Blue Tigers hoping little things lead to first victory

Lincoln's DaWan Lomax is dragged down by Missouri Western's Ty Harvey on a kick return in a game earlier this season at Dwight T. Reed Stadium. (Ken Barnes/News Tribune)
Lincoln's DaWan Lomax is dragged down by Missouri Western's Ty Harvey on a kick return in a game earlier this season at Dwight T. Reed Stadium. (Ken Barnes/News Tribune)

The Lincoln Blue Tigers are getting back to the basics.

The Blue Tigers are harping on doing the little things right with the idea of bigger things to come after.

Lincoln (0-9) will get another chance to translate that to game action at noon today when it hits the road to take on the Nebraska-Kearney Lopers.

“We are continuing to harp on the little things,” Lincoln coach Jermaine Gales said. “It’s got to be a ‘Do your job’ mentality. We have to do the smallest of things even though they don’t seem like they matter. Every inch counts and we have to be aggressive in our approach.”

While the Lopers (2-7) have been known for their triple-option offense in recent history, the Blue Tigers will get a little different look this time around.

In the first year under head coach Ryan Held, Nebraska-Kearney has implemented a more spread-style attack while keeping some of the option principles the offense was known for.

The Lopers enter today averaging 19 points per game on offense.

“They are engaging in some more spread principles now,” Gales said. “They still have that option aspect of it as they have a dynamic quarterback who continues to make plays with his legs. He’s definitely somebody we are going to have to watch out for.”

Nebraksa-Kearney’s dynamic quarterback is 6-foot-3 graduate senior TJ Davis.

Davis has completed 109-of-185 passes (58.9 percent) for 1,430 yards and 11 touchdowns with 12 interceptions while also leading the ground attack with 140 carries for 465 yards and five touchdowns.

“Traditionally he has been all legs, not relying heavily on his arm, but this year it seems like they are trying to get him more involved in some bonafide concepts,” Gales said. “We are going to have to now be alert for passing the ball as well as just running.”

Davis will be helped in the running game by a trio of running backs in sophomores Zane Schawang (5-11, 175) and Jamaal Joseph (6-0, 190) and graduate senior DeMareus Hosey (5-11, 210).

Schawang is second on the team in rushing behind Davis with 33 rushes for 130 yards with two scores, Joseph is next with 31 carries for 105 yards with a touchdown and Hosey has added 85 rushing yards and a score on 31 attempts.

In the passing game, graduate senior Severyn Foster (6-1, 210), sophomore Cole Brown (6-3, 205) and junior Reggie Anderson are pass-catching targets to look out for.

Foster leads the group with 23 catches for 397 yards and three touchdowns, Brown leads the team with four touchdown receptions and has 246 yards on 17 catches and Anderson had 15 catches for 191 yards and two touchdowns.

The evolution of the Lopers’ offense has been apparent throughout the first season of Held.

“I think they are getting better and better each week,” Gales said. “They do have dynamic players on offense. They were just a little bit contained by the philosophy of the offense in the past.”

Lincoln’s defense will look to get back on track following its worst performance of the season.

The Blue Tigers allowed Eastern New Mexico to accumulate 669 yards of offense, with 548 coming on the ground, in their 62-17 loss at Dwight T. Reed Stadium.

“We didn’t get them well enough prepared,” Gales said. “They outplayed us, they out-coached us. We let that one get away from us.”

On the defensive side, Nebraska-Kearney has allowed 26.8 points per game.

The Lopers utilize a 4-2 front on defense but will mix up their defensive fronts from time to time.

“They give you some exotic fronts, but for the most part they are going to be a 4-2 in structure,” Gales said.

While Nebraska-Kearney has talent at all levels of its defense, junior defensive tackle Stephen Matina (6-5, 360) and sophomore defensive tackle Jack Nickolisen (6-3, 270) are the players that jump out on film.

“They have really good (defensive backs), really good second-level players but the interior of their defensive line is the anchor of that defense,” Gales said. “(Matina) is a hoss in there. He’s big, physical. Along with (Nickolisen), those two guys we are going to have trouble with.

“We are going to make sure we get four hands on both of them.”