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SPOTLIGHT
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Tigers look to become more disciplined

Published on -9/12/2012, 10:16 AM

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By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Discipline. Players staying in the program. Becoming a family. Taking care of business on the field and in the classroom. Working hard in the summer. Playing smart.

These are aspects that Fort Hays State University second-year coach Chris Brown, senior bandit backer Austin Hubert and true freshman running back Addie Brown see as the main reasons for the gap between the nation's elite and Fort Hays State University.

For the last several years -- and especially the last two weeks -- FHSU has struggled against the nation's ranked teams.

This year, Fort Hays already has lost 41-18 to an much improved Emporia State University squad and 45-20 to Washburn University.

ESU isn't nationally ranked yet, but is 2-0 and stands 10th in NCAA Division II in scoring offense and sixth in passing offense.

"Emporia has improved tremendously under a one-year time," coach Brown said of a Hornet program that finished 5-6 last year, including a loss to Fort Hays.

Last Saturday, the Tigers trailed 42-0 at halftime en route to a big home loss to the Ichabods, now ranked No. 9 in NCAA Division II. Fort Hays has lost 12 in a row to ranked teams. On Tuesday, Brown met with the team before practice.

"We have got to be disciplined on the field and in the classroom, watching our film, study halls," Brown said in his weekly news conference Tuesday. "Everything in life, it's about discipline. If you are not disciplined in life and on the field, you are going to get beat.

"That's something I really harped on the kids today about is doing things the right way and being disciplined in everything that we do," he added. "If we do all of those things, we will be a Washburn, a Northwest, a Pittsburg State, a Mo. West in the future. We have got to start now."

On Saturday, Fort Hays' early season road remains difficult with a road game at Northwest Missouri State University, ranked No. 13 nationally at 1-1, 0-1 MIAA. Fort Hays is 0-2, 0-2 MIAA. Game time is 1 p.m.

"Maryville is the best place to play in the conference, that's for sure," Hubert said. "Pitt State and Maryville, they will pack the stands and it's going to be loud, so we have got to communicate well and come out there and start fast this game."

Fort Hays has lost eight in a row to the Bearcats. That included permitting a school-record 70 points in a 53-point defeat last fall. FHSU could have the nation's hardest schedule after Saturday. Masseyratings.com currently ranks FHSU with the nation's fourth-toughest slate.

"That's some good competition, and that's where we want to get to," Brown said. "I kind of like our guys seeing the competition, the level of play that those guys are at, because maybe it will motivate them to start doing some different things.

"Especially with the weight room and study habits and eating properly and taking care of our bodies," he added. "Just look at the difference in those guys and you guys right now. They do everything perfect, and we are far from that right now, and that's where we have got to get to."

Brown believes the foundation starts in the summer. Fort Hays had more players stay in the summer this year than 2011, but it still wasn't enough for the coach's liking.

"It's what we didn't do the last three months of summer," Brown said. "Didn't prepare us for the season, and that's really when our season comes along, is in the summer.

"Because everything that we did, the eight months that we put in in the fall and in the spring was lost the last three months because now we came back and we are in the same boat as the year before," he added. "Not very strong and not very agile and not very fast."

Hubert, a fifth-year player and a veteran of 32 games with the Tigers, has seen dozens of players leave the program in his tenure. Fort Hays has 19 seniors, just eight who have been with FHSU their entire careers. Northwest Missouri counts 23 seniors. Pittsburg State's national championship squad last season had 21 seniors.

"In the five years I have been here, we have had a lot of guys quit and I know at places like (ranked teams), almost every one of their players redshirts and so they will have guys around for five years," Hubert said. "I know that's what our coaches are trying to do."

"They are trying to build this from the bottom up," he added. "It's frustrating as a senior, but I would do the same thing. That's the biggest thing is, you have got to keep players in the program, build it that way."

Last week, Addie Brown noticed the closeness of an Ichabod program that has perennially ranked in the top 25.

"They are very bonded," Brown said.

In Addie Brown's eyes, Fort Hays doesn't have that close bond yet. On the field, Coach Brown noticed Fort Hays allow several big plays, commit penalties and have what he labeled "stupid mistakes." But Brown believed one day Fort Hays will play at a level of an elite squad.

"It will just take some time and some effort on their part," he said. "... I think they are going to improve each week and get better, and that's all that we can ask for."

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