Sophomore running back Ricky Trinidad ran for a career-high 219 yards and the Nebraska-Kearney football team scored the final 21 points in a 34-20 victory over Southwest Baptist Saturday afternoon at Ron & Carol Cope Stadium at Foster Field.
This marks the Lopers (1-7, 1-7) first MIAA victory and stops an eight-game losing streak dating back to last season. The Bearcats, from Bolivar, Mo., fall to 1-7 (1-7) as well.
Thanks to six Loper turnovers (four fumbles and two interceptions), SBU led 20-13 early in the fourth quarter. Southwest's first two touchdown drives, covering two and 25 yards, came as the result of Kearney miscues.
The Bearcats did have its best drive of the day, a 12 play, 82-yard march, to lead by seven points by the 13:29 mark of the fourth quarter.
However, Southwest was loose with the ball in the final 15 minutes, losing two fumbles and having one interception. Finishing the game with five turnovers (three interceptions and two fumbles), SBU also was stopped on fourth down late in the contest.
UNK tied the game with around seven minutes to go on a one-yard run by Trinidad (Trinity, Fla.).
The 18-yard drive came after, on a Loper punt, the ball bounced and hit a Bearcat. Kearney recovered the loose ball and three runs by Trinidad, and the ensuing PAT by freshman Drew Farlee (Norfolk Catholic), knotted things at 20.
Junior CB Ryan Lendrum came up with two key picks
In the first half, the Lopers twice lost possession of the ball when, on a Southwest punt, a UNK player was touched by the ball and the Bearcats recovered.
The first such fumble led to a 48-yard missed field goal while the second resulted in a six-yard scoring run by redshirt freshman QB MJ Swortwood that gave SBU a 7-6 lead.
After Trinidad's game tying score, junior ILB Kellen Werner (Grand Island) crushed Swortwood on third down. The sack resulted in a nine yard loss and UNK got the ball back with 4:37 to go.
On 2nd and 5 from the Loper 44-yard line, Trinidad broke loose and raced 55 yards to the SBU one-yard line. Senior QB Justin Drudik (Adams Central H.S.) scored on the ensuing play to give UNK its second lead of the day.
Werner, who finished with eight solo tackles, sacked Swortwood on the Bearcats next possession, an 11-yard loss on 4th and 8. While SBU forced a three and out, junior punter Kalvin Zoucha (Albion) found the coffin corner, pinning the Bearcats at its own two-yard line with 1:48 left.
Replacing an injured Dan Connors in the starting lineup, Swortwood was picked off on second down by senior free safety Sam Kuck (Central City), who raced 24 yards for his second career touchdown.
The UNK defense also came up big early in the second half when the Loper offense committed four straight turnovers. While one of these errors led to an SBU touchdown, the Kearney defense forced a three and out and then got two picks by junior corner Ryan Lendrum (Carlsbad, Calif.).
Both of Lendrum's interceptions came inside the UNK 10-yard line.
Going over 100 yards for a third straight week, Trinidad reached his total thanks to a career-high 35 carries. His rushing total also ties for 12th most in school history. Finally, Trinidad was one of five Lopers to catch a pass, finishing with two grabs for 17 yards.
In his second career start, Drudik was 10 of 27 for 80 yards, one TD and two INT's. Senior RB/WR Tommy Flanagan (Golden, Colo.) completed another pass as well, throwing a 36-yard strike to redshirt freshman Austin Smith (Aurora) early in the contest.
Flanagan also had six catches for 45 yards and a score.
Besides Werner, who had four tackles for a loss of 24 yards, Lendrum had a team-best 11 tackles and brought back his picks 38 yards. Also, Madison sophomore OLB Drew Wagner had seven tackles (five solo) in his first collegiate start.
SBU saw Swortwood go 28 of 53 for 188 yards, three INT's and no TD's. He also was sacked six times for a loss of 56 yards. On perimeter, receiver Justin Duhaney had nine catches for 71 yards and Derwyn Lauderdale had seven receptions for 66 yards.
UNK travels to Central Missouri next week.