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FHSU getting closer to being good team

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Coach Chris Brown knows some players and fans don't see change until it shows up in the win column.

Even though his Fort Hays State University football team opened with four straight losses to teams currently ranked in the top 14 in NCAA Division II, Brown saw continued improvement from each week.

Brown noticed the difference when players honed in more on their technique, fundamentals, film study, practice and "doing the things that we asked them to do."

"I saw a lot of improvement from game one to game two to game three to game four," he said.

That trend has helped Fort Hays win four in a row and enter the season's final third at 4-4, 3-4 MIAA after a 45-35 comeback victory at Lincoln (Mo.) University on Saturday.

"We found the way to get it back in the fourth quarter," Brown said. "It was just another way to get a win and to see our kids fight through and battle and make something happen. I am proud of the way that they came back."

For the first time this season, FHSU trailed in the second half and won. Fort Hays led 14-0 early, but trailed 25-24 at halftime and 35-31 after three quarters before it finished with 14 straight points.

Prior to Saturday, Fort Hays trailed William Jewell (Mo.) College 10-7 for about eight and a half minutes in the second quarter in Week 5 before a 34-17 victory.

"They are coming close to being a pretty good team, but they are not quite there yet," Brown said. "They feel like a family, they are acting like a family, they are doing things that they need to do."

Postgame, sophomore quarterback Treveon Albert said Fort Hays wouldn't have been able to come back had it been earlier in the season. Albert enjoyed a big game with 22 of 34 passing for 294 yards with three scores against no interceptions.

"It was good for them to know that we can count on everybody to help us come back and get that win," Albert said in the team's weekly news conference Tuesday. "That's a huge step, because now we know that everybody trusts each other. It's not one person trying to make a play, and then they end up messing up, and then it becomes a bigger play for the other team. When everybody does their job, and you make plays and that's the type of (result) that we get -- and now everybody sees that."

This week, FHSU plays host to non-conference South Dakota School of Mines. Fort Hays defeated the Hardrockers 41-27 on the road last season. Mines is 5-3 this season, including a 70-48 victory against William Jewell and a 45-20 loss to MIAA Missouri Southern State University.

"Very, very good team," Brown said. "On offense, they have got two great quarterbacks that play at any time during the game. They have got some great receivers. They have got a great tailback as well, and their o-line is very solid. Defensively, from what we've seen, they are a solid defense and are going to play some man coverage."

In Albert's eyes, he started to see improvement in a Week 3 home loss to Northwest Missouri State University, now ranked No. 2 nationally when FHSU delivered 365 yards of offense. In each of the four wins, FHSU has at least 396 yards of offense, including 463 last Saturday.

"Northwest game, we beat ourselves offensively," Albert said. "I was like, 'If we can move the ball on these guys like this and put up this type of yards, I know we can do it against anybody.' "

Throughout last week, Brown let FHSU know Lincoln would talk and even taunt the Tigers. Before the game, the Blue Tigers came to midfield and jawed to Fort Hays.

"Very scary," Brown said.

A couple times, Fort Hays said something in retaliation, but the coaching staff and teammates kept the squad calm and collected. Even when Fort Hays trailed, Brown said the team believed it "had the game won."

"There was no negativity, they weren't pointing any fingers," Brown said.

Albert feeling OK

Two weeks ago, Albert suffered a hip pointer injury late in the first half and missed the rest of the game. Albert went to treatment all last Monday. He could walk and do small things, like go up stairs. On Tuesday, he tried to practice, but felt a lot of pain and no power on the throws. On Wednesday, he wasn't at full speed, but felt a lot better.

"By me not being at full speed, the practices were going kind of slow," he said. "I had to step it up and tell (backup Edin) Kovac that we had to step it up as the quarterbacks so the practices could go better. Thursday, I come out and the practices go a whole lot smoother."

Last week, Albert rushed nine times for 25 yards, but mainly stayed in the pocket.

"I just noticed that I can't be running and take a lot of hits," Albert said. "Just because I was already hurting, so I just decided to make quick reads, to get the ball out on time. Everything should be all right. I knew this game would be a good passing game for us offensively. I just had to be ready to go."

Albert currently ranks ninth in the MIAA in total offense at 228.4 yards per game. The top-10 is all quarterbacks and Albert's 406 rushing yards stands second, 12 behind Emporia State University's Brent Wilson. However, Albert's big passing game has helped build his confidence.

"Now that I had a good game passing, I know that I can sit up there and do that," Albert said.

Dreiling could break Brown's tackle record

Pittsburg State University senior linebacker Nate Dreiling, from Victoria and Hutchinson, has 457 career tackles. He is 14 away from breaking Brown's school mark. Brown was a three-time All-American for the Gorillas. The MIAA mark is 489 stops by Truman's Marti Rave from 1977-79. Dreiling wears No. 11, also Brown's collegiate number.

"He is a great player," Brown said. "He is a great kid. He has got a great family. I wish him the best of luck. I know that he is going to get it. I am proud of him for getting it. He is wearing the same jersey, and that's kind of neat to see. Records are made to be broken, and he is one of those kids that deserves to get that record. He has worked his tail off for it."