By AUSTIN COLBERT
What started as a mere stumble last week in a 27-24 overtime loss at Washburn University has turned into a complete free fall for the Fort Hays State University football team, just two weeks removed from a stunning 7-6 upset at No. 8 Pittsburg State.
“It’s very frustrating knowing that we beat a good team like Pitt State and we haven’t been able to come up with a win since then,” said senior receiver Ed Williams. “I wouldn’t say we got too high, but I don’t think we have that same hunger that we had going into Pitt State. … This isn’t good enough and we can’t be satisfied. When we think we are doing good we defeated ourselves already.”
While last week’s loss to the Ichabods was competitive, Saturday’s 26-7 homecoming loss to the Griffons was anything but. Despite a career high 201 receiving yards on 14 catches from Williams and 329 passing yards from junior quarterback Treveon Albert, the game had the distinctive feel of a blowout all evening.
“Same story, different day — just not very consistent, offensively. We got to put some points on the board,” FHSU coach Chris Brown said. “Whatever it might be, we got to do a better job of that and be smarter players on the football field. We are not doing that right now.”
While the Tiger defense held its own most of the game, there were times when it fell apart with the main culprit being poor tackling. The horror story started on MWSU’s first possession, when Griffon junior running back Raphael Spencer broke free for a 71-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead.
“Most definitely was tackling,” said senior defensive back Micheal Jordan, who finished with 19 tackles against MWSU. “Especially the big run in the first half. That was a big tackling error. We practice hard all week with tackling and just got to do better with tackling.”
After MWSU (4-2 overall, 4-2 MIAA) added a 33-yard field goal to go up 10-0, the Tigers put together their only meaningful drive of the game. FHSU went 80 yards in 10 plays, finishing the drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Albert to sophomore receiver Isaiah Maxi.
The Griffons added a second field goal, this time from 35 yards, to make it 13-7 Missouri Western at halftime.
It didn’t take long for MWSU to extent its lead in the second half, opening the third quarter with a 10 play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a 4-yard TD run by redshirt-freshman quarterback Skyler Windmiller. A failed 2-point conversion left the score 19-7 in favor of the Griffons.
From there, FHSU’s offense went punt, fumble, and blocked punt on its next three possessions. The blocked punt resulted in a final MWSU touchdown, a 1-yard Spencer run to make it 26-7 with 14:47 to play in the fourth quarter.
Key to the Tigers’ offensive struggles was Missouri Western limiting them to only 67 yards rushing (MWSU had 202) for the game. The Griffons’ focus coming in was to stop Albert from running wild on them, and by using a spy on him at all times held him to one yard on 12 carries.
“Spying was a huge deal because a lot of times Treveon couldn’t get the ball running,” Missouri Western coach Jerry Partridge said. “We decided to do it and decided to make Treveon beat us throwing the football. I thought he did a nice job. He threw the ball really, really well tonight. I think Fort Hays has to really look at that as a positive going forward.”
The majority of Albert’s and Williams’ yards came in the fourth quarter, when FHSU put together a trio of nice drives, only to have each finish without any points.
The Tigers actually outgained Missouri Western 396-355 in total offense, but a minus-three turnover differential and special teams miscues proved too costly for them to overcome.
“I thought defensively we played well at times,” Brown said. “Pretty good team; held them to 26 points. They are a good football team, but we got to tackle better, especially at the beginning of the game. We let the long run go and gave them some momentum.”
Spencer led all players with 165 yards on 23 carries for the Griffons. Sophomore Kenneth Iheme led FHSU with 39 yards on nine carries. Maxi finished with seven catches for 48 yards to go with his touchdown.
FHSU (3-3 overall, 3-3 MIAA) will next head to Emporia State University (3-3, 3-3) for a 2 p.m. game on Saturday. The Tigers will return home on Oct. 25 against defending national champion and currently No. 1-ranked Northwest Missouri State.
“Still got to be positive with these kids. Got to work and get better. Hopefully this next week we can do that,” Brown said. “You win out and you might have a chance at a bowl game. And that’s the ultimate goal, to get to extra games after the season is over."