KEARNEY — University of Nebraska at Kearney has split its first four games this season.
The Lopers have lost their two home games, including against nationally-ranked Pittsburg State last Saturday when they were overmatched and failed to capitalize on their opportunities.
On Saturday, the Lopers have a strong chance at claiming their first home victory this season. They will square off against winless Northeastern (Okla.) State at 2 p.m. at Ron and Carol Cope Stadium.
Here are three areas to watch in Saturday’s contest between the Lopers and RiverHawks:
No home-field advantage
UNK has dropped four straight home games dating back to last season. Besides Saturday’s loss to Pittsburg State, the Lopers lost to Central Oklahoma on Sept. 12. Last year, they fell to Fort Hays State and Missouri Western. Minus last week’s loss, the Lopers led at halftime in the three other games.
This season, the Lopers are determined to improve on last year’s 5-6 record and post the program’s first winning season since 2011. With two losses through the first four games and two nationally-ranked opponents still on the schedule, the Lopers have to defeat Northeastern to have a realistic chance at accomplishing their goal.
The RiverHawks haven’t won a game since Oct. 28, 2017, as they went 0-11 last year.
“You have to win at home,” UNK coach Josh Lynn said. “You have to look back at the opponents we played at home, but other than that, we have to win at home. This is a good week to do it with coming in here for homecoming this week.”
Bottom of the MIAA
The RiverHawks have been outscored by an average margin of 47.5 points this season. They have allowed at least 51 points in each game, including 70 points to Central Missouri in the second game of the season.
Through the first four games, the RiverHawks rank last in the MIAA in scoring offense (11.8 points per game) and points allowed (59.3 ppg). The RiverHawks’ offense has scored six touchdowns.
“One thing is we’ve never won a MIAA homecoming game,” Lynn said. “That was one of our goals starting from the jump. The next thing is, we have to control the line of scrimmage. I think our kids have seen the improvement of Northeastern over the last couple of games, so we need to go out and play great football.”
Passing game troubles
While UNK leads the conference with 259.5 rushing yards per game, they rank near the bottom — only ahead of Northeastern and Lincoln — with 150.3 passing yards per contest.
The Lopers threw for 271 yards against Central Oklahoma in the second week of the season. But since then, they recorded 64 passing yards against Emporia State and 76 yards against Pittsburg State.
Senior Alex McGinnis has been the Lopers’ best quarterback in the passing game, completing 57.1 percent of his passes for 558 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
Redshirt freshman TJ Davis has primarily served as a running quarterback for the Lopers, completing 1 of 8 attempts for three yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions.
Northeastern is allowing 290.3 passing yards per game.
“We are going to stick with what we do,” said Lynn on the Lopers’ offense. “However, to throw the ball a little bit more is in the game plan. We have to throw on our terms.
“You look at any game we’ve lost, we’ve had to throw when we didn’t want to throw. That’s usually a problem for us.”