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Lopers in the playoffs for the first time in a decade, face the Western Colorado Mountaineers

Published: Nov. 14, 2021 at 9:45 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 14, 2021 at 11:30 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (Press Release) - The Nebraska-Kearney football team has qualified for the 28-team NCAA Division II Playoffs for the first time in a decade and for the fifth time in program history.

The Lopers (9-2) are a sixth-seed and will take on former Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) rival Western Colorado (10-1). UNK and the Mountaineers are in different “Super Regions” but starting in 2019 seeds five through seven can switch regions in order to pair down travel costs.

The game will kickoff at 12 p.m. Central from Gunnison (elevation 7,703 feet) with the other side of the bracket being Angelo (Texas) State and Minnesota-Duluth. That game will be played at ASU. ”We’re in baby. Looking over the numbers this weekend I felt pretty good where we were at. Of course, you never know after it goes to the regional and then national committee,” said UNK head coach Josh Lynn.

“Super excited and proud of our team. We now get to see an old RMAC foe. ”UNK previously reached the playoffs in 2002, 2005, 2009 and 2011. The 2009 squad beat Saginaw Valley (Mich.) State for the program’s only win with four of the previous five playoff games coming at Cope Stadium.

Kearney’s lone D2 playoff trip was a 2009 second round loss at UMD. ”The waiting stinks. You know what I did this morning? Put up Christmas lights just to pass the time. It was a long day,” said Lynn. The Lopers lead the all-time series with WCU (formerly known as Western State) by an 11-6 margin, winning the last eight games between the two. The schools haven’t met on the gridiron since 2011, UNK’s last year in the RMAC.

There is some familiarity with the Mountaineers/Gunnison as UNK defensive coordinator Levi Gallas played at Adams State, a Western rival. Next, the Lopers have 27 Colorado natives on its roster with Western led by Jas Bains. He’s in his 11th year in Gunnison and was on Chadron State’s staff for five years.

Defensive coordinator Todd Auer and QB coach Joe McLain have strong Chadron ties as well with o-line coach Ryan McFadden being a former graduate assistant at Wayne State.

Western’s three previous playoff trips came in 1992, 1994 and 1997 under legendary head coach Duke Iverson. Like those squads, the current Mountaineers play solid defense (14.8 points per game) while having a balanced offensive attack (187 yards passing and 187 yards rushing).

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