MARYVILLE, Mo. – Fort Hays State took a 12-7 lead in the second quarter, but No. 2/4 ranked Northwest Missouri State scored 26 unanswered points to build a 33-12 lead and beat the Tigers 33-19 Thursday night in the 2022 season opener at Bearcat Stadium. Chance Fuller moved to the top of the career passing yards list in FHSU history and found All-America tight end Hunter Budke for a pair of touchdowns in the game.
The Tigers made a few too many key mistakes a team cannot make against a top-10 ranked team early on, which allowed the Bearcats to cash in on golden opportunities and extend the current best home field win streak in NCAA Division II to 13 games. The Tigers were starting to gain momentum on the first drive of the night, but a fumble turned the ball over to the Bearcats at the FHSU 42. A couple of Tiger penalties shortened the field even more and the Bearcats scored the first touchdown of the night a few moments later.
The Tigers shook off the first few mistakes and put together a 65-yard drive that resulted in a 29-yard Emanuel Aguilar field goal. The Tigers shut down the next Bearcat drive and trailed 7-3 at the end of the first quarter. The Tigers then marched another 52 yards to set up a 47-yard field goal by Aguilar, pulling within one point of the Bearcats.
The Tiger defense stood tall once again forcing the Bearcats to punt and Alex Schremmer nearly took his return back for a touchdown, finally tackled at the NWMSU 11 after a 55-yard return. That set up the first of two touchdown connections between Fuller and Budke, a 10-yard strike to put the Tigers on top 12-7 with 8:01 remaining before halftime.
The Bearcats had to settle for a field goal on their ensuing drive and FHSU still held control at 12-10, but then a sack and a short punt gave NWMSU just a 31-yard field to work with. The Bearcats capitalized and a touchdown put them back into the lead at 17-12 with 1:28 to go in the second quarter. Then another untimely fumble at the end of an electric 52-yard kick return gave the Bearcats the ball again. They went down and tacked on a field goal just before halftime, taking a 20-12 lead to the locker room.
The Bearcats used that late first-half momentum throughout the third quarter to tack on two touchdowns and take control of the game 33-12. Fuller found Budke for the second touchdown strike, another 10-yarder, early in the fourth quarter. The Tiger defense held the Bearcats in check primarily throughout the fourth quarter, but the offense came up a bit short on opportunities to cut into the lead further.
Fuller finished the night with 309 passing yards, completing 36-of-61 attempts. He now leads the all-time passing yards list at FHSU with 7,876, going past the old mark of 7,682 set by his predecessor Jacob Mezera in 2018.
Manny Ramsey finished with a team-high 90 receiving yards, while Trevor Watts caught 10 balls for 88 yards. Defensively, Makel Williams had a team-best seven tackles in his first contest as a Tiger, while 2021 team tackle leader Myles Menges added six.
Northwest Missouri State produced 148 of its 396 yards in the game in the third quarter. Neither Bearcat quarterback finished with more than 100 passing yards and Kevin Dominique had a team-best 86 rushing yards. Isaac Vollstedt led the Bearcats in tackles with nine, while adding one sack. Zach Howard had three sacks in the game for the Bearcats.
Fort Hays State looks to bounce back in its home opener on Thursday night (Sept. 8) against Missouri Western. The Griffons will enter at 1-0 on the year after a 35-0 win over Central Oklahoma.