As of now, all of Fort Hays State's goals remain intact for this season.
But that could change with another setback in Week 3 for the Tigers, who play host to Washburn at 7 p.m. Saturday at Lewis Field Stadium.
“We struggle again this week, who knows what happens?” Tiger coach Chris Brown said. “We’re playing a very good Washburn team this week. … We got a big challenge ahead of us. We’ve got to prepare to win this ballgame. We’ve got to do everything we possibly can to win this ballgame.”
FHSU tight end Matt Wendelberger sensed a brief sense of panic in the Tigers’ locker room after a 23-13 loss at Missouri Western last week, but said the team still has the big picture in mind.
“After the game, a lot of dudes’ heads were down,” he said. “You could see it in their eyes, like, ‘Maybe the season’s over?’ But then you got to bring them back, especially the young kids. It was only Week 2.
“We just got to take it week by week and put our nose to the grindstone and really get after it like we are this week.”
Washburn is also coming off a loss, falling to Northwest Missouri State 38-17 last week. The Ichabods had a 17-14 lead early in the third quarter before the Bearcats, now ranked No. 5, reeled off 24 straight points.
“They had some good things against Northwest,” Brown said. “The score doesn’t show it, but there’s a few plays where if they get those plays, it’s a one-touchdown game and they have an opportunity to win it.
“They’re a good football team. They had a couple bad breaks in that game and a couple things didn’t go their way.”
Washburn junior quarterback Blake Peterson has thrown for 483 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. JJ Letcher has nine receptions for 128 yards and a TD while J.J. Brania-Hopp has seven catches for 183 yards and a score for the Bods.
WU’s defense is led by senior linebackers Austin Tillman and Derrick McGreevy, who’ve combined for 51 tackles in the two games.
“Offensively, they do some great things,” Brown said of the Ichabods. “You’ve got to defend two things at the same time, run and pass. You’ve got to defend the deep ball. You’ve got to be able to stop the run because they got some big guys up front that move people. Then defensively, they give some trouble with different coverages, different looks that they do that we really haven’t seen from other teams. They’re tough.”
Brown was Washburn’s defensive coordinator for nine years before taking the Fort Hays job. Tigers’ defensive coordinator Cooper Harris was an assistant at WU for 10 years and FHSU special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach Steven Dudley played for the Ichabods.
But Brown said time has limited the amount of inside knowledge the Tigers’ staff has about the Ichabods.
“I’m eight years removed. Coach Harris is seven years removed. That’s a long time,” Brown said. “Staffs change over time and the way that they do and call things. … Things are a little bit different. They still run the 4-2-5, they still run the 3-3 stack, just like they did when I was there, but they changed up the coverages just a little bit.
“Things have changed quite a bit. Players change, too. We’re not as similar as people think we are and understand each other as much as we used to. Things have changed quite a bit so we just have to lock into what they’re doing now and try to hone in on those things and try to stop them.”