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SPOTLIGHT
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Big first half leads Washburn in rout of Tigers

Published on -9/9/2012, 12:34 AM

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By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

The Fort Hays State University football team has started slowly throughout second-year coach Chris Brown’s tenure. After a sluggish beginning led to a big loss against Emporia State University on Aug. 30, FHSU changed its pregame preparation for Saturday’s home opener against Washburn University. Still, the changes led to another terrible start, statistically the worst under Brown.

Fort Hays trailed by 28 after the first quarter and was down 42 at halftime en route to a 45-20 defeat at Lewis Field Stadium. Opponents have now outscored FHSU 42-0 in the first quarter this year and 151-79 in the Brown era.

“It’s the first quarter that is killing us right now, and that’s what I explained to them,” Brown said. “If we can eliminate mistakes in the first quarter, that’s the last two weeks, not converting on third downs, offensively and defensively. Turnovers, they are killing us right now.

“We’ve got to start to making things happen right now in the first quarter, instead of waiting back,” he added. “I think our guys are playing not to lose, instead of going out to win the game.”

Washburn, ranked No. 15 in NCAA Division II, improved to 2-0 overall, 2-0 MIAA and won for the fourth straight time versus Fort Hays. The Tigers dropped to 0-2, 0-2 MIAA and have lost 12 in a row to ranked teams.

Fort Hays is now 0-2 for the first time since 2006. Opponents have outscored FHSU 86-38 in 2012.

“Playing to win, instead of playing not to lose, maybe our guys would be a little more aggressive and physical,” Brown said. “That’s what we are trying to instill in them right now, we’ve have got to play better in the first quarter. If we play better in the first quarter, who knows how that game ends up?”

Brown said the team made some changes to prepare for Saturday, including having “a little more enthusiasm, a little more excitement.” True freshman defensive back Raheeme Dumas, who returned an interception 28 yards for a score with 6:32 left in the game, believed FHSU would change its early game problems.

“Actually, this week, I felt like we were going to be way better than we were last week,” Dumas said. “But I guess it just turned out that it wasn’t that way.”

Washburn took the opening kickoff and drove 83 yards in eight plays. Washburn quarterback Mitch Buhler tossed a 17-yard pass to wideout Matt Kobbeman for a 7-0 lead. After Fort Hays went three-and-out, Washburn scored on a 40-yard connection from Buhler to Jordan Hart.

On the next possession, Fort Hays true freshman running back Addie Brown fumbled on the second play of the drive. Brown was supposed to split time with junior Ed Smith after senior Andre Smith suffered a knee sprain last week and missed Saturday’s contest. However, Ed Smith went down with a shoulder injury after one carry. Brown rushed for 21 carries for 114 yards.

“It’s really unfortunate,” Brown said. “Ed Smith and Andre Smith are two top backs in this league, and it’s unfortunate that they go down. They push me everyday in practice to be the best that I can be, push me, push me and compete. When it’s my time to go, to call my number, I am ready to do what I got to do.”

However, after Brown’s fumble, Washburn had a six-play, 28-yard drive that finished with a 1-yard rush from Hayden Groves. The Ichabods led 21-0 with seven minutes left in the first quarter.

Then, Washburn picked off a pass at the Tigers’ 37-yard line, a turnover that led to a 19-yard TD pass from Buhler to Mark Fancher.

“We weren’t clicking at all, we weren’t clicking whatsoever,” Brown said. “The coaches were making good calls. We just weren’t coming together.”

Junior Tarean Austin, who split time at quarterback last week with senior Anthony Sheppard against Emporia State University in the season opener, played the entire game under center. Austin finished 13 of 31 for 131 yards with a score and an interception.

However, he didn’t complete a pass until the second quarter and had trouble with timing. Brown said the team plans to “stick with” Austin going forward.

“You get into game mode and everything is just a little bit faster, a little bit quicker,” Brown said. “He has just got to keep plugging away with it. He is going to eventually get things right and do well for us. He made some really nice throws today and got out of the pocket a couple times and ran.”

After the first quarter, Washburn led 28-0 and held a 221-10 yardage edge. Overall, the Ichabods finished with a 565-246 advantage in total offense. Buhler was 15 of 20 for 252 yards and four scores.

FHSU has now been tied or trailed after the first quarter in 10 of Brown’s 13 contests. Fort Hays is 1-9 in those games. Saturday marked the biggest first quarter deficit in Brown’s tenure.

“It comes down to the kids,” Brown said. “They have got to want it. They have got to come ready to get after it, and play hard and be aggressive and I think it goes back to that same point – play to win.”

 

 
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