Quarterback Greg Wunderlich engineered a University of Nebraska-Omaha offense that compiled 277 total yards and 19 first downs in the opening half alone as the Mavericks overwhelmed the East Central University Tigers 48-0 Thursday night in the season opener for both teams at Al F. Caniglia Field.
The loss spoiled the second debut of ECU head coach Tim McCarty, who guided the Tigers in 2004 and 2005 before spending the last three seasons at Kansas State. McCarty won both of his season openers those years. But the third time wasn’t meant to be as ECU has now dropped all other of its season openers since winning the initial game of the 1996 season.
Wunderlich, who was 8-of-11 passing in the first half, fired three touchdown passes before intermission and Jason Zabka intercepted Johnson’s first pass attempt of the game and raced 42 yards for a TD as UNO went on to a 35-0 halftime advantage.
For the game, Wunderlich was 12-of-15 passing for 183 yards as the Mavericks unleashed a two-way attack. Duane Bowen ran for 90 yards on 17 carries and scored twice while Bryce Hawthorne added 65 yards on 12 carries.
UNO (1-0) finished the game with 443 yards of offense and 28 first downs while limiting the Tigers to just 63 yards of offense and only four first downs. The balanced Mavericks finished with 222 yards through the air and 221 on the ground.
Johnson was 8-of-15 passing for 25 yards with two interceptions and Joshua Maldanado netted just 30 yards on 12 attempts for ECU (0-1). Tight end Anthony Recinos had two catches for 13 yards.
The Tigers also didn’t help matters in the first half as they were penalized five times for 66 yards as they saw a roughing-the-passer penalty result in a Maverick scoring drive and an interception by Alex Woodley was called back due to a pass interference away from the play. UNO had only one penalty for 15 yards before the midway point.
Defensively for ECU, true freshman free safety Norris Wrenn compiled 11 tackles, including seven solo stops. Junior right corner Tyrone Gibbs, who moved from wide receiver for this season, ended up with six solo tackles and forced a fumble.
ECU continues its three-game opening road swing on Saturday, Sept. 5 in a Lone Star Conference crossover contest at Texas A&M-Kingsville at 7 p.m.