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Tigers' Smith finding his groove

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Junior running back Edward Smith admitted he had "big-time frustration" in the first three games for the Fort Hays State University football team. Smith rushed for minus-2 yards in Week 1, six carries on five yards in Week 2 and 19 yards on three carries and a TD in Week 3. It marked Smith's first action after he missed virtually all of last season and took a redshirt because of a shoulder injury.

Receiving-wise, Smith had four catches for 17 yards, three catches for 16 yards and five catches for 23 yards.

Last Saturday, Smith found the end zone twice on seven touches in a 52-21 road loss to Missouri Western State University, ranked No. 6 in NCAA Division II. Smith finished with four rushes for 15 yards and a TD, and three rushes for 15 yards and a score.

"Probably just me playing a little timid, just me getting back into it," Smith said. "Last week, I kind of let it go a little bit. I feel like there is more to come though."

On Saturday night, Fort Hays (0-4) played host to non-conference William Jewell (Mo.) College, a 1-3 squad from the Great Lakes Valley Conference. Game time was 7 p.m. at Lewis Field Stadium.

Both Edward and senior running back Andre Smith have come back from injuries -- Andre Smith took a medical redshirt last year with a knee injury. Andre Smith leads the Tigers with 257 rushing yards.

He has seen his production up from 23 and 56 yards in the first two weeks to 107 and 71 the last two games.

"Injury is hard to overcome," Edward Smith said. "When you go out there, you just kind of think about it, but after the first couple of hits, you are like, 'I am all right now.' Just kind of go with the flow."

In turn, the improved running game has helped sophomore quarterback Treveon Albert, who has enjoyed his best two games the last two weeks. Fort Hays averaged 4.3 yards per play in Week 1, 5.4 yards in Week 2, 6.1 in Week 3, and 4.0 last week - but had a season-high 24 first downs.

"He is really starting to understand our offense and really starting to get his reads," coach Chris Brown said. "He is maturing."

Edward Smith caught a six-yard pass from Albert for the game's first score. His 15 catches rank second on the team.

"He caught a couple of nice passes, and he can catch the ball very well, he has got nice hands and he runs very well, and he is dangerous in open space," Brown said.

Before this season, Smith had 15 receptions in his career.

"I worked a lot in practice," Smith said. "Everyday, I worked on catching balls with (wideouts) coach (Al) McCray everyday. ... I feel like it would be a big help to this team if we keep throwing the ball to me out of the backfield, anyway we can get me the ball."

In the third quarter, he tacked on the team's final score on a two-yard run.

"We knew exactly what they were going to do," Brown said. "They don't do a lot of different things. They are very simple. We keyed on those things and reading the end and giving him the ball, because he is so fast that he can get to the edge. That is something that we really worked with him and Andre on doing, to get to the edge and getting vertical and scoring points."