He’s not too worried about his team getting overconfident or not keeping its feet on the ground.
All the same, Fort Hays State University’s Chris Brown, the coach of the now No. 21 ranked Tigers, and his staff spent this week reminding the team while taking out the No. 13 team in the nation is a great thing, it’s still a long road ahead.
The seventh-year head coach also felt the need to remind his Tigers of the fact that while 2-0 — only one of two unbeatens in the MIAA — they are far from perfect.
Anyone who watched last week’s 35-6 dismantling of University of Central Missouri might agree to disagree, including the pollsters, who put FHSU into the AFCA Division II poll for the first time. It’s the first time an FHSU team has been ranked by an official poll in nearly two decades.
“It gives you a little bit more energy, a little bit more excitement being ranked,” Brown said earlier this week.
But at the same time, “people are gunning for you and they are going to give you their best every time out,” the coach added.
That especially will be the case at 7 p.m. Saturday in Edmond, Okla., where the Tigers will take on University of Central Oklahoma (1-1).
“Going to be a very good football game,” Brown said. “They’re a very good football team and we have to be ready for a battle.”
The Tigers, the MIAA’s leading scorer at 41.5 points per game, and third best offense at 432 points per game, will see a difficult test in a UCO team that has surrendered just 321.5 yards per game (fifth in the MIAA). The Bronchos gave up 31 in a three-point loss last week at Pittsburg State University. The Bronchos will throw many different looks at the FHSU front, and likely will bring several blitz packages at Tiger junior quarterback Jacob Mazera.
“They’re very quick,” said Tiger senior offensive lineman Travis Talley. “They show a lot of different packages and they show a lot of different guys.
“We need to be fresh and not get tired when we’re in an eight-play, nine-play-plus drive.”
Mezera has done a stellar job through two weeks, completing 39 of 60 passes with no interceptions for 472 yards and five touchdowns. He’s spread the ball out to 11 different receivers, and thrown at least one touchdown pass to four.
Meanwhile the run game has posted 369 yards and four scores, most coming from Kenneth Iheme and Charles Tigner.
“Those guys are doing what we thought they could do,” Talley said of the backfield and wideouts. “They’re exceeding our expectations, and it’s not just one guy back there toting it all.”
Meanwhile, Central Oklahoma is in the middle of the pack in terms of offense. Quarterback Chas Stallard is a true dual threat, much like FHSU has seen the last two weeks, but Brown said, UCO’s slinger might take it to a different level. He’ll run the ball and hurl it deep.
He has completed 30 of 50 passes for 424 yards with six TDs. He’s also rushed for 127 yards — the Bronchos’ leading rusher — and a score.
“He likes to throw the ball deep,” said Tiger senior defense end Nathan Shepherd, the reigning MIAA Defensive Player of the Week. “Can’t have all day in the pocket and can’t let him roll outside the pocket all day.”
The Tiger defense has allowed just one touchdown — coming in Week 1 to Missouri Southern, and surrendered just two field goals to the No. 13 Mules last week. They are second behind only top-ranked Northwest Missouri in total defense, surrendering just 261.5 yards per game.
Brown fully expects a tough test in that regard from the Bronchos.
“Keep (Stallard) in the pocket and keep him contained, and not let him buy extra time,” Brown said. “If we can do those things, I think we’ll be OK.”
OK might be an understatement according to records and rankings, but those are thrown out eh window. The Tigers’ ultimate goal is to be at the top, and they realize it’s a long road ahead. This is just Week 3.
“Ranked or not, I’m going to say our team’s No. 1, and we have the caliber to be No. 1,” Shepherd said. “Just try to leave that to the side, and keep hammering away until you get better, and you get that ring.”