The Emporia State University Hornets pounded out 591 yards of total offense, as the Tigers dropped their season opener 43-13 Thursday night.
“We couldn’t get our defense off the field in the first half, and it showed in the second half they were worn out,” Coach Chris Brown said.
Much like last season’s opener in Emporia the Tigers fell down big early. The Hornets scored on their opening possession of the season as quarterback sophomore Brent Wilson scampered in from 32 yards. Emporia State had a field goal and a 30 yard touchdown pass to Austin Willis, who was the game breaker for the Hornets, catching nine passes for 216 yards and 3 touchdowns, including a 64 yards catch and run.
“Defensively you can’t just give up the big plays, and we gave up three or four and it cost us,” said Brown.
After a first half with only four first downs, the Tigers got a brief injection of momentum when Andreas Ashwood blocked the Hornet’s first punt of the second half. Three plays later, quarterback Treveon Albert would find wide out Keaton Callins for one of his two scoring connections.
“It just took us awhile to get warmed up,” said Callins.
On the next Hornet drive the Tiger defense would have a brief lapse as Willis broke free from the secondary. The Tiger defense would hold strong inside the 10 yard line forcing a field goal stretching the lead to two touchdowns.
“Its like coach said, it’s the little things that killed us,” said Justin McPhail.
Fort Hays would add one more touchdown, but the Hornets would score the final 16 of the contest to secure their win.
“The stuff we got is good,” Brown said. “We just need to get more solid on the front line and not give up big plays.”
Albert in his first game at quarterback for the Tigers went 15 of 28 for 168 yards and connected two touchdown passes while rushing for 23 yards.
“I thought Treveon threw the ball really well for his first game for us, he had the first game jitters, but we hung in there and made some good reads,” said Brown.
The return of the Smiths did not live up to the storyline, as both were held in check with the Hornets manning up off the snap. Ed Smith would only get two carries for a net gain of -2 yards and Andre Smith would have 10 carries for 23 yards.
“With seven guys in the box and manning up receivers, there’s not much room to run the ball,” said Brown.
McPhail led the way defensively for Fort Hays who had 14 tackles and one tackle for loss.
“Emporia State was establishing the run and anytime they do that, that’s going to let me go in there and do my job,” said McPhail.
Shane Smith and Basil Bandy each had tackles for themselves and linebackers Michael Terry and Alex Schmidtberger added eight tackles. The defense would force one turnover as Daniel Lindsey picked off backup quarterback Corben Jones in the endzone and returned it 43 yards out.
Fort Hays (0-1,0-1 MIAA) will we back it Saturday Sept.14, and the schedule does not get easier for the Tigers. They travel to Topeka to take on Washburn (1-0, 1-0 MIAA) who demolished fellow MIAA team Nebraska-Kearney 58-13. Kickoff for that game set for 6 p.m.