Courtesy of Chadron State Athletics
CHADRON, Neb. – The Chadron State College football staged a furious fourth quarter rally by scoring 21 points in five minutes, but saw it vanish when Nebraska-Kearney’s Sam Kuck returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown with just over a minute to play, giving the Lopers a 35-21 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference victory.
The Eagles trailed No. 14 Nebraska-Kearney 28-0 heading into the final quarter, but they nearly pulled out the improbable finish by receiving big plays on offense and special teams before falling victim to three costly turnovers.
The first three quarters clearly belonged to Nebraska-Kearney (5-1, 4-0 RMAC). The Lopers outgained CSC by over 100 yards, 294 to 183, had two touchdowns of over 50 yards, and caused three turnovers, two of which led to touchdowns.
However, the fourth quarter was a different story as CSC outgained UNK 134-37, despite having the ball for just five minutes and 40 seconds.
Chadron State (3-3, 2-2 RMAC) opened the frame with a six-play, 71-yard drive that was capped off with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Jonn McLain to Jared Hanson.
The Eagles kept building momentum on the Lopers’ next drive when Kevin Berg blocked a punt that defensive end Cory Beran scooped up for a 4-yard touchdown, cutting the lead to 28-14 with just under 10 minutes remaining.
Chadron State’s defense forced the Lopers into another three-and-out on the next drive and it didn’t take long for the offense to score. On the first play from scrimmage, McLain threw a 39-yard touchdown strike to Travis Reeves down the north sideline and the Eagles were back in business.
The Lopers were forced into another three-and-out on their next drive but received some fortune when they recovered a CSC fumble on the punt return at the 44-yard line. Nebraska-Kearney punted six plays later but the Eagles were unable to get anything going on offense after UNK’s Kuck picked off a tipped-pass at the 46-yard line.
The Chadron State defense stopped UNK again, but the Eagles’ final play on fourth and 19 wound up in the hands of Kuck who zigzagged down the far sideline to put the nail in the coffin.
Kuck’s interception was Chadron State’s seventh turnover of the game. UNK had three turnovers but two of those three drives ended with a CSC missed field goal.
Kearney got on the board midway through the first quarter when quarterback Jake Spitzlberger found Nathan Liess in the back on the end zone for a 4-yard TD. After two punts, Spitzlberger, who completed 10 of 21 passes for 205 yards, threw to Eli Hammond for a 53-yard score.
Rustin Dring, UNK’s tailback who had missed the previous two games with an injured knee, scored the other two touchdowns and provided much of the offense. He scored on a 57-yard run with 29 seconds to play in the first half and added a 22-yard early in the third quarter to finish with 198 yards on 32 carries.
Chadron State had a hard time getting its running game going, accumulating just one yard. However, CSC’s quarterbacks – McLain and Garrett Treffer – combined to throw for 316 yards on 31 completions.
Reeves led all receivers with five catches for 115 yards.
James Belville and Berg finished with 10 tackles to lead the Eagles. Both also each had interceptions.
Chadron State will play at New Mexico Highlands Saturday. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.