By Dave Wagner
BLACKWATER DRAW — Eastern New Mexico University made sure there would be no suspense this time.
Junior quarterback Steven Hinson ran for three touchdowns and threw for another one Saturday night as the Greyhounds pulled away for a 45-14 victory over New Mexico Highlands at Greyhound Stadium.
ENMU (2-0) was coming off a last-second 18-17 win in its opener at Adams State, but controlled field position with a dominating second-half performance.
Highlands (0-2), which pulled within 10 points with a touchdown in the closing seconds of the half, was held to three first downs and 31 yards over the final two quarters.
Hinson scored ENMU’s first two touchdowns, then ran 6 yards for another score and threw a 31-yard TD pass to Derrick Hunter in the third quarter as the Hounds opened a 38-14 lead.
Backup Jon Bell played most of the final 17 minutes at quarterback and led the Hounds to their final touchdown, which he scored on a 10-yard run with 6:02 left.
Six of ENMU’s seven scoring drives covered 45 yards or less.
“We timed out (on pitch plays) a lot better with the running backs today,” Hinson said. “Last week we were so close on every play. It seemed like we were just one (mistake) away every time.”
The Hounds never trailed, taking the lead after Corey White returned the opening kickoff 59 yards to the NMHU 34. Three plays later, Henson went in on a 7-yard keeper with less than 1 1/2 minutes gone.
“The line made a big improvement this week,” said Hinson, who completed 7 of 14 passes for 77 yards and rushed nine times for 42. “They got on people tonight.
“I just had to settle down and get in a groove. The last game, I wasn’t in the right mindset.”
ENMU piled up a 345-271 advantage in total yardage. Eastern’s ground attack was well-distributed, led by sophomore Dwayne Davis with nine carries for 58 yards.
They also spread the wealth on defense as 12 players were credited with between four and six tackles. Linebackers Courage Idemudia and Adrian Quigley both had a pair of quarterback sacks.
The special teams also got into the act with Quigley and Jason Tezeno partially blocking punts.
Tezeno threw Cowboys punter Adam Alvarez for a 7-yard loss when Alvarez fumbled a punt snap in the second quarter. That led to a 1-yard touchdown keeper by Hinson.
“The first half we were playing kind of uncharacteristic of how we usually play,” junior free safety Ty Touchstone said. “The second half I think we just started getting more pressure (on Highlands QB Nick Higgs), and our cornerbacks started playing better.”
Highlands, which has lost 14 in a row dating to late in the 2001 season, tied the game late in the first quarter on a 48-yard pass from Higgs to sophomore wide receiver Ikaika Neizman. Then, trailing 24-7, Higgs connected with Neizman on a 55-yard pass, setting up a 12-yard scoring toss to Jose Serate with 9.1 seconds to go.
“We had some trouble in the first half (defensively), but our defense came back (after halftime) and kept a lot of heat on the quarterback,” ENMU coach Bud Elliott said.
Elliott was disappointed with the team’s 110 yards in penalties, including 75 in the second half.
“We kept shooting ourselves in the foot in the red zone (inside NMHU’s 20), or we’d have scored more points,” he said. “We had penalties that we have to get over.”