(KEARNEY, Neb.) — The Central Missouri Mules steamrolled the Nebraska-Kearney Lopers 56-0 on Saturday afternoon at Cope Stadium at Foster Field. The 56-0 win marked the first shutout for UCM since 2006 and the first shutout of an MIAA opponent since 2004.
The Mules (5-4, 4-4 MIAA) wasted no time in seizing control. After forcing a Loper (3-6, 3-5 MIAA) punt on the opening possession of the game, UCM drove 71 yards in seven plays capped by a LaVance Taylor eight-yard touchdown run to go up 7-0 with 9:36 to play in the quarter.
The teams traded turnovers on each of their next possessions before the Mules forced a UNK three and out. UCM struck quick taking just two plays to cover 59 yards thanks to a 54-yard scoring strike from Hayden Hawk to Ronrei Lloyd. The extra point put UCM up 14-0 at the end of one quarter.
Central Missouri’s next scoring drive spanned 69 yards in nine plays and Hawk capped it off with his second touchdown pass of the game, a 19-yarder to Anthony Kirkwood to put UCM up 21-0 early in the second quarter.
The Lopers drove into UCM territory on their next possession, but the defense held and forced a punt from the UCM 37. The Mules responded with an 18-play, 91-yard drive to extend the lead to 28-0. UCM converted two fourth downs on the drive and Hawk hit Kirkwood for another 19-yard touchdown.
The Lopers fumbled deep in their own territory on the ensuing possession and UCM recovered. Four plays later Ray Harris gave the Mules a 35-0 lead when he scampered into the end zone from eight yards out.
The Lopers took over with just under three minutes left in the half, but a quick three and out and a 20 yard punt gave UCM the ball at the UNK 48. Facing a 3rd and 23 from the Loper 34 yard line, Hawk scrambled out to his right and hit a wide open Andrew Bakker in the end zone to give the Mules a 42-0 halftime lead. The touchdown was the fourth of the game for Hawk and the first of Bakker’s career.
The second half began as quickly as the second quarter ended for UCM. Taylor took the opening kickoff of the half 96 yards for a touchdown to give the Mules a 49-0 lead. It was the first kickoff return for a touchdown for UCM since October 2, 2010 against Truman State.
The Mules forced another three and out on the next Loper possession and capped the scoring on the ensuing drive. The Mules took over at their own 25 and drove 75 yards in 10 plays capped by a two-yard Ray Harris touchdown run to make it 56-0 with 8:49 to play in the third quarter.
Hawk finished the day 23 of 26 with 328 yards and four touchdowns in just one half of play. Mike Petersen was 7 of 7 for 78 yards in the second half.
Lloyd finished the day with 12 receptions for 188 yards and a touchdown, while Kirkwood had eight catches for 91 yards and two scores.
Lloyd’s 188 receiving yards are the fourth most in a single game in school history and his seventh 100-yard receiving game of the season. His 12 receptions are tied for the third most in single game. He now ranks fourth in UCM history with 2,081 receiving yards, tied for fourth with 18 touchdowns and sixth with 126 career receptions.
Taylor and Harris combined for 80 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
Defensively, the Mules held the Lopers to just 223 yards of total offense and forced two turnovers. Alex Perlin and Ricky Spratley led the team with six tackles each. The defense registered eight tackles for loss and three sacks on the day.
Bronson Marsh was 8 of 15 passing for 99 yards for UNK. Romero Cotton was held to 63 yards on 15 carries.
Tyke Kozeal led the Loper defense with 17 tackles and three tackles for loss. Kellen Werner registered 13 tackles and a tackle for loss.
The shutout is the first for the Mules since a 52-0 win over Dakota State on September 9, 2006 and the first of an MIAA opponent since a 46-0 win over Truman State on October 16, 2004.
The Mules return home for the season finale next Saturday, Nov. 9 to host Fort Hays State. Kickoff at Walton Stadium/Kennedy Field is set for 1:30 p.m. It’s Senior Day with the UCM seniors being honored in a pregame ceremony. The game can be heard live on the 44,000-watt 98.5 The Bar, 1450 KOKO and warrensburgradio.com. The Mules Tailgate Show will begin at 12:10 p.m.