HAYS, Kan. – Fort Hays State ended its long string of losses in Hays to Northwest Missouri State on Saturday night (Sept. 16). The Tigers defeated the No. 15/13 ranked Bearcats with a strong defensive effort by a score of 17-6. It was the first win for the Tigers against the Bearcats in Hays since 1977, snapping a run of eight-straight victories for the Bearcats going back to 1979. The last seven of those eight were in MIAA play starting back in 2007. FHSU is now 2-1 on the season, while the Bearcats fall to 1-2.
Fort Hays State entered the game allowing 337.5 yards per game so far this year, but held the Bearcats below that mark on Saturday night with just 291. The Tiger defense stepped up time and time again to keep the Bearcats without a touchdown and just two field goals. The Bearcats went to the red zone three times in the game, resulting in both of their field goals on the first two trips. On the third trip, the Bearcats were trailing by just four (10-6) when Parrish Terry of FHSU made a tide-turning play, forcing a fumble at the FHSU 3-yardline recovered by Makel Williams at the 4-yardline.
Fort Hays State then marched the ball 96 yards for a game-sealing touchdown drive, capped on a 33-yard touchdown reception by the Tigers' offensive standout of the game, Bryson Smith. He had both touchdown grabs in the game for FHSU, also scoring on an 18-yard pass early in the third quarter to give FHSU a 10-3 lead after the game was tied 3-3 at halftime. Smith finished with 109 receiving yards on just four catches, but also threw a 57-yard pass to Trevor Watts in the first quarter.
The Tigers finished with 353 yards of total offense, the majority gained through the air as Jack Dawson finished with 289 passing yards and Smith's lone toss of 57 gave the Tigers 346 passing yards. The usually tough run defense the Bearcats produce year-in, year-out held the Tigers to just seven net yards on the ground.
The Bearcats entered this contest with no sacks allowed yet this season and the Tiger defensive front was disruptive all night. Jason Wallace had 2.0 sacks by producing one of his own and two assisted stops. Terry finished with 1.5 sacks and Myles Menges was the other half of one of the Wallace sacks to give the Tigers a total of four for the game. Two of the four sacks were key in stalling out the Bearcat drives the resulted in field goals in the red zone. Terry finished with 3.0 tackles for loss. Linebacker John Johnson led the Tiger defense with 11 tackles, followed by Mason Perez with nine.
Northwest Missouri State took consecutive losses for the first time in 57 games after falling to nationally ranked Emporia State in Week 2 at home by a score of 33-13. Fort Hays State was also the last school to hand NWMSU a second-straight loss back in 2017 when the Tigers won 13-12 in Maryville to claim their first MIAA title outright when both teams were ranked in the Top 10 of the AFCA Division II Top 25 Poll.
Tiger receivers Trevor Watts, Bryson Smith, and Jayden Horace tore up the Bearcat secondary for 318 receiving yards as a trio. Watts led the Tigers with 126 yards on seven catches, while Smith had his aforementioned 109 on four catches and Horace had 83 yards on just two catches. They had 143 yards after catches combined.
Jay Harris led the Bearcats' ground game with 104 rushing yards. Henry Martin completed 21-of-35 passes for 162 yards. Tank Young was the top Bearcat receiver with 33 yards. Cahleel Smith led NWMSU in tackles with eight.