Posted: Oct 20, 2012 6:43 PM
Updated: Oct 21, 2012 5:00 PM
HAYS, KS -- Fort Hays State took advantage of two special teams touchdowns and forced a crucial turnover late to hang on to beat the Lincoln football team, 28-26, on Saturday. The Blue Tigers outgained FHSU, 465-221, in the contest, which was televised by the MIAA Network as its "Game of the Week."
The Blue Tigers opened the scoring with a touchdown on their first drive, going 70 yards in five plays with Jammell Trammell taking a pass from Jacob Morris 46 yards to the house. The extra point was blocked, however, setting the tone for what would be a day of special teams miscues. Lincoln's next two drives each ended with a blocked punt being recovered by Fort Hays State in the end zone. The Tigers then took a 21-6 lead over the Blue Tigers after returning an interception 42 yards to the LU four and scoring two plays later.
Despite the big deficit, the Blue Tigers demonstrated resilience, scoring 20 unanswered points to take the lead early in the third quarter. The comeback began in the second half, with Morris tossing a six-yard touchdown pass to Maurice Woodard on fourth-and-goal. Earlier on the drive, Morris had picked up a third-and-one on a rush and the team took advantage of a pass interference call on FHSU to convert a fourth-and-four. Those downs in particular were big for Lincoln, which converted six third-down opportunities and went three-for-three on fourth down. The Blue Tiger defense, meanwhile, held Fort Hays State to three of 11 on third down.
Later in the half, the Blue Tigers again scored on a fourth-down play, with Morris Henderson busting up the middle for a 23-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-four. Morris made two big plays on third downs on the drive, including gaining 10 yards on a rush on third-and-10 and rushing eight yards on third-and-12 to set up the scoring play. The Blue Tigers attempted to tie the game with a two-point conversion, but a pass by Morris fell incomplete, leaving Fort Hays State with a 21-19 advantage.
The Tigers attempted to pad their lead heading into halftime, but the Lincoln defense was up to the challenge. A big kickoff return set FHSU up inside Lincoln territory, and the Tigers eventually drove down to the Lincoln 11. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on FHSU moved the ball back to the 26, and, after LU forced an incompletion, a holding penalty drawn by a strong rush from the Lincoln front seven moved the ball up to the FHSU 36. The Tigers decided to try a 53-yard field goal, but the kick fell short, and Lincoln went into halftime down by only two.
The LU defense held strong at the beginning of the third quarter as well. Lincoln began with the ball, but a fumble two plays into the quarter gave FHSU possession at Lincoln's 38. The Blue Tiger defense allowed the Tigers to gain just a yard, though, and FHSU was forced to punt.
FHSU downed the ball on the Lincoln two, but the offense was undeterred. Morris began the drive with a 22-yard completion to Woodard. Henderson gained 39 yards on a carry later on in the drive, and Morris found Trammell open for 20 yards down to the FHSU four. Two plays later, Donald Malone finished the drive with a two-yard run straight into the end zone, giving Lincoln its first lead since the first quarter.
The Tigers drove inside the Lincoln 20 on the ensuing drive, but a missed field goal kept the Blue Tigers ahead. Lincoln was unable to capitalize on their possession, punting it back to Fort Hays State. That's when the Tigers made what proved to be their biggest play of the game. FHSU's Shaquille Cooper took a handoff, broke free at the line and raced 63 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
Entering the fourth quarter down by two, Lincoln had two great opportunities to retake the lead. Early in the quarter, the Blue Tigers advanced the ball to the FHSU 17 and, on fourth down, attempted a 34-yard field goal. The FHSU special teams made yet another big play, however, blocking the kick and preventing LU from regaining the scoreboard advantage.
After a huge defensive stop by the Blue Tigers ending with Fort Hays State punting from inside its own end zone, Lincoln had one last chance to end the game. LU took over with 2:51 left in the game and, on the first play of the drive, Morris connected with Woodard on a 21-yard completion down to the FHSU 17. A first down run by Morris gained only one yard. On second down, Morris dropped back to pass and was met by an FHSU defender. With his legs wrapped up, Morris heaved a pass towards the end zone, where it was intercepted by A.J. Woodall.
Lincoln had two timeouts left, and tried to get the ball back for one last drive. On first and second down, the Blue Tigers allowed FHSU to gain five yards. That set up the biggest third down of the game. Cooper took the handoff and a Blue Tiger defender appeared to have him wrapped up behind the marker. Cooper continued fighting, though, and eventually broke free long enough to gain the first down, ending any chances of Lincoln's offense getting another possession.
Fort Hays State entered the game with the MIAA's fifth-best rushing attack, but on Saturday it was Lincoln holding the advantage on the ground, gaining 177 yards to 139 for the Tigers. The Blue Tigers dominated in passing yardage, gaining 288 through the air compared to 82 for FHSU. Lincoln also held a 36:54-23:06 advantage in time of possession.
Morris finished his day 24-39 for 288 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed for 42 yards. Henderson gained 109 yards on the ground while Malone gained 26, with each tallying scores. Woodard and Trammell both gained over 100 yards receiving, with Woodard catching 11 passes for 109 yards and Trammell making six receptions for 128 yards.
On defense, O'Hara Fluellen picked off a pass, recording his third interception of the season and the 20th interception of his Lincoln career. He now just needs three interceptions to break the school record for career picks of 22, held by recent LU Hall of Fame inductee Bruce Johnson. Fluellen also had four solo tackles and five overall takedowns in the game. Johnny Beautelus and Timmy Dunn each had six tackles and a sack while Gavin Frevert also had a sack to go with four tackles. Demarius Flakes and Herman Hopson each had pass break-ups while Khalif Stanten forced a fumble.
The Blue Tigers dropped to 1-7 on the season and 1-7 in the MIAA with the loss. Fort Hays State, meanwhile, is now 3-5 on the year and 3-5 against league competition.
Lincoln will have Senior Day when the team heads home for the final time in 2012 next Saturday (Oct. 27). The Blue Tigers will host Central Oklahoma at 2:00 p.m. CT. It will be the first meeting between the two programs, with UCO joining the MIAA for the 2012-13 season.