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University of Nebraska Kearney Lopers logo.

UNK Football: #26 Rams Shut Down the #21 Lopers, 20-7


University of Nebraska Kearney Lopers logo.

(San Angelo, TX) - The 26th-ranked Angelo State Rams got 152 yards and a touchdown from sophomore reserve back Alfred Grear and played strong defense to down 21st-ranked Nebraska-Kearney, 20-7, Saturday afternoon in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs.

The second-seeded Rams (11-2), from the Lone Star Conference, advance to the regional finals where they'll face top-seed Colorado School of Mines (11-1). The Orediggers will host that game after whipping Bemidji (Minn.) State today in Golden, 55-6.

UNK ends the year at 10-3, just the third time in school history a squad reached double digits in wins.

"It's pretty incredible. Take a group that four years ago won one game in 22 tries and then this group comes in and did what they did this year. I'm proud of the effort, I'm proud of the rebuild and Loper football will be back," said UNK head coach Josh Lynn.   

Angelo, now on a seven-game win streak, scored the first 20 points before the Lopers made things a bit interesting down the stretch. Late in the third quarter redshirt junior safety Darius Swanson (Aurora, Colo.) recorded his fourth interception of the season and that allowed the offense to take over at the ASU 39-yard line. A 30-yard run from senior back Dayton Sealey (Hastings St Cecilia) followed and then he two more carries, the second being a five-yard scoring scamper. It came at the 6:21 mark of the third and gave the Lopers life.

"I thought defensively we played valiantly. Take away the 60 yard run and it's a one score game," said Lynn. "Angelo is a good football team and they played well today.
The Lopers especially offensively didn't play good enough to win today."

However, sophomore punter Cade Fuller pinned UNK inside its own 15-yard line the rest of the afternoon. With the Loper defense playing well and shutting down the Rams, Fuller responded as UNK last four drives started at its own seven, 13, 13 and 10-yard lines. After two five play drives and a three-and-out, the Lopers went 41 yards the last time it had the ball. A third down pass from junior quarterback TJ Davis (Colorado Springs) to true freshman receiver Zorian Stanton (St. Cloud, Fla.) was ruled incomplete; it would've been a 34-yard TD toss with less than two minutes remaining. ASU then got a fourth down stop to secure the win.

"Give Angelo State credit. Defensively they had a good scheme, did a good job against our run attack and also took away the big play which we've thrived on all year long," said Lynn. 

ASU's potent ground attack is led by LSC Offensive Back of the year Nathaniel Omayebu III but he had one big run and four total carries before leaving with injury. Grear, at 5-6, 180 pound speedster, was more than a fill in as his 63-yard scoring run broke a scoreless tie with 7:48 remaining in the first half. He had 100-yard kick return for a score in last Saturday's playoff win over Minnesota-Duluth.

A pass interference on third down and a 35-yard completion from junior quarterback Zach Bronkhorst to redshirt freshman receiver Kel Williams got the Rams going on its next possession. UNK held the Angelo out of the end zone but senior Asa Fuller booted a 24-yard field goal. He then added a 45 yarder as right before the end of the half; that drive featured a 13-yard run by Grear and three Bronkhorst completions.

The Rams then took the second half kickoff and marched 75 yards in nine plays. Bronkhorst found junior tight end Dagen Dunham from five yards out on 2nd and goal. ASU's next five drives resulted in that Swanson INT and four punts including three straight three-and-outs.

"(Angelo's defense) had multiple looks and did a good job of mixing things in. Multiple fronts, multiple movements. Give that defensive staff credit … they had us working all day long," said Lynn.

Angelo came in having give up just 53 points in its last five games. That defense was strong once again as it held UNK to a season-low 203 yards (117 passing and 153 rushing). The Lopers went 2 for 14 on third down, averaged 3.1 yards per carry and punted 10 times.

"Angelo and Northwest Missouri are the two best defenses we've seen this year," said Lynn. "Everything we do stems from running the football. We couldn't get anything going all day long."

Angelo ran for 252 yards with Grear reaching his total in 16 attempts. Fellow back CJ Odom had 48 yads on 12 carries with Bronkhorst having a 25-yard run. In the air he was 15 of 30 for 172 yards and completed balls to seven teammates.

The Ram defense recorded 10 tackles for loss including four sacks. Sophomore backer Daron Allman had 2.5 of them with LSC Defensive Player of the Year and ILB Hunter Kyle at a team-best nine tackles. Finally, d-tackle Weston Bauer had 3.5 TFL's (1.0 sack).  

Offensively for the Lopers, Sealey had a team-high 59 rushing yards with senior back Montrez Jackson (Trenton, Fla.) had 34 more. With those four sacks, Davis was limited to 12 yards on 16 carries and finished 9 of 22 in the air for 86 yards. Stanton had two catches for 39 yards with junior receiver Kylan Herrera (Killeen, Texas) targeted a team-high six times.

Swanson and Thedford senior ILB Jacey Nutter had 12 tackles apiece to lead the Loper D. Next, Mullen junior end Tell Spies had UNK's lone sack and six tackles, as did McCook sophomore ILB Zach Schlager.

"Great year and it goes back to the residency of our players. How many games did we win this year on a last second drive (four). Over the course of history of UNK football this is good as team as we've ever had."


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