NASHVILLE — The University of Nebraska at Kearney Lopers outdistanced the Louisville Cardinals to claim the Helmet Bowl III National Champions.
The Lopers, the only college football team named after Antelopes, become the first NCAA Division II Helmet Bowl Champions and the first non-Division III champions of the Helmet Bowl. They defeated the Cardinals by a percentage score of 67 to 33 percent to claim the trophy.
"The news this week that we were in the championship spread like wildfire," said Tanner Drews, UNK’s equipment manager.
"The local news helped us out, then the alumni started hearing about it. It’s pretty cool when you come from small school like this and now live in California or the East Coast and hear about Nebraska-Kearney. They jumped on board.
In the end, the Lopers gathered about twice the votes during championship week than the Helmet Bowl II Champion Dickinson (Pa.) Red Devils, but about half as many as the Helmet Bowl I Champion Gallaudet (Washington D.C.) Bison.
Louisville graduate assistant Equipment Manager Joe Mikesic said he had a blast in Helmet Bowl.
"It was a lot of fun getting to represent Louisville and see us go that far. The contest is a lot of fun and I think it gives smaller schools like UNK a way to get their name out there," he said. "Don’t be surprised, though, if you see us in the finals again next year."