The Missouri Southern Lions are coming off of a tough road less to Washburn last week, but their Homecoming opponent thinks they stand tall among MIAA teams.

“I think that Missouri Southern is one of the sleeping giants in the conference,” said Kevin Verdugo, Fort Hays State head football coach.

The Lions are led into tomorrow’s game by a pair of solid running backs in senior Alley Broussard who is averaging 106 yards per game and redshirt freshman Renard Johnson who is averaging 98 yards per game.

Fort Hays comes into Saturday’s game with the MIAA’s top rated run defense.

Senior linebacker Zach Scruggs leads the Tiger defense with 35 tackles so far this season. As a whole the Tiger defense makes a ridiculous number of tackles for loss as they like to shoot through the gaps on run blitzes. The three starting linebackers, Scruggs, Joey Cotten, and Andrew Jones have combined for 15 tackles for loss adding up to 59 yards of lost yardage. Defensive end Jason Hill leads the team with 12.5 tackles for loss for 77 yards lost.

The Lions will have a substantial advantage in the passing game. Junior quarterback Adam Hinspeter is currently first in the conference with 13 touchdown passes and his favorite target is an All-American in senior wide receiver Colin Bado. The Tigers come into this game ranked dead last in pass defense. However, last season C.J. Lovett one of their corners was honored as the Co-Freshman of the year along with Washburn linebacker Zach Watkins and Hill is leading the MIAA in sacks with eight.

“We did a nice job of getting in his face last year,” said Verdugo.

“We were able to get pressure on him up the middle.”

Defensively, for the Lions, sophomore linebackers Jared Brawner and Rudy Mascaro should be salivating at this game. Fort Hays is a run first team with a run first quarterback in Shane Jackson. This game will give plenty of opportunities to pad stats. When Jackson does decide to throw, senior defensive end BJ Russow and company will need to do a good job containing him.

That is IF Jackson gets the starting nod. So far this season Jackson has split time with Ryne Salyer, a Division I transfer from Murray State. Salyer has a much better arm but is far less mobile. If these two split time again, that will play into Southern’s hands as the play calling will become obvious based on which quarterback is in the game.

“We are going to have to play pretty dang good to beat them,” Lions head coach Bart Tatum said.

In other Lions news, Southern cracked the regional top 12 in this week’s poll. But Tatum and the team aren’t reading to much into that.

“We need to be improving, that’s where our focus should be not rankings,” said Tatum.

If the offense for Southern passes the ball as well as they are capable of and the defense shows up like they have so far this year, look for Southern to make the Homecoming court happy with a decisive victory.

Kickoff for the Homecoming game will be at 2 p.m. Admission is free for students.