The Nebraska Omaha Mavericks blew open a tight game with 35 points in the third quarter to beat in-state rival Nebraska Kearney 49-21 on Saturday night at Caniglia Field. The Mavericks rolled up 466 yards of total offense to earn the win in their first game of the season.
Both teams battled through a sloppy first half. The only score came when UNO quarterback Zach Miller got free for an 11 yard run up the left side. Greg Zuerlein added the extra point to give the Mavericks the edge at the break
The game turned quickly in the second half. After UNO’s Keith Eloi returned the opening kickoff to his own 33, Miller launched a pass to Eloi who ran it down to the UNK one-yard line for a 66-yard gain. Brian McNeill plunged into the end zone on the very next play to make it 14-0 just 42 seconds into the quarter.
The Mavericks stopped the Lopers’ next drive and went quickly back to work on offense, aided by a holding penalty against UNK on the punt. Again, Miller did the work with his legs, scampering 51 yards for his second touchdown of the night.
UNO’s defense had its trouble with the Lopers in the first half but warmed to the task in the second. With UNK driving, Ben Vanderslice forced a fumble, and Jacob Skow recovered at the UNO 43. The Mavericks needed just one play to boost their lead. Miller hit Mike Higgins for a 57-yard bomb that gave UNO a 28-0 lead.
UNO’s Reed Taylor picked off a pass from quarterback Jake Spitlberger on the next Lopers’ possession, giving the Mavericks a short field at the UNK 24. John McCardle took it in from two yards out to give UNO its fourth touchdown in less than ten minutes. McNeill ripped off a 52-yard run for his second touchdown of the night to put the Mavericks ahead 42-0 after three.
UNK outscored the Mavericks 21-7 in a rainy final frame as Mavericks’ coach Pat Behrns used more of his bench.
Miller was just 5-for-8 passing but finished with 175 yards and one touchdown through the air to go with 120 yards and two TDs on the ground. McNeill also had two scores and 96 yards. Eloi led all receivers with two catches and 94 yards.
The season-opening victory allowed the Mavericks to retain the Victory Bell, emblematic of the long-standing rivalry between the two schools. UNO returns to Caniglia Field next Saturday to host their first MIAA game, against Emporia State, at 6:00 p.m.
story courtesy UN-Omaha athletic department