It might have been all the excitement of his first career touchdown.
Or perhaps it was the idea his first score meant the Tigers seemed to finally have things going their way in Saturday’s homecoming game.
Or maybe it was even the fact he scored in front of a jacked up capacity crowd of 6,875 at Lewis Field Stadium — arguably the most energized crowd in two-plus decades.
The answer actually is none of the above. Matt Wendelberger was just flat out tired — and he couldn’t help himself.
So after scoring on a 70-yard catch and run during Saturday’s 21-17 come-from-behind victory against MIAA foe Pittsburg State University, the Fort Hays State University sophomore tight end lost control — of his gut that is.
In the process he might have ruined a pair of shoes for the Tigers’ strength and conditioning coach, Doug Boucher.
“I was so gassed I threw up on the sideline,” Wendelberger said, speaking Tuesday in the Tigers’ weekly news conference.
The somewhat red-faced response when asked about the long score — the first of the young tight end’s career — drew laughter from his teammates and media in the room.
He went on to talk about the play in detail. It was part of a 143-yard passing day for redshirt freshman backup QB Jacoby Williams, who came in for injured junior starter Jacob Mezera. It came with FHSU trailing the Gorillas 17-7, and gave the Tigers a big boost just before the halftime break.
And the fact the 6-foot-1, 245-pound Wendelberger pushed himself over the edge is a perfect example of just how far this team is willing to go to keep its undefeated season intact. It will be a play that will be remembered by many in attendance, and likely always will hold a special place for the Pewaukee, Wisc., product.
It came on a short completion from a play the Tigers really hadn’t used, aside from a few times in practice.
“We used it without really any practice,” Tiger coach Chris Brown said.
The coach wasn’t going to split hairs. It worked in a first half where the Tigers did a few things on the fly after losing Mezera to an ankle injury.
“It worked out for us and that’s probably the fastest I’ve ever seen Matt Wendelberger run in his entire life,” Tiger coach Chris Brown said. “The aftermath on the sideline wasn’t great, but it was a good run.
“And a good touchdown,” the coach added with a smile. “Good to see him get in the end zone.”
And good to see the Tigers rally from behind to push their mark to 6-0. The rally victory was enough to push FHSU to No. 8 in the nation in the latest AFCA NCAA Division II poll.
It also marked the second game in a row where the Tigers had to rally for a victory. FHSU fell down 7-0, 21-14 and 28-21 before winning 38-35 at Lindenwood the week prior. The Tigers also had to rally from a 14-0 deficit to win in Week 3 at University of Central Oklahoma.
“It really shows that we stayed calm and collected,” Wendelberger said of the comeback. “We struck to our roots and did what we had to do to come away with a win.”
Brown also credited the crowd again Tuesday for the victory, saying without that excitement there, coming back from a 17-0 deficit against a Pittsburg State team might not happen.
“I think it kind of shocked our guys a little too,” Brown said. “They weren’t quite that used to our home crowd being quite that big and quite that loud.
“It’s good for them. They need to get used to that atmosphere, because hopefully that continues from here on out — with every home game.”
Especially this week as FHSU begins prep for I-70 rival Washburn University in a 2 p.m. kickoff Saturday at Lewis Field Stadium. The Ichabods are 5-1, but have yet to jump into the top 25 despite sitting third in the conference behind unbeaten FHSU and No. 1 ranked Northwest Missouri State University.