INDIANAPOLIS — After a rough start found the Tigers in a 14-0 hole, the Fort Hays State University football team battled back to take a lead, but eventually fell 38-27 in the first round Saturday of the NCAA Division II playoffs.
The No. 5 at No. 4 back-and-forth contest against University of Indianapolis wasn’t decided without its drama.
With the Tigers leading 24-17 in the fourth quarter, FHSU seemed to bottle up a UIndy swing pass attempt.
However, Tiger senior Doyin Jibowu was called for targeting on an open-field tackle on the play — which lost yardage — setting up the Greyhounds with a first down. Jibowu was ejected as a result of the play. Later in the series, Greyhound quarterback Jake Purichia dove in from 1 yard on fourth down to tie the game.
Doyin Jibowu ejected for this. Are you serious. pic.twitter.com/ZuBxca45ke— CD (@cddesalvo) November 17, 2018
With Jibowu in the locker room, UIndy then went to work on his backup — Hays High product Hayden Kreutzer — and took the lead. Purichia hit Daveon Bell for a 76-yard score to give the Greyhounds the 31-24 advantage.
The Tigers — like early in the game — didn’t go away. With senior Jacob Mezera in at quarterback for starter Chance Fuller (injury), the Tigers drove down and got a 40-yard field goal attempt by Dante Brown to make it 31-27.
After forcing the Greyhounds into a punt, the Tigers got the ball back and had 2 minutes to work with and two timeouts. But Mezera threw a pick-6 on the first play, helping Indy seal it with a 38-27 lead.
UIndy owned the Tigers out of the gate. FHSU had the ball for just 2 minutes, 22 seconds in the first quarter. Purichia hit Bell for 5 yards to make it 7-0, then the quarterback rushed for a 3-yard score to make it 14-0.
Fuller, making his second start for the Tigers, brought FHSU back. With 5:15 to play in the second quarter, he hit Layne Bieberle from 18 yards. After a field goal by the Greyhounds, Fuller again led a march down the field and found Charles Tigner from 15 yards to make it 17-14 at halftime.
Right out of the gate, FHSU scored again. This time, Fuller found Harley Hazlett for 15 yards to give FHSU a 21-17 lead. A Dante Brown 44-yarder with 8:26 to go in the third quarter made it 24-17.
But early in the fourth quarter — and after the targeting call — things went south for FHSU, which moved to 0-4 in playoff games in the program’s history.
Fort Hays (9-3) finished with 331 passing yards and 78 rushing, while UIndy had 249 rushing yards and 182 through the air. Hazlett had 103 receiving yards on 14 catches, while Bieberle caught eight balls (tying career high) for 88 yards. Fuller finished with 252 passing yards, completing 24 of 36 passes with no interceptions. and Mezera 79. Mezera threw two interceptions.