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Tigers lose close one to Lindenwood

Published on -10/7/2012, 6:18 AM

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The Fort Hays State University football team committed a litany of offensive mistakes Saturday, including four fumbles (three lost) and two interceptions. However, a strong defensive effort helped the Tigers lead for nearly the first 23 minutes of the second half.

FHSU’s last two miscues, though, led to a heart-wrenching 20-17 homecoming loss to Lindenwood (Mo.) University on a cold night at Lewis Field Stadium.

“We are not a good enough team right now to make mistakes,” second-year coach Chris Brown said.

The first costly second-half mistake came when junior Keaton Callins muffed a punt at his own 15-yard line.

Lindenwood recovered and scored the eventual game-winning TD on a one-yard run by Marvin Byrd with 7:14 left.

Then, FHSU committed its biggest error with 77 seconds left on first and goal at the Lion 4-yard line.

The coaching staff called a power running play, but junior quarterback Tarean Austin changed the play to a fade route in the end zone.

Lindenwood’s Pierre Desir, a former All-American under Brown at Washburn University, picked off the pass in the end zone to seal the win.

“Right there in that situation, we have got to be a smarter football team and just pound the ball inside,” Brown said. “At least give us a chance to kick a field goal and go into overtime.”

Fort Hays, with huge ramifications hinging on the contest, dropped to 1-5, 1-5 MIAA and likely dropped out of contention for a bowl game. The Tigers will now need to win out for a winning season. Lindenwood improved to 5-1, 4-1 MIAA.

“We are really upset about this game,” senior cornerback Keke Paul, who had a 60-yard interception return and a 59-yard kickoff return, said. “We feel like we should have had this game won. We really feel like we were the better team out there on the field. Just comes down to execution and taking care of the ball, and it just seems like Lindenwood did a better job of taking care of the ball than we did.”

The bizarre ending capped the first meeting between the two schools. Austin, who completed 16 of 23 passes for 174 yards with a TD against two interceptions and rushed for 76 yards and a score, drove FHSU downfield in the final minutes.

He converted two fourth down plays, including a 29-yard pass on fourth-and-10 to junior Treyvias Alexander that moved the ball to the Lindenwood 4-yard line.

Throughout the week, the coaches told Austin to avoid Desir on fade routes and jump balls. Desir had 12 interceptions in two years for the Ichabods when Brown was Washburn’s defensive coordinator.

Desir, from St. Charles, Mo., moved back home because of family reasons and transferred to Lindenwood a few miles away. He picked off both passes Saturday and has six this season.

“All week, just been watching film, been watching him,” Austin said of Desir. “He is a good kid. Great athlete. Just I made a couple of bad throws that made him look good, pretty much.”

Near the goal line, Fort Hays wanted to stay with the running game that had produced 199 yards, including a game-high 106 from freshman Treveon Albert. If the Tigers couldn’t score a touchdown, freshman Drew O’Brien, who is 6 of 7 on field goals this year, could convert a short kick and tie the score.

Instead, Austin noticed an overload.

“First thing that came to my mind, check outside and see what the corners are doing,” Austin said. “I see man up. Check to a fade. Ball got tipped and it turned into an interception.”

Albert said the fade was used the last two games, but also disagreed with the play call on first down.

“It was four downs, four yards and two timeouts,” Albert said. “I didn’t think that we were going to check out of it at that time. On third down, probably could have checked out of it, but I think we probably should have ran it the first couple of times, but that’s another mistake that can be fixed.”

Fort Hays’ defense continually made big plays after the offense had turnovers. Lindenwood, No. 1 in the conference in passing yards with its spread offense, lost starting quarterback Ben Gomez for the game when he took a hit around the ankles with 11:58 remaining in the first quarter. Taylor Jasin stepped in and completed 24 of 39 passes for 285 yards with a touchdown against an interception. Jasin led Lindenwood to a 3-0 lead on a 36-yard field goal with 5:34 left in the first quarter.

After a Tiger turnover at its own 41, Lindenwood drove down to the FHSU one-yard line, but Fort Hays made a goal line stand. It marked one of three times the Tigers stopped Lindenwood on fourth down. Paul ended another scoring threat with his interception in the end zone.

“We were in some tough situations on defense, and they got themselves out of it,” Brown said. “The kids played their heart out.”

Fort Hays bumped its lead to 17-13 on a 37-yard field goal from O’Brien with 4:34 left in the third quarter. FHSU forced a punt when Callins fumbled the ball.

“That’s the main thing, catch the ball,” Brown said. “Fair catch it, it doesn’t matter. Just catch the ball and not turn the ball over.”

Lindenwood quickly scored on a three-play drive and led for the first time since 5:04 remained in the first half.

“When we see things like that, we try to not hang our head low, but when you want to win so bad, it’s hard not to act things just didn’t happen,” Austin said. “…But at the same time, you’ve got to move on.”

After the score, Fort Hays had their final chance to win – or at least tie – the contest. Instead, Austin’s questionable audible led to a frustrating loss.

“I am really not happy with our performance really,” Brown said. “We didn’t play great. Way too many turnovers. We get down in the red zone towards the end and got power called, and we’ve got to run power.”


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