Fort Hays State went on the road to Maryville, Missouri — one of the toughest places to win in DII football — to face Northwest Missouri State in a must-win situation to keep its DII playoff hopes alive. For the second straight year, the Tigers leave Maryville victorious, upsetting the No. 10 Bearcats, 17-16.
The victory spoils the Bearcats' chances of clinching the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association title and gives the Tigers a chance to win their second-straight title. Here are five takeaways from what is quickly becoming a fun rivalry in the MIAA.
Consecutive one-point victories
One point. That's the margin of victory of both Fort Hays State victories over Northwest Missouri State the past two seasons. Last year, the Tigers won 13-12 to lock up the MIAA title. This season, Dante Brown's third-quarter field goal was the difference, giving Fort Hays State the 17-16 win.
It's a final from Maryville. The Tigers knock off the Bearcats by one point for the second straight year. Tigers and Bearcats are now tied for the MIAA lead at 8-2. #DefendTheFort pic.twitter.com/KSnMcYOiSo— FHSU Athletics (@fhsuathletics) November 3, 2018
Two unlikely road wins
Fort Hays State has now gone into Bearcat Stadium two straight years and left both times with a victory. The Tigers are the only team to accomplish that feat in the last four seasons.
Northwest Missouri State is a remarkable 25-2 at home the past four years, obviously helped out by those consecutive undefeated 15-0 national championship seasons in 2015 and 2016. Both of those losses came at the hands of Fort Hays State. Dating back to its last home loss in 2014 before the Tigers figured out the riddle of Bearcat Stadium, Northwest Missouri State had won 21 straight in Maryville. That's utter dominance and makes what the Tigers have accomplished even more astounding.
The Northwest Missouri State defense has put up some of the more mind-boggling numbers the past four seasons. The Bearcats saw one of those amazing feats continue against Fort Hays State.
Fort Hays State rushed for 12 yards. The whole team, twelve total yards. That's it. That marks 51-straight games since the Bearcats last allowed a 100-yard rusher.
A memorable first start
Red-shirt freshman Chance Fuller threw for a career-best 274 yards last week versus Lindenwood. This week, he was called upon to make his first start, and while it wasn't perfect, he certainly delivered.
Fuller completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns. He had some difficulties against this Bearcats defense, throwing three interceptions, but then again, who doesn't? If this was a glimpse into what the future holds for the Tigers, they are in good hands.
On the other side, the Tigers were able to handle the Bearcats redshirt-freshman quarterback sensation, Braden Wright. Wright — who is having a breakout season, tied for second in DII football with 11 rushing touchdowns at the quarterback position — threw for just 117 yards and one touchdown while rushing for 13 yards. The passing yards were Wright's lowest output of the season, while the rushing yards tied his lowest mark in 2018.
Non-ranked @fhsuathletics runs away with the W from No. 10 Northwest Missouri State, 17-16!— NCAA Division II (@NCAADII) November 3, 2018
Dante Brown put the Tigers back on top in the 3rd Q with a 42 yd field goal to ultimately get the win. #MakeItYours pic.twitter.com/FuGigDmMAG
Fort Hays State and Northwest Missouri State are now tied atop the MIAA at 8-2. The Tigers — who entered the week No. 7 in Super Region Three — hold the big edge with the upset. The Tigers head home to take on 0-9 Northeastern State on Senior Day in the regular-season finale.
The Bearcats, who sat at No. 4 in the stacked Super Region Three, hit the road to face a tricky 4-5 Central Missouri team. While both teams obviously want to finish the season on the right note with a win, both are facing must-win situations to ensure a spot in the DII Football Championship.