Lions to face struggling Fort Hays

Washburn freshman Justin Cooper tried to drive the ball down the field, but is stopped by the Southern defense. Southern lost 23-0.

Washburn freshman Justin Cooper tried to drive the ball down the field, but is stopped by the Southern defense. Southern lost 23-0.

Andrew Ford

The Lions will face off against a Fort Hays team on Saturday, which statistically mirrors itself.

The Tigers (2-4, 1-3 MIAA), like the Lions (3-3, 1-3 MIAA), have one of the best defenses in the conference, allowing just 270 yard per game, good enough for the top spot in the MIAA.

“They are a salty defensive outfit, they’ve given up less than a hundred yards a game rushing,” said Lions’ Head Coach Bart Tatum. “They’ve got the number-one ranked defense in the conference statistically and they play hard, they’re fundamentally sound. They’re doing a great job on that side of the ball.”

The Tiger defense has also been devastating at neutralizing opposing teams through the air, limiting them to 177 yards per game, second only to Southern’s 137 yards per game.

Fort Hays complements its pass defense with a stifling rushing defense, too.

Against the run, they’ve halted everyone, allowing 93 yards per game. The Lion defense has allowed just shy of double, at 177 yards per game.

On offense the Tiger’s too have struggled to put adequate points up on the board, reeling in just 21 per game. Their former starting quarterback, Mike Garrison, who is out with a broken jaw, averaged just 134 yards through the air, eeking out ninth in conference.

Moving the offense in another direction, the Tigers plugged in their leading receiver, Anthony Smith into the signal calling position last week against Missouri Western and had some success, though a stalled fourth quarter drive ended the possibility of a win as the Tigers went down 31-28.

The sophomore had trouble getting the ball into the hands of his receivers, completing just six of 16 passes with three interceptions, but found success using Smith as an option quarterback, pressing for 134 yards on the ground.

According to Tatum, the Tigers led by Smith will use a spread run-pass option offense.

The Lions too will try and establish a different offensive rhythm this Saturday. Last week, Adam Hinspeter had trouble with timing routes to receivers and numerous dropped balls.

Still, the change in the offense will mostly be adjustments, according to Tatum, and he has nothing drastic planned for Saturday.

Fans shouldn’t expect to see Issac Norman calling out audibles Saturday, they’re more likely to see an emphasis on catching balls and running more precise routes.

Hinspeter pointed to how little mistakes across the field that can add up to a broken play.

“I think we work with the receivers on a daily basis, and I don’t think that necessarily has changed,” Tatum said. “We’re just going to keep plugging and trying to get better. It’s the little things that are costing us.

“We’re just looking to get guys in the position to make plays and hopefully they’ll make ’em.”

Last week’s defensive effort against Washburn was nearly perfect in the Lions’ Homecoming game and for many fans it made the first home shutout in five years even more tough to swallow.

“It was very, very disturbing for the football team because everyone feels bad about a loss,” Tatum said.

Jared Brawner, junior middle linebacker, said the defense focuses on just making plays and having fun.

“We put our pressure on ourselves,

Brawner said. “You can’t just execute and just do your job, our focus is to make plays and have fun. If you do that, you’ll win the game.”