by JACOB WOERTHER
Week one of Mules Football was everything the Mule Nation could have hoped it would be. The offense, led by a first-time starter at quarterback and two redshirt freshmen in the backfield, amassed a staggering 470 total yards of offense. The only problem, so did their week two opponents.
The Fort Hays State Tigers totaled 481 yards of offense last week in their 48-7 victory over Missouri Southern. The Tigers led 41-7 entering the half following two touchdowns in the air and one on the ground by starting quarterback Jacob Mezera. Mezera completed 21-29 passes for 245 yards before being pulled from the game at the end of the third quarter.
The Mules defense should feel prepared for Mezera following their performance against Pittsburg State’s John Roderique. Roderique ranked second in the MIAA last season in passing yards per game with 277, only behind Garret Fugate. The Mules, however, held Roderique to just 102 yards in the first half of last week’s game. Roderique left the game at halftime and was replaced by Thomas LePage.
On the offensive side of the ball, it could be in the Mules’ interest to rely on their green backfield. Although the Tigers held Missouri Southern to just 81 rushing yards last week, their run defense finished eighth in the MIAA last season. In the last meeting between these two teams, the Mules totaled over 200 rushing yards.
Last week the Mules demonstrated that their offense has the ability to put up similar rushing numbers again this year. Koby Wilkerson led the Mules in rushing against the Gorillas with 122 yards, fellow redshirt freshman Devante Turner finished with 64 yards and Brook Bolles ran for 61 yards.
The Mules backfield could potentially see help from a running back who competed against the Tigers last year: Xavier Wahpun. He missed the first game of the season due to injury, but according to Head Coach Jim Svoboda, Wahpun’s set to take the field again in the near future.
“I think he’ll be back soon,” Svoboda said. “I think if we would’ve pushed him he probably could’ve played (against Pittsburg State), but health is number one.”
Washpun ran for 243 yards and two touchdowns in the six games he played last season. His best performance was against the Tigers, during which he totaled 117 rushing yards and a touchdown.
While it remains a possibility, Svoboda made it clear that his return date is yet to be determined.
Kickoff time between the Mules and Tigers is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept, 7, at Lewis Field Stadium in Hays, Kansas.