In what Drew Harvey called one of the "crazier games" he's been a part of, the Fort Hays State junior linebacker came through with two of the biggest plays in Saturday's 42-41 roller-coaster win at Pittsburg State.
Harvey, a transfer from the University of Kansas, forced and recovered a fumble in the third quarter and intercepted a pass early in the fourth to swing the momentum to the Tigers.
Fort Hays (5-2) later held off the Gorillas for its fifth straight win after Pitt State missed a 38-yard field goal with 1:03 left in the game.
"The coaches were on us all week about how crazy this environment was. It was amazing to play here, really," Harvey said. "I'm very proud of how we did. We muscled through adversity."
Fort Hays led 28-24 at halftime, but the Tigers committed a red-zone turnover on the first possession of the second half and Pitt State controlled most of the third quarter before Harvey help sparked FHSU.
With the Tigers trailing 34-28 late in the third, Harvey ripped the ball away from Pitt State quarterback Brandon Mlekus and recovered at the FHSU 33.
"He was kind of holding the ball loosely," Harvey said. "One of our coaches on the sideline said, 'If you get the chance, rip it out,' " Harvey said. "I saw he was doing it again so I had to take it."
After Tiger quarterback Chance Fuller hit Layne Bieberle for a 67-yard touchdown pass to put the Tigers in front, Harvey picked off Mlekus near midfield and gave the Tigers the ball at the Pitt State 17, changing directions for an adventurous route on the return.
"I felt like I kid again, because I used to do kick returns when I was like a pee-wee," Harvey said. "Where ever I saw was open, I was just running."
The Tigers took advantage of Harvey's interception and return with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Fuller to Manny Ramsey with just over 12 minutes left.
FHSU coach Chris Brown credited Harvey for adjusting to Pitt State's veer-option offense in the second half.
"First half, I think he was just trying to figure it out. Being at KU, he probably doesn't face a lot of offenses like that and neither does our team," Brown said. "He finally got in a groove, finally started figuring things out, understanding how to get off the cut block. He made a lot of plays for us. That interception was tremendous."
Fuller and the FHSU receiving corps helped match the Gorillas' big plays, putting up 306 yards through the air including touchdown passes of 68 and 67 yards to Bieberle, who finished with 152 yards on four catches. Harley Hazlett made eight grabs for 51 yards and recovered a Tiger fumble in the end zone for a touchdown in the first half, while Ramsey added four catches for 61 yards with a TD.
"When we're clicking, it's hard to defend us," Bieberle said. "We showed out today."
"We got a group of (good receivers)," Brown added. "When they get in there, they want to compete and they want to make plays for this team and that's exactly what they did."
Fort Hays will look to push its win streak to six on Saturday, facing Nebraska-Kearney at 2 p.m. Saturday in Lewis Field Stadium. The Lopers (5-2) knocked off previously unbeaten Northwest Missouri 24-17 last weekend in Kearney.