JOPLIN, Mo. — It didn’t take long for the Tigers to establish themselves.
Then all the Fort Hays State University football team had to do was ride out the second half for the season-opening blowout victory against Missouri Southern State University on Thursday night.
FHSU jumped out early, scored the first 27 points, and cruised to the 48-7 win to start the 2017 season.
Missouri Southern had little to offer in the way of competition as FHSU scored on its first three possessions, punted once then scored three more times en route to a 41-7 lead by halftime.
FHSU forced a three-and-out, then went 76 yards in eight plays, highlighted by a long run for senior running back Kenneth Iheme. Junior quarterback Jacob Mezera tacked on the score — a 2-yard run — and the Tigers were in business.
The Tigers followed on their next two possessions with Brandon Brown field goals (39 and 36 yards). After the Tigers’ first punt, FHSU got the ball back, and Mezera this time found junior Harley Hazlett from 28 yards, capping a five-play, 59-yard drive to put FHSU up 20-0.
FHSU the entire first half took advantage of several special teams miscues by the Lions — botched snaps, bad punts, etc.
The Tigers went up 27-0 on a 10-yard pass from Mezera to junior Monterio Burchfield. It wasn’t until the 10:38 mark of the second quarter that FHSU had a miscommunication in the backfield and the Lions’ Dante Vandeven found Shemar Coleman from 25 yards for the Southern’s only score.
FHSU responded by scoring two more times in the second quarter. The first was a 6-yard run by Iheme, the second on a fumbled punt attempt. Jeron Caraway picked it up for FHSU, going 10 yards for the score to set the halftime margin.
Then it was just riding out the second half clock. In the fourth quarter, Tiger backup quarterback Jacoby Williams hit sophomore Andrew Jay for the final score, capping a dominant 1-0 start for the Tigers.
Mezera had a big game, finishing 21 of 29 for 245 yards and two touchdowns. Iheme rushed 14 times for 68 yards with the score. Isaiah Blackmon got in on the action in the second half with seven carries for 53 yards. Charles Tigner finished with 49 yards on eight touches.
Sophomore Layne Bieberle finished with 83 receiving yards on six catches while Hazlett caught two passes for 51 yards and the score.
Big for the Tiger defense was the fact Missouri Southern was just 3 of 14 on third-down conversions and 1-of-6 on fourth down.
FHSU is at home Thursday, squaring off against Central Missouri. The Mules are coming off a 28-23 win Thursday night against Pittsburg State at home.