By Dave Wagner
Gary Gaines has had a tough time against most teams in his three-plus seasons as the Abilene Christian football coach.
But even though the Wildcats are 3-0 against ENMU in that time — and have won four in a row in the series overall — Gaines isn’t exactly licking his chops at the possibility of facing the Greyhounds again in Saturday’s 5 p.m. (MDT) Lone Star Conference South Division opener for both teams at ACU’s Shotwell Stadium.
“They’re impressive as always,” said Gaines, 11-23 overall at the school, as the Wildcats (1-2) prepare for the Hounds, who take a 4-0 record into this game for the third time in four seasons. “They’re really playing good football in all areas.
“(Junior quarterback Steven) Hinson’s picked up where (graduated QB Heath) Ridenour left off. Defensively, they’re just a big-play team.”
ENMU, ranked 19th in a pair of NCAA Division II polls this week, is well aware of its struggles against the Wildcats — including last year’s 20-19 loss on a 49-yard field goal as time expired.
“We need to go out and just play our game,” Eastern coach Bud Elliott said. “We need to concentrate on what we can do (against) our opponent more than who we’re playing.”
The Wildcats, playing their third consecutive home game, have a 46-7 win over Fort Lewis to go with losses to Central Arkansas and Tarleton State — both nationally ranked at the time. Last week, ACU had an open date.
“We didn’t get as much work done last week as we’d hoped because we had some guys banged up,” Gaines said. “It just kind of throws you a little bit.”
The Wildcats do have some big-play threats — notably senior quarterback Colby Freeman, a third-year starter for Gaines after transferring from Texas A&M.
“We need him to play well for us to be effective,” Gaines said.
After struggling past Adams State 18-17 on a late field goal in the opener, the Hounds have played a more dominating brand of football over the last three weeks. Elliott said he’s pleased with the defense and special teams, but noted the offense still has some things to smooth out.
“We made too many mistakes in the red zone (inside the opponents’ 20),” Elliott said of Saturday’s 32-2 drubbing of winless East Central at Blackwater Draw. “But we’re playing a little better each week offensively. I thought Steven (8 for 13 for 175 yards against the Tigers) threw the ball really well last week