TOPEKA — Not unlike Fort Hays State’s first two games, the Tigers found themselves on the wrong end of some momentum-changing plays that could have spelled disaster in Saturday’s game at Washburn.
But Fort Hays made up for the miscues with big-time plays late in the fourth quarter and in the overtime session to get in the win column with a 41-38 victory at Yager Stadium.
With FHSU protecting a 14-point lead, Tiger starting quarterback Chance Fuller left the game early in the fourth quarter with a head injury, and Washburn reeled off 17 straight points to grab a three-point lead with 3:33 left.
Fort Hays backup quarterback Voshon Waiters then engineered a game-saving drive that set up a 24-yard field goal from Dante Brown to send it to overtime.
A play after giving up a reception to the Tigers’ 10, FHSU defensive back Isaiah Creal-Musgray hauled in an interception to stymie the Ichabods on their possession in OT. Brown, FHSU’s All-American kicker, ended the game moments later with a 30-yard field goal to move the Tigers to 1-2 on the season.
“We got to give all glory to God for everything we go through,” Creal-Musgray said. “We’ve been through adversity from game one to game three. This game we finally just stepped up and fought back through adversity.”
After Washburn capitalized on an FHSU turnover to take the lead in the fourth, Waiters showed poise in the final drive of regulation. The transfer from ASA College Miami completed seven passes on the drive, including a first-down play to Charles Tigner when the Tigers were facing fourth-and-5 at their own 42 with about two minutes left.
“Waiters is a tremendous football player,” FHSU coach Chris Brown said. “He's a great quarterback. We’ll get Chance back in a week or so, but until that time we’ll keep grinding with Voshon.
“We made sure we did things that were comfortable for (Waiters),” Brown added, “and I thought he did an excellent job with it.”
Fort Hays had to overcome back-to-back big plays on special teams by Washburn in the second quarter. The Ichabods tied it at 14 after James Letcher Jr. took a Tiger kickoff back 100 yards. FHSU muffed the next kickoff and WU capitalized with a 9-yard TD pass from Mitchell Schurig to Collin Wilson to take the lead.
“You take away those two special teams plays, who knows what the score’s going to be?” Chris Brown said. “... It just puts you a bind a little bit."
The game was locked at 21 at halftime and FHSU scored the first two touchdowns of the second half before answering the fourth-quarter charge from the Ichabods.
It was the Tigers’ first win at Washburn in games decided on the field since 1985. FHSU also earned a forfeit road win over WU in 1987.
“Washburn’s a good football team; they’re physical, they’re aggressive,” said Brown, a former WU assistant. “You know, I hate playing them because I love coach (Craig) Schurig so much, and (assistants) Zach Watkins and coach (David) Trupp; I’ve been around those guys forever. This is one week I hate. I love to get it over with and get it done.”
Brown hopes the Tigers can carry the momentum into Saturday's 7 p.m. home game against Missouri Southern at Lewis Field Stadium.
“They’re a good group and they work hard,” Brown said of his team. “Hopefully this is the start of the rest of our season.”