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Lopers not so Golden: Playoffs fall out of reach
Drew Hoselton
Antelope Staff
Photo by Ashley Clatterbuck
On Nov. 13, UNK played their last regular season game against Colorado Mines in Golden, Colo. The game went into triple overtime with a 55-53 breaking the Lopers 9-game winning streak. UNK football finished the season with an 8-1 record, sharing the RMAC title with Mines and missing the playoffs for the 2010 season.

Heading into Saturday’s showdown against the Orediggers of Colorado School of Mines, the Lopers were looking to claim their second straight outright RMAC conference championship as well as a second straight NCAA Division II football playoff berth. Entering the game, the Lopers sat at (9-1, 8-0 RMAC) and the Orediggers sat at (8-2, 7-1 RMAC) with the Orediggers looking to spoil the Lopers' season.

The most anticipated game of the year lived up to everything it was built up to be, with a triple overtime thriller that ended in a 55-53 Oredigger victory. The two teams combined for over 1,000 yards of total offense, most of them coming after halftime.

On the first play from scrimmage, in the second half, the Lopers' Rustin Dring scored off a 35-yard rush that cut the lead to 20-14. Dring, who had been out for the past two games battling a broken rib, was a key part of the offense, rushing for 213 yards on 24 carries.

The next Loper score came from a yard out when Dring drove into the end zone for the third of his four touchdowns bringing the deficit back to just a touchdown.

Just minutes into the fourth quarter, the Orediggers scored on a 9-yard run by running back Dan Palmer putting the Lopers down 37-21 with just 11 minutes left in regulation. This is where junior quarterback Jake Spitzlberger found his magic once again.

Spitzlberger drove the Lopers down the field in just 52 seconds completing several passes to setup a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dane Rudeen.  With the Lopers electing to go for a 2-point conversion, and not able to convert, the deficit dropped to just 37-27 with 10 minutes left.

With just 2:30 left in the game, Spitzlberger hit senior wide receiver Brendan Liess for a 13-yard touchdown pass that brought the Lopers to within three points of the Orediggers 37-34.

Liess had a career day in receiving, catching 11 passes for 157 yards. With the clock ticking, the Orediggers were looking to put the game away when on third down senior linebacker Jay Kropp popped the ball out of the receiver’s hands, and junior cornerback Kenny Hill jumped on the fumble for the recovery, giving the Lopers life.

Spitzlberger, who completed 22 of 36 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns on the day, directed the Lopers on a 10-play, 38-yard drive that took 52 seconds and ended with freshman kicker Michael Gruber kicking the game-tying field goal from 39 yards out to send the game into overtime.

In the first overtime the Lopers struck first with a 13-yard run from Dring, and the Orediggers matched the score on their overtime possession.

The second overtime saw both teams stall on offense and trade field goals.

In the final overtime period the Lopers were able to get it in the endzone with a 25-yard pass from Spitzlberger to Liess. Under rule, having to go for the 2-point conversion, Spitzlberger threw high to the receiver in the back of the endzone but the attempt was no good.

The Orediggers got their chance in the third overtime and capitalized on a 5-yard pass from quarterback Clay Garcia to receiver Scott McManigal. Having to go for the 2-point conversion, Garcia found receiver Robbin Vinnola for the game-winning conversion, ending the 2010 season with a 9-2 overall record and an 8-1 RMAC record.

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