No. 7 Northwest’s unbeaten record was squandered by the Nebraska-Kearney Lopers on Saturday, who managed to hand the Bearcats their first loss of the season 24-17 at Cope Stadium.
The Lopers’ (5-2) ground game sealed their fate as they rushed for 228 yards. To top it off, Nebraska-Kearney quarterback T.J. Davis became the first opponent to rush for more than 100 yards against Northwest since an NCAA playoff game in 2014.
“They’re a good football team. They really should’ve beaten UCO. They got beat by Pitt, but Pitt had a better recipe because what you want to do to an option team is you want to start fast,” Northwest head football coach Rich Wright told Bearcat Radio after the game.
The Lopers capitalized on three first-quarter Bearcat turnovers by turning those mistakes into a 14-0 lead over Northwest.
“We dropped a lot of footballs today,” Wright said. “Right off the top of my head, I’m thinking four or five where there were hits on the intended target in the hands, and we don’t hang onto it.”
After the Lopers extended their lead to 14-0 with 2:30 left in the opening quarter, the Bearcats found themselves scoreless in the opening half for the first time since Nov. 20, 2010, against Missouri Western.
“When we went at halftime we talked about... the possessions were going to have to be magnified just because of how many opportunities you’re going to get, and we just played about as poorly as we could’ve in the first quarter of this football game,” Wright said.
UNK continued to stomp on the Bearcats into the second half. The Lopers extended their lead to 21-0 on the opening drive of the third quarter.
The Bearcats responded to the beating with their first score of the matchup on a Braden Wright rush with 5:57 remaining in the third quarter.
After Northwest managed to trail 21-7, sophomore defensive back Trey Washington aided the Bearcats’ cause with an interception of his own to end a Lopers scoring attempt, making it his fourth of the season.
“He’s doing a good job for us,” Wright said. “They were just literally poking, lobbing the ball up in the air trying to off that option look, trying to get isolated in one-on-one coverage stuff.”
As the clock expired in the third quarter, Wright connected with Imoni Donadelle on a 38-yard touchdown pass to sit at 21-14 into the final quarter of the game.
The Lopers added a field goal to their lead with 10:44 remaining in the game.
On the last scoring drive of the game, Northwest junior kicker Parker Sampson cut the Lopers lead to 24-17 with his seventh straight field goal of the season from 36 yards out with 6:45 left.
“No time to feel sorry for ourselves. It is what it is, we can’t change the outcome. Now, we just got to figure out how we’re going to respond,” Wright said.
Northwest (6-1) returns to Maryville next Saturday to take on Lincoln on Homecoming with kickoff set for 2 p.m.
“We’re going to get back after it,” linebacker Andy Hessler told Bearcat Radio. “We can’t dwell on it, otherwise we can’t get to where we want to go.”