Tigers Claw Their Way Past UCO 31-24
Redshirt Freshman Jake Standlee leaps over a Fort Hays State player Saturday night September 16, 2017 in a tough loss in front of a home crowd. (Hayden Barzditis/ The Vista)
After entering halftime with a 14-7 lead, the University of Central Oklahoma Bronchos fell to the #21 Fort Hays State Tigers 31-24 at Wantland Stadium.
“Our kids competed,” Head Coach Nick Bobeck said. “I was really proud of the way that they competed.”
To start off the game, Chas Stallard found J.T. Luper for an 11-yard gain. The Bronchos failed to produce any yardage the rest of the drive after that pass play and would punt the ball to give Fort Hays their first possession.
On third and seven, Fort Hays State dropped back to pass, but Carson Smith was able to wrap up Jacob Mezera for the Bronchos first sack of the season. The Tigers were forced to punt and pinned the Bronchos on their own four yard line to start their second drive.
After a couple of runs by Stallard to start the drive, the Broncho quarterback found Luper once again, this time for a 75-yard play to get UCO into the red zone for the first time on the night. The long pass play put Stallard as the all-time leader in all-purpose yards in school history.
“I’m just super proud of that kid (Stallard),” Bobeck said. “This whole university should be proud of that kid.”
On second-and-11, Stallard pulled back to pass, but couldn’t find a man open so he decided to tuck it and run as he scrambled for a 15-yard touchdown to put the Bronchos up 7-0 with 7:44 left in the first quarter.
On the following Tigers possession, defensive end Trey Wormington intercepted a tipped pass to give the Bronchos the ball on their opponents 17-yard line. It was the Bronchos first forced turnover of the year.
The turnover set up another Stallard touchdown run, this time for 3-yards, to give the Bronchos a 14-0 lead with just under six minutes to go.
Facing a 14-point deficit, Fort Hays State started to drive the ball down the field, with a 22-yard run by Harley Hazlett that put Fort Hays in Bronchos territory. But, just as Fort Hays started to gain a little momentum, UCO’s Stephan Robinson caught an interception that gave the Bronchos the ball at the their own two yard line.
After the first quarter the Bronchos lead Fort Hays 14-0. Stallard threw for 107-yards in the first quarter, with Luper having 93 of those yards.
Following a Broncho punt in the second quarter, Fort Hays started to chip away into UCO territory. Fort Hays would get a long pass play for 44-yards that set up them up on the UCO 28-yard line after a 15-yard penalty. Fort Hays scored off an 8-yard run by Hazlett to pull them within a touchdown with nine minutes to go in the first half.
With 1:24 left in the first half, the Tigers attempted to convert a fourth and one on UCO’s one yard line, but were shut down by the Broncho defense. The Tigers forced a three-and-out on UCO’s following possession and attempted for a hail mary, but the Bronchos got another sack.
On the first play of the second half, the Tigers completed a 75-yard touchdown on a pass from Mezera to to Kenneth Iheme to tie the game 14-14.
The Bronchos continued their pursuit of the quarterback on the night, and racked up their third sack of the night on a third and long. Fort Hays decided to punt the ball, but a roughing the kicker penalty extended their drive and kept the ball in the Tigers’ hands.
With the ball on the 37-yard line the Tigers broke off a long run that resulted in a touchdown, but it was called back after Fort Hays was called for a holding penalty. This resulted in a fourth-and-1 opportunity for the Tigers and the Bronchos were able to hold off Fort Hays to force a turnover on downs.
The Bronchos were unable to convert on a long third down gave the ball right back to the Tigers with the third quarter starting to wind down.
With just a minute remaining in the third, Fort Hays State broke the tie off a 5-yard touchdown run by Iheme to put the Tigers up 21-14.
As the third quarter came to a close, the Bronchos had the ball in Tiger territory trailing by just a touchdown.
After a penalty set UCO back, the Bronchos kicked a 46-yard field goal to make the score 21-17 with 11-minutes left in the game. On the Tigers next possession, the Bronchos forced a three-and-out to give the ball back to their offense.
The forced punt by the Bronchos led UCO to take the lead as Stallard found L’liott Curry for a 12-yard touchdown to put the Bronchos up 24-21 with 7:32 to go in the game.
The Tigers wouldn’t go away easy as Mezera completed a 40-yard pass to Burchfield to put Fort Hays on the UCO 13-yard line, where the Tigers would eventually kick a field goal to tie the game at 24.
Fort Hays got the ball back with 1:35 remaining after forcing UCO to punt. After a third down conversion, Mereza threw a long pass to Burchfield who broke a tackle on his way to a 64-yard touchdown reception as the Tigers took a 31-24 lead with :42 seconds left in the game.
The Bronchos had a chance at a Hail Mary in the last second of the game, but the pass fell incomplete. Fort Hays State beat UCO 31-24, dropping the Bronchos to 1-2 on the season.
Stallard finished 23-29 for 293 yards and 3- touchdowns, with J.T. Luper leading the way in receiving with 12 receptions for 192 yards. The Bronchos defense forced two turnovers in the game, but the turnover margin could not seal the victory over the Tigers.
“Our guys got after it tonight and they did a good job,” Bobeck said. “We just needed to make plays there at the end.”
UCO’s next game is on the road Sept.23 against Missouri Western.