johnson Jr. (Orlando, Fla.), aka “Fats”, took over for Davis and had scoring runs of 58, 15, 9 and 4 to be the ninth Loper with four rushing TD’s in a game. He finished with 103 yards on 10 carries with true freshman back Jamaal Joseph (Miami) at a team-best 108 yards on 11 totes.

In the air, Davis was 6 of 7 for 82 yards with Johnson Jr. 4 of 5 for 50 yards. Reserve QB Jacob Green (Frederick, Colo.) attempted two passes and had three carries.

Not to be outdone, UNK tallied two special teams scores as Schwang brought back a punt 35 yards for six points midway through the third with corner Armani Webster (Chicago) ripping the ball out of Aderias Ealy’s hands on the ensuing kickoff and racing 30 yards for his first collegiate score. UNK had gone 11 years and 173 returns without a punt return TD with Webster’s fumble return the first such play since fellow corner Gabriel Amegatcher (Romeoville, Ill.) recovered a fumbled punt last season vs. Missouri Western.

“One of our goals was to get Sean Jr. in early. Somewhere down the line we’re going to need him. It was good to see him in live action and not a yellow jersey,” said Lynn. “You look at him and that’s the kind of quarterback we want and he fits the mold.”

Most of the Blue Tigers offensive production (394 yards) came late as their first 11 drives ended with four fumbles, four punts and two turnovers on downs. UNK broke up 10 passes, had nine tackles for loss including three sacks and saw a bevy of players see action.

Reserve ILB’s Jordan Jackson (Castle Rock, Colo.) and Josh Beaird (Lovington, NM) had 10 tackles apiece with reserve OLB Amir Abdullah (Chicago) having 2.5 TFL’s including a sack, forced fumble and recovered fumble. Next, Fox had 2.5 TFL’s with reserve OLB David Lilly (Wahoo) at six stops and a forced fumble. Finally, kicker Kyle Failing (Port Orchard, Wash) averaged a healthy 60.8 yards over 10 kickoffs.

“The drove on our twos late but I was happy to see a red zone turnover. I thought our backup corners – Jerome Houston Jr. and Jabea Tilong – played really well,” said Lymn.  

Lincoln saw Jackson State transfer and receiver Daimon Bell have nine catches for 94 yards, sophomore QB Zamar Brake go 13 of 28 for 130 yards and one TD and freshman back LaMarco Yates run 11 times for 65 yards and a score. Finally, freshman DB Markey Mallary had a game-high 13 tackles (eight solo).