PITTSBURG — In a game full of twists and turns, the final act was starting to look ominous for Fort Hays State on Saturday at No. 19-ranked Pittsburg State.
With the Tigers clinging to a one-point lead, Pitt State was threatening to wind down the clock and end the game with a chip-shot field goal.
But the FHSU defense forced an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-1 at the 21-yard line and Pittsburg State's Jared Vincent missed a 38-yard kick with 1:03 left, allowing the Tigers to run out the clock and escape Carnie Smith Stadium with a 42-41 victory.
Pitt State was on the verge of gaining another first down to set up a closer field goal for Vincent, but pressure by the Tigers forced PSU quarterback Brandon Mlekus to scramble and throw the ball out of bounds before Vincent pushed the field goal attempt wide left.
"I knew what they we're trying to do — just run the clock down, run the clock down and get in field goal range and try to kick the field goal," FHSU coach Chris Brown said. "We got the job done at the end of the day. It's God being with us, but that's a huge win for our team and a huge momentum booster going into next week."
In a game that featured two of the best defenses in the MIAA, the Tigers and Gorillas combined for 1,090 yards of offense, with Pitt State outgaining FHSU 613-477.
"It was a fun football game," Brown said. "They had some big plays offensively, and so did we offensively. I knew it was going to be a battle coming in here. It's hard to play here in this stadium. Our kids were up for the challenge. They were so excited all week. I really felt like our kids played hard today and they played physical and they played aggressive. They didn't stress. They came out relaxed and just did the things we asked them to do. There's still a few things we've got to get worked out, but these kids played hard today. I'm proud of them."
The Tigers were trailing 34-28 in the third quarter, but a pair of takeaways forced by linebacker Drew Harvey helped FHSU regain the momentum.
Harvey stripped the ball away from Mlekus and recovered at the FHSU 33. The Tigers capitalized in miraculous fashion after Chance Fuller hit Layne Bieberle for a 67-yard touchdown pass on a 3rd-and-15 play to put the Tigers back in front by a point.
Harvey then came through again with an interception and a return to the Pitt State 17, setting up Fuller's 12-yard TD pass to Manny Ramsey.
Pitt State crept back within two points on a 35-yard run from Kiah Kintchen with 1:06 left and lined up to go for two points before opting to kick the PAT after a false start moved the Gorillas back.
Fuller went 23 of 32 through the air for 306 yards and four touchdowns. Bieberle caught four passes for 152 yards with touchdowns of 68 and 67 yards. Ramsey had four catches for 61 yards with a TD, while Harley Hazlett made eight catches for 51 yards. Matt Wendelberger scored the game's first TD on a 1-yard dump pass.
Tiger running back Charles Tigner had another big day on the ground, going for 127 yards on 19 carries with a TD.
The Tigers will play host to Nebraska-Kearney at 2 p.m. next Saturday at Lewis Field Stadium. UNK upset Northwest Missouri on Saturday.
Check hdnews.net and Tuesday's print edition for more on the Tigers' win at Pitt State.