Angelo State's 2020 college football season came to an end Saturday, but the Rams generated quite the wave of momentum headed into next year with a 34-21 win over FCS foe Abilene Christian.
The Rams, playing in the finale of their abbreviated campaign, used a potent run game and a punishing defense to become the first DII team this season to knock off an FCS opponent.
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Through its first three games of 2020, Angelo State topped out at 215 rushing yards in a loss to West Texas A&M. On Saturday, the Rams had racked up 229 rushing yards by halftime and finished with 414 yards.
After a three-and-out on their opening drive, the Rams shifted focus offensively to the ground game and consistently found room to run against Abilene Christian. ASU handily won the line of scrimmage on its next possession, a five-play drive —all runs — that culminated with a 61-yard touchdown scamper by running back Alfred Grear.
Grear has worked out of a split backfield for the Rams this season. Against Abilene Christian, the sophomore stole the show. Grear paced the run game with 247 yards on 20 carries, finding the end zone on short runs of one and four yards as ASU jumped out to a 28-0 lead. His fourth and final score, a 68-yard dash down the right sideline put the game out of reach late in the fourth quarter. He nearly added a fifth touchdown from 86 yards out in the third quarter, but it was negated due to a block in the back.
Fellow backfield teammate Nathaniel Omayebu III added 81 yards while quarterback Zach Bronkhorst chipped in 70 rushing yards and a passing TD. A pair of untimely Bronkhorst turnovers opened the door for Abilene Christian to inch its way back into the game. The Wildcats were able to cut the deficit to seven, but came no closer as ASU's defense was stifling for most of the afternoon. ACU was held to 3.8 yards per play and just one drive longer than 50 yards. Rams linebacker Daron Allman led the defense with seven solo tackles (four for a loss) and a sack.
Nebraska-Kearney's rushing performance flirts with DII record
Angelo State wasn't the only DII team on Saturday to have success running the football. In fact, they somehow only produced the second-most rushing yards by a DII team this week. Some 600-plus miles north of Abilene, Texas, Nebraska-Kearney flirted with DII history in its 45-35 win over Chadron State.
The Lopers didn't register a passing attempt in the first half, instead piling up 428 rushing yards. UNK's video-game like numbers put them on pace through 30 minutes to threaten the DII single-game record, set by Coe in 1971 with an absurd 719 yards. The Lopers picked up another 113 yards after halftime to finish with 541 rushing yards.
Four Lopers recorded at least 70 rushing yards, led by 252 and three rushing touchdowns from quarterback T.J. Davis. The sophomore is up to seven rushing touchdowns through two games. He completed just two passes on Saturday, one of which went for a 27-yard score.
Running back Dayton Sealey picked up 90 yards on 14 carries while second-string quarterback Riley Harms added 84 yards rushing and tailback Damien Cearns chipped in two touchdowns and 77 yards on only three carries. UNK averaged 9.8 yards per carry in the win.