The undefeated Northwest Missouri State Bearcats will host winless University of Nebraska-Kearney Saturday at 1 p.m.
The Cats are coming off of a 49-14 win over Fort Hays last week, a game in which special teams set the tone early. Two kickoff fumbles resulted in 14 points for Northwest, something the team has been no stranger to this season. The previous two games both included score from blocked punts and one from a blocked field goal.
"That's huge, it changes momentum and that just lets the air out of the other team so to speak," Northwest head coach Adam Dorrel said. "I can't say enough about our special teams."
Senior running back Billy Creason racked up three touchdowns in the first half, and quarterback Trevor Adams came back after being taken out of the game against Central Missouri the week before.
Against UNK, Northwest again looks to control the clock with the ground game, but senior wide receiver Clint Utter has stepped up into playing a big role in the Cats offense.
He almost tripled his 2012 season total in the first game of 2013, and has been adding to it.
"As a senior, you gotta go out the best way you know how," Utter said. "At a certain point, you gotta just step up."
Utter has found himself open frequently on play-action passes, whether they are coming from Adams or sophomore Brady Bolles.
"It's important, and I think offensively, it's great to have that go-to guy," Dorrel said of Utter this season. "But what makes you most dynamic as an offense is being balanced between running and throwing the football."
Plays so far this season are roughly 45 percent pass and 55 percent run, and both quarterbacks are dual threats in that sense.
Adams has put up 455 yards in the air, and Bolles has taken off on the ground for 160. He's the team's second leading rusher behind tailback Robert Burton who has 188.
Bolles and Adams get roughly the same amount of snaps in practice, and both see a good amount in games.
Preparing for two different quarterbacks with two different styles of play makes it difficult for opposing defenses to prepare.
"We're doing a really good job of meshing together," Utter said. "Both of our quarterbacks do really well. It just shows how well we can have a lot of people step in and do their job."
Both Utter and Dorrel said that the Lopers' record does not indicate the quality of the team, and in no way does it have any impact on how the Cats are preparing for Saturday.
"We're playing a very dangerous football team that's got a great offensive line," Dorrel said. "They're very physical, nasty, blue-collar type of football team that plays hard.
Page 2 of 2 - "And those are dangerous football teams. They've gotten better each week and so we've got a big challenge in front of us."
The Lopers run an option-style offense, something the Cats haven't faced much this year.
Their three losses have all come at the hands of teams that are sitting undefeated going into week four, including a loss to number six Missouri Western.
UNK is ranked last in the conference with a -8 turnover ratio, something the Cats are hoping to take advantage of. Loper quarterback Brandon Marsh is third in the MIAA in rushing, averaging 121 yards a game, the same number Northwest has allowed on average this season.
The Bearcats are expecting a big crowd on Family Weekend.
Tickets can be purchased at the gate, by calling (660) 562-1212, or at the Administration Building on campus.