Even without playing what Chris Brown considered to be Fort Hays State’s brand of “Tiger football,” FHSU managed to get past No. 18-ranked Central Missouri thanks to several big plays in the last few minutes of the season opener.
But that’s not a formula Brown wants to rely on again.
“We didn’t play very well at all in that game,” the eighth-year Tiger coach said of the 20-16 win over UCM. “I didn’t think we came out physical. I think we came out a little bit timid, not ready to play, and Central hit us in the mouth. And we didn’t know how to respond for three and a half quarters. Finally, the last half of the fourth quarter, we figured some things out.
“We didn’t play the game like Tigers usually play the game. We kind of held back a bit until the end of the fourth quarter.”
Brown is looking for the No. 5-ranked Tigers to clean things up on both sides of the ball when they hit the road to play Missouri Western at 7 p.m. on Thursday in Spratt Stadium.
FHSU had managed just 10 points midway through the fourth quarter against UCM before scoring two touchdowns in the last five minutes.
“I thought offensively, there’s some blocking things we need to work on, especially picking up blitzes,” Brown said. “Keeping the ball in bounds for our receivers to make plays for big-play opportunities as well. I think there’s three or four plays that could have gone for touchdowns that we didn’t take advantage of.
“On defense, it was tackling, which I knew it was going to be bad, because Game 1 every year we’re terrible tacklers and everyone in the country is terrible tacklers because nobody really tackles live in practice any more.”
Still, it bodes for the well the Tigers that they got past the No. 18-ranked team without playing their best, FHSU junior receiver Layne Bieberle said.
“As a team, offensively and defensively, we faced adversity well in that game,” Bieberle said. “There were a lot of things that weren’t necessarily going our way and we battled through it and got through it.”
Missouri Western opened the season with a 26-8 loss on the road to No. 6 Northwest Missouri. The Griffons are entering their second year under coach Matt Williamson after the Griffons went 4-7 last year.
“We’re expecting a physical team, a team that’s going to come out and get us because we’re the defending conference champs,” FHSU senior linebacker Jose Delgado said. “We can’t let up. We know we’re going to have to bring it 10 times harder than we did this last game.”
Missouri Western returns quarterback Dom Marino, who went 18 of 37 for 226 yards against Northwest. Marino was injured when the Tigers faced the Griffons last year.
“He’s an athletic kid, runs very well,” Brown said. “Reminds me a lot of (Central Missouri quarterback Brook) Bolles, but probably a little bit faster than Bolles. They have some good skill receivers, good running backs and a big offensive line.
“They’re better. They’ve improved tremendous through last fall and last spring to make themselves to make themselves a really good football team. We’ve got to be ready to go because they’re going to be really tough. They’re going to be geared up for us, especially.”
The Tigers might be shorthanded on the offensive line with the statuses of senior center Nathan Hale and sophomore left tackle Pat Kelly uncertain for the Western game.
Hale missed the second half with an arm injury against Central Missouri while Kelly left late in the fourth quarter with a leg injury.
“We’ll see with those guys,” Brown said. “They might be a week away, maybe two weeks. But I think they’ll be back within the next two weeks.
“Somebody’s got to step up to the plate. We’ll have to move some guys around that have played certain positions before.”
OREGON TRANSFER GETTING UP TO SPEED
A late addition for the Tigers was Malik Young, who arrived during fall training camp for the Tigers after transferring from the University of Oregon.
Young, a 6-foot-2, 300-pound native of Marietta, Ga., appeared in seven games with two tackles for the Ducks last year. He was previously a three-star recruit at Eastern Arizona College Community College.
“It gives us some depth,” Brown said. “He wasn’t here very long before we played Game 1. He’s still trying to figure out what we’re doing defensively. I think once he understands what we’re really doing and playing confident and not thinking anymore, then he’s going to be a really, really good ball player.”