Jake Spitzlberger, a junior from Lakewood, Colo., prepares for a pass at practice. Last year, Spitzlberger led the league in passing efficiency.
The UNK linemen practice their pass coverage. If the line gets better at protecting the quarterback it will lead to more touchdowns.
Coach Morris signals to the lineman where the hole is supposed to open up during a recent UNK football practice.
Last year UNK lost their first football game to Minnesota Duluth, and then went on an 11-game win streak.
Replay? This year the team has lost their first game to Wayne State College in overtime, but the following week beat UNO 32-29 with a come-from-behind win.
The Lopers had a terrific 2009 season. With only a handful of wins over rival UNO, they added another to the pile last year and made it to the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs. They finished their season with a Rocky Mountain Athletics Conference championship and an 11-2 record.
With returning starters in almost all the skill positions such as quarterback Jake Spitzlberger, running back Rustin Dring and wide receivers Kyle Kaiser and Brendan Liess, the team should feel comfortable with the experience of their playmakers.
Head Coach Darrell Morris understands how hard it is to have a repeat season.
“I understand how hard it is to have a great season in Division II football, but I also realize it is even harder to have a great repeat season,” Morris said. “I do feel that we have the team to get it done this year. With the returners we do have and the new talent that is coming in, I feel confident in our ability to finish games in the win column.”
UNK Lopers did lose seniors on the offensive line and defensive backfield, so they will have to pay extra attention to those problem areas, and they have.
Head Coach Darrell Morris has been in his position since 2000 and is excited to see what this year’s team will do with their season.
“I really believe it is important to have consistency at the quarterback position,” Morris said, “and we have that in Jake Spitzlberger—especially after his great season last year where he led the league in passing efficiency.”
The offensive line may be a little inexperienced, but Spitzlberger can give a little sigh of relief because he still has Kaiser who finished in the top four in receiving and Dring in the backfield who rushed for 1,648 yards last year, which was the best in the RMAC and a Loper’s single season record.
With the defensive line being held strong by Jake Rohde and Mason Brodine, who were both in the Top 5 in the league in sacks, it freed up Coach Morris to focus on adding depth to the cornerbacks.
“Our defensive line is going to be our most talented part of our team,” Morris said. “However we have very little experience in our secondary, so I really tried to recruit to increase their strength.”
Even though UNK Lopers lost four very good offensive linemen, Coach Morris is really excited about the new players he does have on his team.
“After a win over UNO I think everyone is starting to realize we still have a good team here,” Morris said. “We just have to stay healthy and hope we don’t get plagued by injuries and that should make this season a lot of fun.”
The Lopers have started their 2010 season the same way they did with their 2009 season, with a loss in the first game and a win in the second, they seem to be on track to repeat last year’s fantastic run for the RMAC championship.
This Saturday the Lopers play Mesa State at home and everyone will find out if this train will keep moving down the track its on.