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Lopers come up short against Wayne in season opener, fall 21-16 on road
Clayton Kush
Antelope Staff
Photo by Garrett Ritonya
Junior wide receiver Kyle Kaiser from Broomfield, Colo., tiptoes the sidelines to pull in a pass Saturday night against Wayne State. UNK fell 21-16 to the No. 21 Wildcats

With less than ten seconds left in the game Saturday night, the Loper Football team found themselves eight short yards away from completing a comeback that would have cemented itself in UNK football history. 

Down 21-10 with 4:30 left in the fourth quarter, UNK put together a touchdown drive that pulled them within five points. After the defense halted Wayne State’s speedy offense, the Lopers got the ball with a long field ahead of them and a clock that was working against them. 

None of this stopped sophomore Jake Spitzlberger and his offense from moving the ball down the field to the eight-yard line. Three downs later, the Lopers were facing fourth and goal at the nine-yard line. Spitzlberger’s pass on fourth down fell incomplete to junior wide receiver Kyle Kaiser in the end zone, and part of Wayne State’s crowd of 3,000+ began to pour onto the field in celebration of the victory. 

UNK fell to 0-1 on the season with the narrow 21-16 loss.  Jake Spitzlberger, UNK’s second-year starting quarterback, stepped up big for the Loper offense as he accounted for 303 total yards of offense. Despite the big game, Spitzlberger felt the team could have played better. 

“We made some mistakes that were very uncharacteristic of us, but we never quit, and we gave 100 percent effort the entire game,” Spitzlberger said.

 Spitzlberger passed for 169 yards and one touchdown while rushing for another 134. He felt there were a few things the offense could improve on as well.  

“We need to be more productive and efficient in the passing game, and that starts with me. Another area that hurt us was not capitalizing on big drives by scoring when we got into the red zone,” Spitzlberger said.

 UNK’s defense, which had been touted as one of the fastest squads the Lopers have had in years, had a solid performance on Saturday night, as they did not give up an offensive touchdown the entire first half.  They also forced a turnover on Wayne State’s first possession after the Wildcats returned the opening kickoff to the Loper three-yard line. Special teams proved to be a bit of a gray area for the Lopers in their first game as they gave up their first touchdown off a 90-yard kickoff return and hit 1 of 3 field goals. 

There still remains a great deal of hope for the 2009 Loper football team this season, playing well in their opener and having been known to finish the season strong. Despite falling short in the first two games of last season, the Loper football squad still finished the season winning seven of their last nine games en route to a 7-4 overall record. 

With a game as exhilarating as last Saturday's to open the season, the Loper football team has definitely brought some excitement into 2009. 

The Lopers will be looking to bounce back this week at home on the friendly turf of Foster Field as UNK hosts in-state rival UNO on Saturday, Sept. 5. The Lopers were defeated by the Mavericks 49-21 in Omaha last season, but Spitzlberger likes how the Lopers match up with the Mavericks. 

“They run the same type of defense as us, so we will get some of the same looks we’ve been seeing in practice since last spring,” Spitzlberger said. 

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