Nov 09, 2020 2:33 AM

UNK option unstoppable early, CSC comeback falls short 45-35

Posted Nov 09, 2020 2:33 AM

By: Con Marshall, CSC Sports Information, Chadron Record

KEARNEY, Neb. -- November 7, 2020 -- College football, particularly offensive football, was alive and well here Saturday afternoon when long-time rivals Chadron State College and University of Nebraska-Kearney tangled in an old-fashioned shoot out at Ron and Carol Cope Stadium.

Kearney operated its option offense to perfection in the early going, jumping out to a 21-7 first quarter lead and was ahead 38-14 early in the second half.

But Chadron State eventually found ways to slow down the Lopers' attack, revved up its own forces and scored three touchdowns in the final 20 minutes to have whittled the deficit to 45-35 when time ran out.

Chadron State Coach Jay Long said he was proud that his team kept battling.

"We got beat on some big plays early in the game, but we continued to compete and things were closer in the final quarter," Long noted.

The 80 points and 1,105 total net yards that the long-time foes combined to produce are both all-time highs in the series, which dates back to 1921 and has now been played 72 times.

The previous high point total of 74 was in 1997 when the Eagles won 40-34 in overtime at Kearney, and the previous high yardage figure was 940 two years later during Chadron State's 24-18 victory.

The hosts finished with 627 yards and the Eagles with 478 Saturday.

Kearney's attack was led by sophomore quarterback TJ Davis, who carried 20 times for 252 yards. He scored his team's first two touchdowns on runs of nine and 79 yards and added another in the fourth period on a second nine-yard jaunt.

Long said Davis may be the best running quarterback he's ever seen.

Davis threw just five passes, but completed two of them for 86 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown toss to D'Angelo Shepherd in the third period. His other completion was a 59-yard hook up with Joe Stiffend on the play preceding Davis's fourth quarter TD.

Freshman Damien Cearns scored Kearney's remaining two touchdowns on a 79-yard burst in the opening quarter and a three-yard run in the second period.           

Chadron State's offense also had some clout.  After Kearney went 75 yards in 10 plays for its first touchdown, the Eagles answered with an 80-yard drive in eight plays that was capped by an 18-yard pass from quarterback Dalton Holst to inside receiver Cole Thurness.

Midway in the second quarter, Holst threw about a 15-yard pass over the middle to wide receiver Montel Gladney, who raced to the end zone to complete a 74-yard play. 

The Eagles combined both passing and rushing for their second half touchdowns. 

They went 80 yards on 10 plays in the middle of the third, when bruising tailback Jalen Starks powered his way the final nine yards.  Starks opened the drive with a 25-yard blast.

Starks also scored on a 10-yard run early in the fourth frame to complete a 59-yard march that saw Holst connect on a pair of passes to Gladney for 18 yards.

The Eagles scored the game's final touchdown when Holst connected with Chad Mikelson on what officially was a 17-yard pass, but actually covered 27 yards because the CSC receiver made the grab in the back of the end zone.

Holst competed 22 of 33 passes for 286 yards, despite lots of pressure from the Lopers' defense, which sacked him five times. Gladney caught five passes for 116 yards and Mikelson six for 61 to lead the receivers.

Starks carried the ball 18 times for 125 yards while freshman Jeydon Cox had 12 rushes for 80 yards.

Both teams' placekickers were perfect.  Kearney's Junior Gonzales made six extra point tries and a 38-yard field goal just before halftime. Chadron State's Drake Holden was five-of-five on PATs.

There were no turnovers until CSC lost a fumble with a minute remaining. 

The Eagles, now 2-2 for the abbreviated season, hope to play again this coming Saturday at Black Hills State in Spearfish, but the Yellow Jackets cancelled the game scheduled with South Dakota Mines on Saturday because of COVID-19 issues.                          

                                             CSC                       UNK
First Downs                          27                           25
Total Net Yards                    478                         627
Rushes, Yards                   39-192                   55-541
Passing Yards                     286                          86
Passing                             22-33-0                    2-7-0
Return Yards                        91                           69
Punts, Average                 4-27.5                     1-40.0
Fumbles, Lost                      2-1                         1-0
Penalties, Yards                  9-63                     10-115
Chadron State          7            7            7          14        ----35
Neb.-Kearney         21          10            7            7        ----45
First Quarter
UNK--TJ Davis 9 run (Junior Gonzalez kick)
CSC--Cole Thurness 18 pass from Dalton Holst (Drake Holdren kick)
UNK--Davis 79 run (Gonzalez kick)
UNK--Damien Cearns 67 run (Gongalez kick)
Second Quarter
CSC--Montel Gladney 74 pass from Holst (Holdren kick)
UNK--Cearns 3 run (Gonzalez kick)
UNK--Gonzalez 38 field goal.
Third Quarter
UNK--D'Angelo Shepherd 27 pass from Davis (Gonzelez kick)
CSC--Jalen Starks 9 run (Holdren kick)
Fourth Quarter
CSC--Starks 10 run (Holdren kick)
UNK--Davis 9 run (Gonzales kick)
CSC--Chad Mikelson 17 pass from Holst (Holdren kick)