Tigers Erase 20-Point Deficit to Win 2015 Opener at UCO, 30-29, As Time Expires

FHSU Sports Information Department

EDMOND, Okla. – Fort Hays State Football provided a big statement in the season opener at Central Oklahoma on Thursday night (Sept. 3). Despite falling down 20-0 with 5:53 to go in the first half, the Tigers put together a furious rally to eventually win 30-29 on a 19-yard field goal by Drew O’Brien as time expired.

In what looked like a potential run-away win for UCO midway through the second quarter, the Tiger offense finally found life when Shaquille Cooper chunked off a 21-yard run near the 5:00 mark. Two plays later, Treveon Albert found Andrew Flory on a 44-yard pass completion that put the ball all the way down to the UCO 11-yardline. That was the first time the Tigers advanced past the 45-yardline in the game. Two plays later, Albert found Flory again on a 9-yard touchdown pass. Drew O’Brien added the extra-point to make it 20-7 in favor of UCO with 3:44 remaining in the half. O’Brien’s extra point pushed him into the all-time lead at FHSU with his 108th PAT.

The Tiger defense forced a quick 3-and-out on the ensuing drive and the offense marched down the field quickly once again, culminating in a touchdown when Albert found Cooper for a 26-yard pass. The frenzy was huge mentally for the Tigers at halftime, trailing by just six.

Central Oklahoma had a nearly seven-minute drive to open the second half and moved all the way down to the FHSU 1-yardline before having to settle for a field goal. UCO led 23-14 with 8:12 to go in the third quarter.

The long drive could not stop the Tigers’ furious rally as Shaquille Cooper raced through a hole and had nothing but daylight on a 79-yard touchdown dash. UCO clung to a 23-21 lead at that point, but had no answer for the quick score. UCO fumbled in their own territory, then Albert found Flory for a 34-yard pass to get the ball to the UCO 2-yardline. After a penalty, Cooper punched the ball in the endzone from six yards out to give FHSU a 27-23 lead. O’Brien missed the extra-point attempt wide, but he would come up huge for the Tigers in the end.

The Tiger offense sputtered a bit early in the fourth quarter and UCO took the lead back with a touchdown at 9:30 remaining in the game. However, UCO’s kicker missed the extra-point off the left upright, leaving the lead at just two points, 29-27.

The Tigers started their final drive with 5:01 to play and an Albert 26-yard run on 1st and 16 from the FHSU 6-yardline set the tone for the remainder of a 13-play, 85-yard game-winning drive. The Tigers moved the ball all the way down to the UCO 2-yardline before O’Brien had redemption with a 19-yard field goal as time expired to win the game, 30-29.

Forced fumbles were key to Fort Hays State’s win. UCO turned the ball over four times on fumbles after giving away just five fumbles the entire 2014 season. UCO had the ball inside the Tiger 5-yardline twice in the first half before fumbling it away, so the first half UCO margin could have been much worse. The Tigers turned the ball over just once in the game on a fumble in the first half.

Cooper finished his big return to the Tigers with 163 rushing yards on 21 carries, averaging 7.8 yards per carry. He also had 32 receiving yards on two catches. Altogether, he had 195 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. Cooper had three 100-yard rushing games in the final four contests of the 2012 season, when he last graced the field for FHSU.

Albert finished with 163 passing yards and 94 rushing yards, while Flory had a big Tiger debut at receiver with 112 yards on seven catches with one touchdown.

Defensively, Brock Long led the Tigers with 14 tackles, while DeAndre James added 13 and Alex Schmidtberger had 11. Daniel Lindsey blocked one of two missed extra points by UCO in the game.

FHSU opens its season 1-0 for the first time since 2011. The Tigers host Northeastern State for their home opener in Hays next Thursday (Sept. 10) at 7 pm at Lewis Field Stadium.

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