ST. CHARLES, Mo. — The Fort Hays State Tigers will arrive in Hays early Sunday morning having with plenty of reasons to celebrate.
On the 8-hour drive west on I-70, the Tigers have plenty of time to enjoy their first 3-0 start since 2010 after a convincing 30-7 victory against Lindenwood in St. Charles, Mo. The Fort Hays defense picked off former USC and Arizona quarterback Jesse Scroggins three times, including a pick six taken 43 yards to pay dirt by redshirt-freshman linebacker Jose Delgado. Senior quarterback Treveon Albert threw for just 100 yards, but his 144 yards on the ground helped the Tigers’ offense moved all night.
Maybe most importantly, the Tigers will now welcome an in-state rival, the No. 4 Pittsburg State Gorillas, with a clean record.
The Tigers’ defense forced Lindenwood’s high-flying offense to punt on its first two drives, and a 17-yard return by sophomore receiver Tyler Bacon set the Tigers up in Lindenwood territory. Lindenwood’s All-American linebacker Connor Harris brought down Albert for a sack, but the senior went back under center and fired a 39-yard bomb down the right sideline to senior receiver Andrew Flory to give the Tigers an early lead. Prior to that touchdown, the Tigers had not scored a touchdown in the first 26 minutes of either game so far. Flory finished the game with four catches for 67 yards, leading the way for the Tigers' receiving corps.
The Tigers blocked a Lindenwood punt on the following drive. A fourth and one tempted the Tigers to go for it and the legs of Albert brought the Tigers within 1 yard of another score. Senior running back Derek Campbell rushed into the end zone the next play and a missed PAT by senior Drew O’Brien left the Tigers with a 13-0 lead.
The Fort Hays defense continued to give the Lions fits as a Scorggins pass stuck like glue to the hands of redshirt-junior Raheeme Dumas for his second pick in as many games.
The drive ended when a pass by Albert on first down from the Lindenwood 11 was lofted toward senior tight end Zack Gaughan. Harris continued to bully Albert, taking advantage of the under-thrown ball and hauling in an interception in the end zone.
The Tigers' though stagnant at times, was propelled by 144 rushing yards and 101 yards passing (9 of 19) by Albert. Sophomore Shaquille Cooper, who had averaged more than 200 yards per game in the first two weeks, picked up just 57 yards on 20 carries.
O’Brien would redeem himself late in the half with a short field goal to put the Tigers up 20-0 at the half, with another one coming from 36 yards away midway through the third.
With 1:34 to play in the third, Delgado, who has seen an increase in playing time since senior Justin McPhail went down after Week 1, returned an interception all the way for a touchdown to put the Tigers up 30-0. The Tigers held Scorggins to just 143 yards on 15-of-36 passing.
The Lions only managed 114 rushing yards as senior Brock Long tallied 16 tackles. The Tigers recorded three sacks and five pass breakups on the night. Lindenwood could only manage to complete 4-of-18 third-down conversions and 2-of-6 fourth-down conversions. The Lions and Tigers combined for 17 punts on the evening.
The Lions scored on the first play of the fourth quarter on an 11-yard strike from Scroggins. Junior linebacker Alex Schmidtberger, who finished with 12 tackles and a sack, got him back with an interception with 1:41 to play to seal the deal, extending the Tigers’ active winning streak to six games dating back to Week 9 of last season, the longest for the program since 1995.
The Tigers welcome the No. 4 Pitt State Gorillas to Lewis Field Stadium. But after Washburn held on for a 28-21 victory in Pittsburg on Saturday, it will be Tigers looking to start 4-0 for the first time since 1983.