The first sack of Ian Nordell’s young college career came at an opportune time for Fort Hays State.
The redshirt freshman defensive end helped spoil one of Central Oklahoma’s best chances to put points on the board during FHSU’s 15-0 shutout of the Bronchos this past Saturday at Lewis Field Stadium.
The Bronchos were facing a fourth-and-four at the Tiger 13 early in the fourth quarter when Nordell sacked UCO quarterback Chandler Garrett at the 20 for a turnover on downs.
“I was really tired but I was like, ‘We just got to get a stop here. Got to toughen up and try to make a play,’ ” Nordell said. “(Defensive coordinator Cooper Harris) made a good call. Sheldon (Schmidt) made a good move trying to flush the quarterback out of the pocket, and I was able to chase him down from behind.
“It was definitely very exciting. Very awesome to get my first collegiate sack."
Nordell, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound Concordia product, has been getting up to speed with Tigers, transferring to FHSU after redshirting the 2017 season at Kansas State.
“When I decided to transfer, I really had no idea where I wanted to go,” Nordell said. “I knew a couple guys that came out here to Hays. I contacted coach (Chris) Brown. I took a couple visits through the MIAA and talked to some FCS schools. After I took my visit out here — Hays was actually my last one — I talked to coach Brown and (defensive line) coach Ike (Eguae), and they were straight forward with me and told me if you come in and work hard you’ll be able to earn a spot.
“I really respected everything that they had. I had an opportunity to be a part of something great here. That was the reason I decided to come to Hays.”
After going through a learning curve, Nordell said he’s getting more acclimated to the Tigers’ defense with each game.
“There’s still stuff I need to work on and do better at, and I’m still trying to fix it,” Nordell said. “I’ve been able to come in and work hard and correct a lot of the things that I needed to and get to the point where he trusts me and he allows me to play quite a bit.”
Nordell immediately helped bolster the Tigers’ depth on the defensive line, Brown said.
“He’s done a good job when he’s stepped in here,” he said. “I’d glad he contacted me and wanted to transfer in. He’s really stepped in and made a lot of plays for us. He spells Sterling (Shepherd) and Sheldon quite a bit. When he gets in there, we really don’t miss a beat.
“He just gets after it, pins his ears back and goes and plays hard. He’s had some nice plays through the whole season. I’m proud of the kid. He just keeps working hard day in and day out. He’s still kind of learning the defenses because he’s only been here a year. Him coming here, that’s an extra advantage for us and that’s a bonus because the kid plays hard and loves being here.”
The Tigers (4-1) will face Emporia State (2-3) at 2 p.m. Saturday in ESU’s Welch Stadium. Nordell said he gets fired up to face in-state schools.
“First thing I do when I get the scouting report is I look through the roster to see if there’s anybody I know,” Nordell said. “When we played Washburn I knew one of their tight ends and a couple other players, guys I played against in high school in my league. It adds a little extra. You kind of want to get an extra shot at them, be like ‘We beat you back in high school but we’re still beating you in college.’ ”
Emporia State, coming off a 41-0 loss to Northwest Missouri, has struggled to find its footing offensively at times, but Nordell said the Hornets are dangerous.
“They have a very running back (Landon Nault) that runs the ball very hard,” Nordell said. “We definitely got to stop the run game. They have good receivers and a good quarterback (Braxton Marstall), but we need to try and make him one dimensional and stop the run game. We have a great secondary so I feel like we’ll do good against the pass.”