The 12th-ranked NW Missouri State Bearcats scored 13 points off turnovers and used two big plays to beat Nebraska-Kearney, 37-13, Saturday afternoon at Ron & Carol Cope Stadium at Foster Field.
A Homecoming crowd of 5,219 watched the first matchup between the Bearcats (3-1, 2-1 MIAA) and the Lopers (0-4, 0-4 MIAA) in 22 years. Northwest now leads the all-time series, 6-3.
With its top three quarterbacks out for the season due to injury, UNK turned to junior receiver Matt Berry (McCook) to run the offense today.
The 5-10, 185 lbs. former high school quarterback gave the Bearcats fits all afternoon, rushing 21 times for 85 yards and a score and going 18 of 29 in the air for 163 yards, one TD and no interceptions
The Lopers started the game with a six play, 31-yard drive. After forcing the Bearcats to punt, Berry & Co. put together a 13 play, 71-yard drive that featured three third down conversions.
However, on first down from the Northwest 13-yard line, versatile senior Tommy Flanagan (Golden, Colo.) was hit for a one yard loss with Bearcat senior linebacker Collin DeBuysere ripping the ball out and racing all the way to the Kearney end zone for an unlikely touchdown.
On the play, it appeared Flanagan might’ve been down.
In the second quarter, Northwest got the ball at the Loper 45-yard line after a short punt. Lincoln redshirt freshman QB Brady Bolles scrambled for 22 yards on 3rd and 18 to set up a 41-yard field goal by Omaha senior Todd Adolf.
UNK then fumbled on its next offensive play, giving the Bearcats more good field position. The Loper defense stiffened again and Adolf made a 27-yarder to make it 13-0 right before intermission.
The Lopers first possession of the second half produced points as UNK needed 12 plays to march 75 yards. Berry, a lefty, threw a 15-yard scoring pass to sophomore running back Cody Anthony on 3rd and two to cap the 5:53 drive.
Anthony (Alliance), reaching the end zone for the first time in college, was a linebacker until moving to offense last week. He finished the game with 18 rushing yards and a team-best 35 receiving yards.
Northwest needed only five plays to respond as senior back James Franklin, a former UNO Maverick, dashed and ducked his way for 35 yards on 2nd and 9. Two plays later, Bellevue junior QB Tyler Seals threw a 42-yard scoring strike to senior receiver Tyler Shaw.
The turnover bug bit the Lopers again as Northwest forced a fumble on the ensuing kick-off. The Kearney defense managed to keep the ‘Cats out of the end zone but Adolf booted a 44-yarder to make it a 16 point game.
Early in the fourth, Northwest was facing 3rd and 13 from its own 22-yard line. With the Loper defense about to sack him, Bolles threw the ball deep down the field, finding a wide open Shaw for a 78-yard score.
Shaw ended with five catches for 148 yards and those two scores. Bolles and Seals, taking turns throughout the day, combined to go 18 of 24 for 223 yards, two TD’s and not INT’s.
Each team added touchdowns in the final four minutes as Berry ran in from two yards out to finish off a 10 play, 74- yard drive.
After recovering an onside kick, Northwest saw Bolles scramble for a 16-yard scoring run with 51 seconds left. The ‘Cats ran 63 plays on the day, ending with 385 yards (6.1 avg.).
UNK had a five minute advantage in time of possession and also ran 15 more plays than Northwest. They totaled 343 yards with Berry finding eight different receivers.
Besides Shaw, Bolles had team-highs in carries (14) and rushing yards (75) with Franklin and senior back Jordan Simmons combining for 84 yards on 14 carries. The slippery pair also caught 10 balls for 45 yards.
For the Lopers, Flanagan had 20 carries for 63 yards, three catches for 16 yards and six punts for an average of 37.5 yards. Redshirt freshman receiver Nate Burns (Lakewood, Colo.) came on late to have a team-high four catches for 23 yards.
Defensively, senior free safety Sam Kuck (Central City) made 10 stops, giving him 206 in his career. He is just the 12th Loper since 1990 to reach the 200 tackle mile stone.
Finally, redshirt freshman OLB Greg Sherwood (Alta Loma, Calif.) had eight tackles, including 2.5 sacks for a loss of 15 yards, and junior ILB Kellen Werner (Grand Island) had seven stops.
UNK plays at fellow MIAA newcomer Lindendwood (Mo.) next Saturday afternoon. The Lions scored 21 unanswered points to beat Glenville State (W.V.), 28-24, Friday night at home to improve to 3-1.