Tigers look for fouth straight 'W'
By CONOR NICHOLL
Junior linebacker Michael Terry wants the Fort Hays State University football team to rank among the MIAA's -- and thus NCAA Division II's -- top programs. A big part of that is consistently winning each Saturday, including against the bottom-tier teams.
"We want Fort Hays to be a program like when you think about Northwest or Washburn, those are one of the top people in our conference," Terry said. "We want to be looked at one of those guys, 'Man, we got to go play Fort Hays.'"
On Saturday, FHSU has an opportunity to return to .500 for the first time since a 2-2 start in 2011, the first season of the Chris Brown era. Fort Hays (3-4, 2-4 MIAA) travels to Lincoln (Mo.) University (1-6, 0-6 MIAA) for a 2:30 p.m. start.
Fort Hays has won the last three weeks, is 6-2 all-time against Lincoln with five straight victories.
Under Brown, FHSU won 24-21 on the road in 2011 and 28-26 at home last season when the Tigers scored off two blocked punts.
"We definitely can't take these guys light," Terry said.
Lincoln, coached by former St. Louis Rams standout Mike Jones, has a massive defensive line and several great skill players. Running back Morris Henderson has rushed 112 times for 674 yards and seven scores. Henderson is outstanding in the return game with 21 kick returns for 454 yards and a 103-yard touchdown return. Henderson stands second in the MIAA with 1,365 return yards.
"We've just got to do whatever we can to keep the ball out of his hands whether he is going to get the ball running or if he is going to get the ball passing," Brown said.
Quarterback Jacob Morris has completed 108 of 198 passes for 1,305 yards with a 7/7 TD/INT ratio. Lincoln lost 24-22 at Lindenwood (Mo.) University in Week 1, then defeated FCS Grambling State in front of 20,176 fans at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Blue Tigers have lost five straight since - including three in a row to ranked opponents. Last week, Lincoln fell 24-14 to unranked University of Nebraska-Kearney. This will mark the last time Lincoln and Fort Hays will meet for the foreseeable future.
Lincoln and Southwest Baptist (Mo.) University will stay in the MIAA for all other sports, but will play football in the Great Lakes Valley Conference starting next fall. The Blue Tigers, primarily an African-American school, were the impetus for the change. Lincoln wants to play some HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) in non-conference, like Grambling, but wouldn't have the opportunity in a MIAA that doesn't have non-conference games starting next year.
"They are a very athletic and a very talented group of kids, just a few things that bounce their way, they probably win a few more of those ballgames," Brown said.
Last week's 56-14 blowout win against Southwest Baptist offered game snaps for many backups and inexperienced players, a plus for a young Tiger squad: "One game rep is like 10 practice reps," Brown said. ... Senior defensive end Basil Bandy (arm) returned last week after he missed three games. ... Senior punter Cameron Owens leads the MIAA in punting average (42.4).