Oct. 19, 2007
Ninth-Ranked Bearcats Travel To Fort Hays State
Northwest will make its longest trek of the regular season Saturday as the ninth-ranked Bearcats take on Fort Hays State at 2 p.m. at Lewis Field in Hays, Kan.
It's the first true road test for Northwest in more than a month. The Bearcats made the 45-minute drive to Missouri Western back on Sept. 15.
Northwest (5-1, 5-0 MIAA) last competed at Lewis Field in 1979. Fort Hays State (3-4, 1-4 MIAA) joined the MIAA last season and was welcomed with a 59-0 drubbing against the Bearcats a year ago in Maryville. It was the second-worst loss in Tiger history.
Fort Hays State is 3-1 at home this season and features the league's top run defense. No team has broken 140 yards and no individual has topped 110.
Northwest is averaging 246 yards rushing per game, good for 12th in the nation, and hasn't been held to less than 200 since the season opener. Xavier Omon has run for more than 200 yards in each of his last two games.
Fort Hays State was the last team to hold Omon to less than 100 yards rushing, though it didn't have much to do with the Tiger defense. Omon had 13 carries for 62 yards and scored three touchdowns in the first half against the Tigers a year ago. With Northwest leading 38-0 at halftime, he wasn't needed in the second half.
The Bearcats are working to right two wrongs they've had this season - penalties and turnovers. The Bearcats rank ninth in the MIAA in turnover margin and are dead last in penalties, giving up more than 90 yards a game.
It was two fourth-quarter fumbles and 117 yards worth of penalties that kept Central Missouri within reach last weekend. A 38-yard run to the 3-yard line by Omon was wiped out by a holding penalty when a touchdown would have made it 35-13 Bearcats. Instead, Northwest needed a failed two-point conversion and an onside kick recovery to preserve a 28-26 win.
Offense has been the issue recently for the Tigers, who have totaled 14 offensive points in their last three games and scored 20 points overall. Missouri Southern blanked Fort Hays State 6-0 last weekend. The Tigers are the only MIAA team averaging less than 300 yards of offense per game.
The Bearcats have won 17 straight games against MIAA opponents including nine in a row on the road. Head Coach Mel Tjeerdsma will be shooting for his 197th career victory. Only 12 active coaches in all divisions of the NCAA have reached 200.
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