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Recent success starts in practice for Tigers

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Coach Chris Brown, senior running back Andre Smith, junior safety Micheal Jordan and sophomore quarterback Treveon Albert all agree. The Fort Hays State University's turnaround and big offensive numbers started in practice. After an 0-4 start, the Tigers have won five in a row, including a school record for points in a 63-17 home win against South Dakota School of Mines last Saturday.

Albert has considerably stepped up his play with a 10/1 TD/INT ratio and four rushing scores in the winning streak. Albert has thrown for 294 and 247 yards, his two highest career totals, the last two weeks and has completed at least one pass over 50 yards in four of the last five games.

"He is just getting better every week," Smith said. "He shows it in practice. He leads in practice, and he has got a great coach to lead him, and he has just been getting great every week. The better he gets, the better our offense gets. I know he is a smart kid. I knew he would come along. It was a little rough for him at the beginning, because he hadn't played quarterback in awhile."

Defensively, Jordan, a returning all-MIAA honorable mention selection, has collected three interceptions in the last five games (the only three of his career) and has recorded 16 tackles (12 solo) the last two weeks.

"In practice, we focus more on practice and doing the right things in practice, flying around to the football, making plays during practice," Jordan said. "We just find ourselves doing that in the game as well."

Junior linebacker Michael Terry has 34 tackles, two interceptions, a forced fumble and fumble recovery in the last three victories.

"Step up and be leaders on this defense - I think they want to take ownership in it, and be on this field and making a lot of plays," Brown said. "I think they have both done that. You can tell by practice as well, just by the way that they practice."

This Saturday, the improved Tigers could deliver the biggest victory of the three-year Brown era. Fort Hays went 4-7 and 5-6 in Brown's first two seasons, but it's best victory was probably the road win against Lindenwood (Mo.) University in Week 6 of this year.

However, Fort Hays plays an established powerhouse in University of Central Missouri at 1:30 p.m. in Warrensburg, Mo. A win clinches a winning season, just the second in the school's eight-year MIAA tenure. FHSU hasn't won six in a row since 1995.

"I am very excited for that," Jordan said. "That's something real big, real big."

Fort Hays is 2-7 against the Mules, 0-7 since the Tigers moved to the MIAA.

"It's a huge game for us," Brown said. "They are considered as one of the top teams in this conference, top-tier and we are trying to get into that top tier. Our kids need to stay focused on the task at hand, and go try to win this ballgame as well."

FHSU has lost two of the last three meetings by a combined five points. Junior quarterback Hayden Hawk ranks second in the MIAA at 310 yards per game. Albert stands ninth at 235 yards per contest. Central Missouri is 5-4, 4-4 MIAA, but has won three in a row. All four of the Mules' losses have come by 10 points or fewer. FHSU is 3-4 in conference action with two non-conference victories.

"It starts in practice," Albert said. "If we do everything good in practice, we should have the best possibility to beat these guys. We are doing great right now, and we've just got to finish, we've just got to keep going."