KEARNEY — The University of Nebraska at Kearney football team ran over Northeastern (Okla.) State last Saturday.
The Lopers accumulated 593 rushing yards against Northeastern’s porous defense in a 45-10 victory at Ron and Carol Cope Stadium at Forster Field.
On Saturday, the Lopers (3-2) face another winless opponent in Lincoln (0-5) at 2 p.m. Saturday in Jefferson City, Mo.
Here are three areas to watch in Saturday’s contest between the Lopers and Blue Tigers:
Focus on passing
The Lopers nearly broke the program’s record of 599 rushing yards in a game, which occurred in 1966 against Chadron State. However, on their last offensive play Saturday, backup punter Hunter Kraus received a low snap and went down on a knee to catch the ball — a loss of 13 yards causing the Lopers to finish with 593 yards.
They had three players exceed the 100-yard mark. David Goodwin paced the Lopers with nine carries for 157 yards and two touchdowns. Darrius Webb added seven attempts for 143 yards and two scores, while Garrett Meyer accumulated 113 yards on 11 carries.
Northeastern has the worst run defense in the MIAA. Lincoln is the second-worst unit, allowing 246 rushing yards per game.
The Lopers rank second in Division II with 326.2 rushing yards per game.
While the Lopers rely heavily on the run, coach Josh Lynn believes the offense has to make game-changing plays in the passing game to keep Lincoln’s defense honest. Redshirt freshman quarterback TJ Davis started and played most of the game against Northeastern and likely will do the same against Lincoln.
“You look at what we did against Northeastern and you rush for that many yards, you have to expect to get Lincoln’s best effort in the box, which is nine or 10 guys in the box,” Lynn said. “We need to attack over the top.”
Sophomore running back Hosea Franklin has been responsible for the bulk of the Blue Tigers’ offensive success. He leads the MIAA and ranks third in Division II in rushing with 747 yards in five games. He’s averaging 149.4 yards per game, which is significantly more than the second-best rusher in the league in Northwest Missouri’s Justin Rankin at 98.2 yards per contest.
Franklin has exceeded the 100-yard plateau in four of Lincoln’s five games, including a 186-yard performance against nationally-ranked Pittsburg State on Saturday.
The Blue Tigers are averaging 265.6 yards and 12.4 points per game — both next to last in the MIAA behind Northeastern State.
The Lopers’ run defense is allowing 107.8 yards per game, which is the second-best mark in the conference.
“The defensive front is doing a great job of drawing double teams and staying on double teams and that allows our linebackers to run around and make plays,” Lynn said. “We do a good job of tackling and that’s another part of it.”
Preparing for tough stretch
The Lopers face the Blue Tigers on Saturday before a string of three difficult opponents.
The Lopers face seventh-ranked Northwest Missouri (5-0) on Oct. 19 at Foster Field, Fort Hays State (3-2) on Oct. 26 in Hays, Kan. and No. 15 Central Missouri (5-0) on Nov. 2 at home.
Through the first five game of the season, the Lopers are averaging 30.4 points per game while allowing 24.6 points per contest, which ranks fourth-best in the MIAA.
On Saturday, the Lopers hope to have a clean performance and build confidence as they prepare for the toughest stretch of their schedule.
“We need to have a little continuation of going out and playing well consistently,” Lynn said. “We need to overall have consistency over a span of a couple weeks.”