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Tiger offense looks for more against Washburn

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Sophomore guard Jarred Stindt, the lone returning starter on the Fort Hays State University offensive line, said Emporia State University had a "pretty big" defensive line in the season opener Sept. 5. FHSU had trouble moving the Hornets and finished with 20 carries for 44 yards in the run game.

It marked the Tigers' fewest rushing yards since the program rushed 19 times for 10 yards in a Sept. 12, 2009 loss to Missouri Western State University.

Fort Hays opened with a 43-13 loss against the Hornets and finished with 207 yards of total offense.

"We did have a problem maybe getting a run game developed early," Stindt said. "I think that might have hurt us throughout the game. We know as a unit that we take that pretty personally when our run game did what it did. We know as an O-line that we can't have that happen no matter who we play. If we have that happen again, the result is going to be pretty similar on the scoreboard."

The inexperienced O-line's play is one of several facets that need to improve for a Tiger offense that finished 2 of 10 on third down and had nine of 13 drives that netted single-digit yardage. Only three drives were more than 15 yards. Third-year coach Chris Brown especially wants change with the running game, on third down and spreading the ball around.

"Our offense wasn't doing a lot for us," Brown said in his weekly news conference Tuesday night.

The Tigers will travel to Washburn University, 1-0 and receiving votes in the NCAA Division II top-25 poll. Kickoff is 6 p.m. Saturday in Topeka.

"They will have some horses," Brown said. "Big, strong guys. We just have got to be able to weather the storm and get after them a little bit."

The offensive line, running game and tight end play is traditionally a FHSU strength. However, senior running back Andre Smith picked up 23 yards on 10 carries. Sophomore quarterback Treveon Albert recorded eight carries for 23 yards. Junior Edward Smith had just six touches -- two rushes for minus-2 yards and four catches for 17 yards. At tight end, junior Zack Gaughan had no touches and senior Marshall Musil had no touches and one target.

"We need to do a better job of spreading the ball around," Brown said. "We had some situations where we should have got it to them and we didn't."

Albert, in his first start, completed 15 of 28 passes for 163 yards with two touchdowns against two interceptions.

"He had plenty of time in the pocket," Brown said. "He had good time to see in there and see his coverage. He just needs to set his feet and make the throw. If it's not there, he just needs to take off running."

Senior wideout Keaton Callins was one bright spot. He led the Tigers with five catches for 52 yards and two scores, his first TDs since his sophomore year. Callins was banged up most of 2012 and has some knee surgery and cleanup in December. Now, Callins said his knees haven't felt this good since high school.

"Worked hard this camp, worked hard this summer and it's paying off," Callins said.

Callins and senior wideout and captain Tanner Hageman lead a young group that had three freshmen, two being true freshmen, who caught passes in the season opener. Wide receivers coach Al McCray said it's the first time he has had so many freshmen play.

"We know they are good and we know what they are capable of," Callins said.

The offensive line permitted just one sack, an average of 3.6 sacks per 100 pass attempts, much better than last season's 9.90 sacks allowed per 100 pass attempts.

Even though Stindt started all of last fall at center, he felt the same nerves and jitters he had in Week 1 of the 2012 season. Stindt said the rest of the line had similar emotions. However, Stindt believed the line improved throughout the contest on pass protection. But the run game never found momentum.

"It's a complete o-line scheme," he said. "If one guy messes up, then we are going to mess up the entire protection."