The Oredigger football team was literally run over in their season finale. The #5 Nebraska Kearney Lopers tallied a total of 319 rushing yards on the day en route to a 45-21 victory over #20 Mines during the Orediggers’ final regular season game Saturday at Cope Stadium in Kearney, Nebraska.
UNK entered the game leading the RMAC in rushing yards per game (288.1), total offense (526.8 yards per game), and scoring (40.7 points per game).
The loss was the second straight against a ranked opponent for Mines, who also fell to then 11th-ranked CSU-Pueblo. Mines fell to 6-3 and third place in the final conference standings.
The Lopers opened up early, cruising to a quick 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Later, with the score standing at 17-7, Junior linebacker Tyler Denson recovered a Loper fumble on the UNK 32 yard line. The offense immediately took advantage of the takeaway, riding the Dan Palmer train all 32 yards into the endzone and cutting the deficit to 17-14 early in the second quarter.
But that was as close as Mines ever got. From that point on, the Lopers went on a 28-7 run to close out the game. The Oredigger defense held their ground for most of the second quarter, forcing a turnover on downs and a punt on the Loper’s next two posessions, but a late first half touchdown pulled the momentum back towards of UNK and sent the Orediggers into the locker room trailing 24-14.
Early in the third quarter, Mines forced a UNK punt, but fumbled during the return. The Orediggers recovered the ball, stuck deep in their own territory. Three plays and a Taylor Accardi punt later, the Lopers were back in business, starting their drive from midfield.
On third down, the Kearney quarterback found Tommy Flanagan for a 45-yard touchdown pass that put UNK ahead 31-14 and put the game out of reach.
Mines responded with a touchdown of their own to close the gap to ten, but would never crack the scoreboard again, falling 45-21.
CSM quarterback Clay Garcia, a finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, the Division II form of the Heisman Trophy, finished the game with 268 passing yards and two touchdowns. Jerod Doucet had four catches for 57 yards and a touchdown and Diamond Gillis had six catches for 35 yards and a touchdown. Matt Brown finished with 52 yards receiving and Palmer led the team with 73 receiving yards.
Garcia finished his final season as an Oredigger with 3123 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, and four rushing touchdowns. Over his career, Garcia amassed 7657 passing yards and 61 touchdowns.
Mines only gained 39 rushing yards on the day, their lowest total of the season, which can mostly be attributed to the score of the game. The Orediggers had 13 first downs and earned 11 by passing, one by rushing and one by virtue of a penalty.
In the end, the rushing discrepancy was too much to overcome. Kearney’s Rustin Dring and Jake Spitzlberger combined for 270 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, Alex Laudenslager led Mines with 15 tackles, Alex Vigil had 10, Denson had eight and Sam Frazier added seven. Denson’s fumble recovery, forced by senior Bumni Adetutu, was Denson’s first fumble recovery on the season.
Vigil’s 15 tackles brought his season total up to a team high 93. This is also seventh best in the RMAC and his career high for a single season.
Mines finished the 2011 season 8-3 overall and 6-3 in the conference. The 8-3 record marks the fifth consecutive winning season for coach Bob Stitt and the Orediggers.