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Tiger backfield takes a hit

Published on -9/9/2012, 7:36 PM

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By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Senior Andre Smith and junior Ed Smith have formed a 1-2 punch in the Fort Hays State University backfield for more than a year. In 2011, Andre Smith led the team with 963 rushing yards, while Ed Smith tacked on 748 yards.

FHSU averaged 189 rushing yards a contest, its most since the program switched to the MIAA seven years ago.

Last Thursday, Andre Smith went down early with a knee sprain in a season-opening 41-18 road loss to Emporia State University. He finished with five yards on three carries.

"It changed the game tremendously. Andre and me are so close," Ed Smith said.

Fort Hays' running game, arguably the team's biggest strength in the preseason, finished with 37 carries for 120 yards. It was the second-fewest rushing yards for FHSU in the two-year Chris Brown era. In 2011, Fort Hays defeated Emporia State 27-17 and rushed for 197 yards on 45 carries.

"They just came out with a better scheme than they did last year," Ed Smith said. "They brought down their safety in the box to kind of cover up the rush, so we didn't really pick it up until halftime, so that's what kind of made the run kind of shaky."

On Saturday, Fort Hays was scheduled for its home opener against Washburn University, ranked No. 15 in NCAA Division II at 1-0, 1-0 MIAA, at Lewis Field Stadium. Andre Smith is expected to miss several weeks and Ed Smith and true freshman Addie Brown, from Denver, will be the Tigers' top two backs.

"(Ed) is going to have to play a big part in our scheme this week," Brown said. "Addie Brown is going to have to step in as well and do some running for us, too. He is a very good back as well. He has got strong legs, quick, fast, sees things well, so he is going to have to step up as a freshman and grow up pretty quick and get ready to play."

Brown rushed nine times for 38 yards versus Emporia State. Brown is a scatback-type runner similar to Ed Smith.

"He is a nice back, he is a good kid," Ed Smith said. "I feel like with a little more experience, he will be great. I talk to him after practice all the time, in practice, tellin him the rights and wrongs."

The offensive line didn't perform at a high standard against ESU, despite having plenty of experience with senior guard Hawk Rouse and senior tackles Josh Reese and Logan Jones, three returning starters.

"We weren't prepared like we needed to be," Rouse said. "We weren't as enthusiastic as we needed to be and we didn't gel like we needed to, and those factors prevented us from winning a ball game that we could have won. But Emporia came out and they were on the ball. They did everything right, and that's why they won."

Redshirt freshmen Jarred Stindt and Matt Erbert played in their first career college game - and made their first career starts - at center and guard, respectively. Brown said no changes would occur with the starting line.

"It's kind of a mixture of the backs not hitting the right hole and getting the right read and not blocking a few things up front that we hadn't seen before," Brown said. "We adjusted to that, but we didn't get the production that I thought we were going to get out of them.

"They didn't do horrible," he added. "They were pretty assignment-sound. They've just to got learn to finish their blocks and stay on their blocks, and when they can do that, we are going to be pretty sound up front."

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