FHSU Tiger Football is Going Bowling

The Fort Hays State University football team has accomplished two things that have escaped them for the last 20 years; an eight-win season and a postseason berth.

With the 28-14 grind out win over the 20th ranked team in the nation University of Central Missouri, the Tigers were able to secure their fate into the postseason for the first time since 1995 as well as improve to 8-3 on the year.

The win over the Mules tied the Tigers for third in the Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletics Association with Central Missouri, but  the win over Emporia State University, a team Central Missouri lost to earlier in the season and the win over the Mules got the Tigers the invitation to the 50th annual Mineral Water Bowl in Excelsior Springs, Mo.

“I was hoping at about this time getting to the top of the conference,” head coach Chris Brown said.

The Tigers will play Minnesota-Duluth who is also 8-3 and finished tied for first in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.

Since Brown took over the program five years ago the Tigers have improved their win total one game each season.  Last season was the Tigers first seven-win season in 18 years.

“I was thinking five, six, maybe even seven years of getting us to where we needed to be.  Our kids have done it pretty quick,” Brown said.

The season has been an interesting ride for Fort Hays who have been plagued by injuries and two questionable calls in losses this season.

Fort Hays lost three starters in their week one victory over the University of Central Oklahoma.  Preseason All-American, senior linebacker Justin McPhail, senior corner Rashad Dunnigan, and freshman running back Malik Thomas.  A dozen more players would go down for the Tigers and they would have to dig as far deep as fourth string at the linebacker position and the running back position for players.

“We had so many injuries this season, I wasn’t sure what would happen,” Brown said.

Fort Hays would win their next two games; a grind out 27-13 win over Northeastern State University and a roll over win over Lindenwood University 30-7 to start the season 3-0.

Fort Hays first loss on the season came on a questionable roughing the kicker call against Pittsburg State University in which the kick was blocked, but because of the penalty, the Gorillas had another shot at it and ended up scoring a touchdown to win 31-24.

From there, the Tigers would trade off wins.

Winning a close game against Washburn University 35-30 and then losing another close game on a missed pass interference call in the end zone against Missouri Western State University 26-21.

The Tigers would bounce back nicely with a big win over then 13th ranked team in the nation Emporia State 27-24 by scoring a touchdown with just under a minute remaining.

After the big win against the Hornets, the Tigers would finish their season winning three of their last four games to secure their spot to play football in December.

“The seniors, that’s been here for a long time really knew we needed to do to accomplish our goal,” senior bandit back (linebacker/safety hybrid) Daniel Lindsey said.  “We wanted to do it for Coach Brown.”

All season the Tigers have been senior led in all three phases of the game.

Offensively, senior quarterback Treveon Albert leads the team in all-purpose yards with 2,835 yards and is third in the MIAA in rushing yards.  Albert who began his career splitting snaps is now just 10 yards away from the school record in career total offensive yards.

“That’s what you play for wins and to play on,” Albert said.

Much of Albert’s success and the all-around success of the offense can be attributed to the three senior offensive linemen;  Matt Erbert, Colby Hamel, and Luke Edney who all have anchored the best rushing attack in the MIAA of more than 250 yards per game.

On defense, the Tigers have been led all year by senior linebacker Brock Long who has 159 tackles on the year and set the single-season school record for tackles of loss.

“He’s not the biggest linebacker in the conference, but it’s his toughness, the way he plays the game is relentless,” Brown said.

On special teams, senior kicker Drew O’Brien became the All-Time leading scorer in Fort Hays State history earlier this season.  O’Brien has made nine field goals and 40 extra points this season.

Come December 5 the Tigers will look to do something that has never been done by any Fort Hays football team, and that is win nine games in a single season.  Kickoff is set for noon.

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