Tigers drop season opener
By NICK McQUEEN
By NICK McQUEEN
Fort Hays State University football coach Chris Brown seemed to exaggerate a bit in his postgame news conference after Thursday night’s MIAA game against University of Central Oklahoma at Lewis Field Stadium.
But after his team’s 26-7 loss to open the 2014 season, he wasn’t exactly too far off the mark.
“We didn’t get any first downs, didn’t convert any third downs. You don’t do those things, you don’t put points on the board, you’re going to lose the ball game,” the fourth-year coach said.
“That’s what happened tonight.”
A seemingly flat Tiger offense recorded just nine first downs compared to UCO’s 23, converted just 4 of 11 third downs, and the Tigers’ only points came on an 89-yard kickoff return in the third quarter by sophomore DeAndre James — after the Tigers fell down 20-0.
“(UCO) came out today and did the things they needed to do,” Brown said. “They created some turnovers. We didn’t create any turnovers on defense. They put points on the board, got third downs and we didn’t do any of that stuff on offense.”
It probably didn’t help matters when senior running back Edward Smith left the game after taking a hard shot on his first carry, a 5-yard gain on the Tigers’ first possession, but not much was working in the Tigers’ favor anyway.
“The things we did was not who we are,” Brown said. “When I see things we do in practice, I think we’re a much better football team than what we put on the field today.”
The three penalties on the Tigers’ first possession also halted any momentum the offense hoped to gain.
The Tiger defense, on the field for much of the first quarter, fell victim early in the second. UCO lined up in the Wildcat formation with senior receiver Marquez Clark, then ran a reverse pass by redshirt freshman quarterback Chas Stallard. He found sophomore receiver Connor Pulley from 24 yards for the 7-0 lead.
“It was a learning experience today,“ said Tiger junior bandit backer Daniel Lindsey, who was one of four Tigers to record 11 tackles.
The Tiger defense was on the field for just more than 40 minutes.
“The defense played OK, but we have to work better on third-down conversions,” Lindsey said. “I think we’ll be good going into next week.”
The Tigers did get some momentum going offensively in the second quarter with backup junior Kevin Spain taking over for junior Treveon Albert at QB on FHSU’s third series. Spain, after nearly throwing an interception on his first attempt, hit senior Ed Williams down the middle for 35 yards, eventually taking FHSU within striking distance. But after another long pass play to sophomore Isaiah Maxi, redshirt freshman third-string running back James Sullivan fumbled after a 9-yard gain to the UCO 5. The Tiger offense was stagnant after that.
“I talk to our kids about adversity all the time,” Brown said. “ ‘We’re going to have it, and how are you going to react to it.’
“And we didn’t react very well to it. When you face adversity, are you going to fold your tents and be done, or fight back and battle? We lost a little energy, lost a little momentum. Not really sure what our guys are thinking.”
UCO took a 14-0 lead on an 11-yard run by Stallard on third-and-8.
James, the backup safety to senior Micheal Jordan, graded the Tiger defense a C-minus.
“We did some things right, and there’s some things we did wrong that we’re going to go back tomorrow, going to look at it, and we’re going to be ready next week,” he said.
Albert, after a slow start came back out as the starter in the third quarter — to an equally slow start, despite gaining a few yards on the ground after trailing 14-0 at the break.
“We figured we’d try to run the ball a little bit, and Treveon is a pretty good ball carrier. That’s what we wanted to stick with,” Brown said. “(UCO) shut it down, and we came back with Spain and he did a decent job.
“We just have to sure things up,” Brown added. “We were just awful. Timing was horrible, horrible today.”
The bright spot came on James’ kickoff return following Seth Hiddink’s 48-yard field goal for UCO. The 89-yard return was James’ longest as a Tiger. He had an 81-yarder last season.
“As soon as I had the ball all I knew was just hit it,” James said. “I seen the hole, and just took advantage of it.”
But the night belonged to UCO, which took a 7-1 lead in the series. The Bronchos outgained the Tigers 489-181, and had two ball carriers go over 100 yards. Stallard, who led all rushers at one point, finished with 107 yards and a score, while sophomore running back Jake Gandara had 136 yards on 24 carries. Hiddink connected on four field goals (38, 48, 18, 37).
Stallard finished 15 of 23 passing for 204 yards. Spain led the Tigers in rushing with 22 yards, and was 3 of 13 for 65 yards with one interception. Albert was 4 of 9 for 24 yards, and took one sack.
Tiger junior kicker/punter Drew O’Brien provided a highlight as well with a 78-yard punt that bounced approximately 25 yards to inside the 5-yard line in the fourth quarter. Slightly wind-aided, it was the second-longest punt in FHSU history. He tied Adam Ryan, who also holds the record for longest punt at 84 yards from 1997. O’Brien also missed the Tigers’ only field goal attempt from 49 yards when the game was still scoreless.
Brown reiterated his point about facing adversity — like an 0-1 start.
“They have to figure out what they’re identity is, and what they’re going to do next,” Brown said. “Are they going to fold their tents and be done, or come back and fight like men, like I expect them to do?”
Central Oklahoma 26
Fort Hays 7
Game in figures
First downs 23 9
Rushes-yards 58-285 23-92
Passing 15-23-0 7-22-1
Passing yards 204 89
Total plays-yards 81-489 45-181
Penalties-yards 7-50 6-46
Punts-avg. 4-38.2 6-49.7
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-1
UCO (1-0, 1-0) 0 14 6 6 — 26
FHSU (0-1, 0-1) 0 0 7 0 — 7
UCO — Pulley 24 pass from Stallard (Hiddink kick).
UCO — Stallard 11 run (Hiddink kick).
UCO — Hiddink 38 field goal.
UCO — Hiddink 48 field goal.
FHSU — James 89 kick return (Maciel kick).
UCO — Hiddink 18 field goal.
UCO — Hiddink 37 field goal.
UCO — Gandara 24-136, Stallard 17-107, McKenzie 9-31, Williams 4-9, Clark 3-3.
FHSU — Iheme 6-22, Spain 3-22, Beachum 3-20, Albert 8-16, Sullivan 1-9, Smith 1-5.
UCO — Stallard, 15-23-0, 204 yards.
FHSU — Spain, 3-13-1, 65 yards; Albert, 4-9-0, 24 yards.
UCO — Clark 3-50, Hill 3-31, Hood 2-42, Pulley 2-41, Gandar 2-21, Simek 2-17, McKenzie 1-2.
FHSU — Williams 3-64, Maxi 2-19, Gaughan 2-6.