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Last season's loss on the minds of Tigers

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Fort Hays State University football coach Chris Brown brought up last season's difficult 20-17 home loss to Lindenwood (Mo.) University at Tuesday's practice.

The Tigers had a late muffed punt and then-quarterback Tarean Austin committed a major mistake when he threw an interception to Lindenwood's Pierre Desir in the Lions' end zone in the final minutes.

"We probably win that ball game if we don't make a few mistakes," Brown said.

On Saturday, Fort Hays (1-4, 0-4 MIAA) travels to Lindenwood (3-2, 2-2 MIAA) for a 1:30 p.m. start at St. Charles, Mo. The Lions are 2-0 at home and 1-2 on the road. Last week, Lindenwood lost 56-6 to University of Nebraska-Kearney and committed seven turnovers.

Sophomore quarterback Dillon Miller has two 300-yard passing games and six receivers have more than 100 yards. Lions coach Patrick Ross is going for career win No. 100 in his 136th career collegiate contest.

"Lindenwood, to me, is a very, very good football team," Brown said. "Very explosive on offense. They are going to spread the field, throw the ball, they have got some great receivers that have great speed and run great routes.

"The quarterback is solid," he added. "He makes some great reads. The O-line is tough. Not many teams have gotten to their quarterback. It's just a credit to their O-line, and the things that they do."

Desir, whom Brown first coached when the pair was at Washburn University, is a pro prospect. He leads the MIAA and ranks ninth in NCAA Division II with nine passes defended, including two interceptions. Desir has 23 career interceptions.

This week, Brown looked at a lot of film on Desir. Every quarterback that has thrown to Desir in man coverage has either had the pass broken up or intercepted.

Fort Hays is expected to stay away from throwing in the defensive back's direction.

"Just have to be smart about what we are doing," Brown said.

Turnovers a difference

Lindenwood is plus-3 in turnover margin in its wins and minus-6 in its losses. FHSU ranks last in the MIAA with a minus-10 turnover margin. Fort Hays picked off three passes last week and has just five interceptions and one fumble recovered this season.

Its 16 turnovers are tied for last in the 14-team conference, while the six turnovers forced are second-worst. Brown has "really stressed" forcing turnovers this season and has the Tigers do turnover/tackle drills daily.

"We are breaking on the ball, we are seeing the ball thrown and trying to go make the tackle instead of seeing the ball and going and picking it," Brown said. "We are just not reading the quarterback well enough to see it come out of his hands. Those things will come."

The one fumble recovered is also tied for last.

"We need to strip a little bit better on defense," Brown said. "When we have tackled as bad as we have had so far, you are not going to have many turnovers. First guy needs to hold him up and next guy needs to come in and strip the ball out. That's something that we haven't done yet."

Kickoffs

Junior Ed Williams missed the first month with a leg injury, but returned last Saturday and provided a deep threat. He hauled in a 55-yard catch, the season's longest pass play. ...FHSU contemplated leaving Thursday, but was scheduled to leave this morning, drive to western Missouri and then doing its normal practice.