Coming off their first Iowa Conference victory in more than two years, Loras football hoped to make it two-in-a-row for the first time since late in the 2010 season, as the Duhawks hosted the University of Dubuque Spartans in the annual Key City Clash last Saturday. Unfortunately for the home team, costly turnovers and squandered opportunities were too much to overcome, and the Duhawks fell 34-7 at the hands of their cross-town rivals.
After falling behind 7-0 early in the first quarter, the Duhawks (2-6, 1-4 IIAC) appeared to seize the momentum when sophomore Bryan Hermann scooped up a live ball on the Spartan 24-yard-line after a muffed punt by UD’s Tyler Rutenbeck and sprinted with it untouched to the end zone. By rule, however, a muffed punt cannot be advanced. After a brief conference by the officiating crew, the touchdown was nullified, but the fumble recovery stood.
The ruling proved costly, as the Duhawks were not able to capitalize on the short field. Their ensuing drive ended as first-year quarterback Robert Kelly had his pass intercepted by UD’s Blaine Snitker at the 1-yard-line.
13 plays and 99 yards later, Dubuque (3-5, 2-3 IIAC) would push their lead to 14-0 on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Zach Fry to Devin Best.
Loras got on the scoreboard in the 2nd quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run by senior running back Calvin Smith, capping an 8-play, 65-yard drive to make the score 14-7, but it would be the only score the Duhawks offense could muster.
“I think we struggled overall in the skill game,” Duhawk head coach Steve Helminiak said. “There were a lot of ‘young-guy’ mistakes out there today.”
Most noticeable, and perhaps most costly of those “young-guy mistakes” were Kelly’s three interceptions.
“A young guy’s going to have those struggles,” Helminiak said, adding “When he’s not seeing some things clearly he’ll be indecisive, and he won’t make the plays he made last week. Last week we had a great rhythm going. He made those plays and the receivers made the catches, and it just didn’t happen today.”
In an offense that has struggled this season to find consistency, one piece of the puzzle has remained as steady as a rock. Senior wide receiver Nate Even has been the one constant in an ebbing and flowing Duhawk offense in 2014. Even hauled in 11 receptions for 231 yards in Saturday’s loss.
“Nate Even is arguably the best receiver in the league,” said Helminiak. “The kid makes great plays, great catches, and he’s a great leader on our team as well. He’s fast, he has great hands and runs great routes. He’s a go-to-guy, and the season he’s having is outstanding.”
Even leads the Iowa Conference in receptions (65) and receiving yardage. His 1,094 yards make up more than 37% of Loras’ total offense for the season.
The Duhawks will close out their home schedule on Saturday in the Rock Bowl, where they’ll host Luther College (4-4, 1-4 IIAC) for Senior Day.