FHSU fends off Lopers, wins sixth straight


It was another back-and-forth football game for the Fort Hays State University Tigers as they played the University of Nebraska-Kearney Lopers, Sat. Oct. 26.  After a 37-31 victory, the Tigers continue to climb through the MIAA rankings. Fort Hays now extends its win streak for the season to 6 games. The game at Lewis Field Stadium leaves the Tigers with a record of 6-2 while the Lopers dropped to 5-3.  

This week, the Tigers rushed headlong into their opponent, halting the momentum of the Loper team coming fresh off a victory over the nationally-ranked Northwest Missouri State University.  Even from the start of the game, the Tiger team came to play on both sides of the ball.  

Tigers’ head coach, Chris Brown, suggested that the team prepared with the mentality of capitalizing on every opportunity to touch the ball.

“We talked about that all week, especially offensively: every opportunity that we get to get the ball, we’ve got to make something happen,” Brown said.  “We’ve got to get first downs. We’ve got to change field position and we’ve got to score points because they’re going to try to hold on to the ball as long as they possibly can and keep it out of our hands.”

The team did just that after the defense set the tone by halting the Lopers’ first drive as the team went three and out.  The Tiger offense was prepared to take the ball as they moved quickly down the field and into Loper territory. A handoff from quarterback, Chance Fuller, allowed running back, Charles Tigner, to complete the 5-yard touchdown play.

The touchdown marked the fifth time this year that the Tigers have placed six points on the board during the first possession of the game.

It wasn’t long before the Lopers responded to this early Tiger lead with a quick drive into the Tiger redzone that resulted in a Loper touchdown.  The 17-yard pass from quarterback, TJ Davis, evened the score.  

From this point, the game took a tone reminiscent of last week’s game against Pittsburg State University.  The score shifted yet again as the Tigers drove down the field for another 6-points.  

The score, however, remained at just 13-7 as kicker, Dante Brown, missed the extra point.  This was just Brown’s second career extra-point miss and the first one this season.  

The Tigers continued to dominate the game’s first half with a field goal followed by another touchdown pass from Fuller to wide receiver, Layne Bieberle.  Meanwhile, the Fort Hays defense managed to hold the Lopers to just another field goal during the half.  

However, the final drives of the half marked a clear shift in momentum to the side of Nebraska-Kearney that carried into the game’s second half.  The Tiger offense went three and out on the first drive of the half. Nebraska-Kearney capitalized on the opportunity to score their second touchdown of the game during their first drive.  

Nebraska-Kearney sat within one touchdown of the Tiger lead until the Fort Hays offense pulled out a momentum-changing play on third and one.  Fuller found wide receiver, Manny Ramsey, downfield where Ramsey jogged into the endzone unchallenged.  

Back-and-forth the score went yet again, as the extended Tiger lead was short-lived. The Lopers managed to score on the first drive of the fourth quarter.  Once again, the missed extra point loomed as Nebraska-Kearney needed only one more touchdown to take the lead late in the game.  

As time wound down, however, two key first down passes from Fuller kept the Lopers out of the endzone.  According to Brown, these plays were essential to the Tiger victory.

“They were huge.  We needed those to run that clock out.  We’re always trying to find a way to end the game with us having the ball in our hands,” Brown said.  “That last drive showed that we’ve got some great opportunities to do that and we executed and got the job done.”

A large portion of the reason the Tigers were able to “get the job done” can be attributed to Fuller who passed for a total of 435-yards during the game.  Meanwhile, the offensive line struggled to establish the run game.  

“I wish our o-line could have established that run game but they protected Chance for the most part and gave him time to throw that he needed,” Brown said.  

During the times in which the Tiger offensive line struggled, it became apparent that the momentum of the game was closely linked to the success of each team’s own offensive line.

“Both those o-lines did a great job and our defensive line needed to dominate,” Brown said.  “It’s something we talked about before the game. We need to dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball for us to win this game.”

Though the Tiger defense gave up 31-points and 287 rushing yards during the course of play, Brown felt as though his team has continued to improve as a whole.

“I’m proud of this team and the way they battle week-in and week-out,” Brown said.  “I think we’re truly getting better in all phases.”

The team must continue to improve through the next three weeks of regular season play.  Fort Hays travels to Jefferson, Mo. to take on the 1-7 Lincoln University Lions. Brown suggests that though the team has not been successful this season within the MIAA, the game against the Lions may prove to be a challenge for the Tigers.

“It can be one of those games where we come in and relax and they get us,” Brown said.  “So we’ve got to be focused this week and focus on Lincoln and not looking towards Northwest.  We need to prepare ourselves like we’re preparing for anyone else.”

So it’s just one week at a time for the Tigers.  Next week, they need the support of fans even as they head out on the road.  Keep up with the Fort Hays football team in Missouri via an MIAA Network subscription or through play-by-play stats on the athletics website.  Kickoff is set for Sat. Nov., 2 at 1:00 p.m.

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