esu unk

Emporia State vs. Nebraska-Kearney
Game time: 6 pm, Welch Stadium
Coverage: 5 pm, Mix 104.9 and KVOE.com

Last week, Emporia State dominated Fort Hays State, while Nebraska-Kearney was on the wrong end of things against Washburn.

The Lopers’ seven turnovers makes it difficult to really determine just how good Nebraska-Kearney is after UNK suffered through a terrible 2012, going through a half-dozen quarterbacks, shrinking the playbook  and thoroughly plucking the bloom off what was supposed to be a dominating year in a new conference.

ESU, meanwhile, turned up the offensive octane as last week’s game progressed, amassing nearly 600 yards of total offense and throwing a stifling run defense at Fort Hays.

How do you handicap an early-season game where the two participants had such different outcomes the week before? And you haven’t even factored in the thorough beating ESU gave Kearney last year.

As usual, it comes down to several things. In this case, I’m looking at quarterback play, line play and turnovers. I’ve also found an intangible — motivation — which may well play into the final result.

QB. ESU sophomore Brent Wilson didn’t seem fazed at all in his first college start, passing for 301 yards, rushing for over 70 more and accounting for five touchdowns. Bronson Marsh, the Nebraska transfer, didn’t fare nearly as well, throwing for 163 yards and three interceptions. Marsh may be more comfortable in the pocket this week — if ESU lets him be. Advantage: Hornets.

Line play: ESU’s lines are bigger than they have been in some time, and it showed. The Hornets dominated their Fort Hays State counterparts last week. Lopers did gash Washburn for nearly 190 rushing yards, however. Advantage: Hornets.

Turnovers: If Nebraska-Kearney turns the ball over seven times, this could get really ugly. ESU was relatively mistake-free last week, and I think the Hornets can do a better job of turning mistakes into points than UNK can. Advantage: Hornets.

Motivation: UNK thought it could flatten ESU last year just by attending the game, and guess how well that happened. So the Lopers are, well, highly motivated to do unto others as they had done unto them. ESU wants to carry the momentum from last year — and last week — forward. The question is which motivational tool is stronger, and pure, unadulterated revenge is hard to beat. Advantage: Lopers.

Final score: ESU 27, UNK 20

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