The Fort Hays State football team has been showing off its big-play ability over the last three weeks, but patience might be key for the Tigers’ offense against Emporia State.
“They don’t give up the big play,” FHSU coach Chris Brown said of the ESU defense. “They’re going to make you earn everything. It’s just about our guys being patient and understanding that we’re going to have to earn everything we can get.”
Fort Hays State is averaging 40 points over its three-game winning streak heading into Saturday's 7 p.m. homecoming game against the Hornets at Lewis Field Stadium.
ESU (2-3) gave Northwest Missouri a battle last week in Emporia, falling 34-23 after leading at halftime.
“We’re not going to get big plays on them,” Brown said. “They’re playing 10 to 12 yards deep. They’re not biting on anything really hard in the pass game. They do run fill really well once they see that it is run. We’re not going to get big runs; it’s just going to be three yards here, four yards, five, 10. It’s just not going to be big chunks like we’re used to getting these last few games.”
Tiger quarterback Chance Fuller, who threw for five touchdowns and 310 yards in a 35-7 win at Central Oklahoma last week, agreed with Brown that the ESU defense presents its challenges.
“They do a lot of different stuff that we really haven’t seen before,” Fuller said. “They do a lot of different coverages and move around a lot. They’re always in their right spot. They do their job. We just have to do our job and we’ll be fine.”
The Hornets are averaging 33.6 points a game while surrendering 26.6.
“They’ve got a great quarterback (Dalton Cowan) that scrambles really well and extends play and some receivers that get open,” Brown said. “The offensive line is solid and strong and don’t allow a lot of pressure to get on the quarterback.
“I think what they rely on the most is their defense. It kind of creates havoc for you with the different looks that they give you. I think they’re kind of banking on their defense keeping them in the game and hoping their offense will score on some big plays and get up on you.”
Cowan has completed 60% of his passes, averaging 216.6 yards per game through the air with nine touchdowns and three interceptions.
Carlos Grace has rushed for a team-high 314 yards for the Hornets, while the ESU receiving corps is led by Will Amos (21 catches, 234 yards), Cole Schumacher (20-231) and Dexton Swinehart (16-260).
Brown said the Tigers won’t be distracted by homecoming festivities.
“With our guys, homecoming is just another game for us,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of festivities this week with all the things going on, but we’re not part of that. The only thing we’re part of is the game.
“You’re not getting wrapped up in all that stuff. I told them they can enjoy homecoming when they graduate from here and become an alum and come back and do the tailgating and Oktoberfest and all that stuff on those days. But right now, we’re not part of that process.”