It's a good bet that most of Fort Hays State's players probably didn't know the University of Indianapolis existed until recently, but the Tigers have spent the last week getting up to speed on the Great Lakes Valley Conference champs.
"I think it's fun playing those other teams of out of conference," FHSU senior linebacker Jose Delgado said. "We have the same amount of time to prepare for them as we do for other teams, so I don't think it's too much of a difference."
While Fort Hays will still be facing a bit of the unknown, the Tigers do see some comparisons in a couple of MIAA teams to the No. 12-ranked Greyhounds, who will play host to No. 19-ranked FHSU at noon (Central time) Saturday at Key Stadium in Indianapolis.
"They play a lot of cover-four prevent, just try to keep everything in front of you, so I'd say it's more like a Kearney or like a Central Missouri, where they don't want to get beat deep," junior receiver Harley Hazlett said. "Knowing that, we just got to understand that we got to be patient, capitalize on our opportunities when we get them and just keep chugging along."
Tigers' coach Chris Brown said the Greyhounds feature a ball-control offense.
"They do a really good job of controlling the offensive side and getting first downs, sustaining drives," Brown said. "It's like Pitt does, they try to control the clock, but it's a totally different offense than Pitt. They're slow tempo. They got great running backs, great receivers, big O-linemen. The quarterback's very good, throwing and running the ball.
"You'd probably compare them to a Lindenwood more than anything else, just with the personnel and the players that they have."
The Greyhounds (9-1) are putting up 33.7 points and 337 yards of offense per game, while giving an average of 14.6 points and 146 yards. Quarterback Jake Purichia has thrown for 1,811 yards and 15 touchdowns while Al McKeller has rushed for 1,093 yards with Toriano Clinton adding 763 on the ground.
"They're a heavy run team," Delgado said. "As a linebacker I love that so I can make tackles. They got a good quarterback and a few good running backs so we just have to stop them up front."
UIndy is a threat on special teams, leading all of Division II in kickoff return average at 30.1 yards per attempt.
"I think it's just their kids doing their job and their assignment and the returner really reading his blocks and making things happen," Brown said. "... You give a returner a chance with the speed that they have, they have a good chance to score touchdowns."
The Tigers (9-2) will be playing in their fourth NCAA playoff game and searching for their first win, previously appearing in 1993, 1995 and last year.
UIndy, coached by Bob Bartolomeo, will its fifth NCAA playoff appearance this year, all five coming within the last seven years. The Greyhounds won their first playoff game in 2012 but have dropped their last three, including a 27-24 loss to Harding last year.
The Tigers could have an advantage in keeping the Greyhounds unsure about who they'll play at quarterback. Senior Jacob Mezera has 2,226 yards passing, starting 10 of the 11 games while Chance Fuller is nearly has added 933 yards and started in FHSU's 17-16 win at Northwest Missouri two weeks ago.
Charles Tigner leads the Tigers with 721 rushing yards while D.J. Hickman has added 460.
Layne Bieberle and Harley Hazlett each have over 800 receiving yards, with Bieberle at 806 and Hazlett with 801. Delgado, the MIAA defensive player of the year, leads the Tigers with 106 tackles.
Saturday's winner will face No. 1 seed Ouachita Baptist in the second round in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.