By Dave Wagner
BLACKWATER DRAW — With tough road games looming against Lone Star Conference South Division powers Midwestern State and Texas A&M-Kingsville, the Eastern New Mexico University football team figured it needed to regain some momentum.
Rebounding from their first loss of the season last week at Abilene Christian, the Greyhounds pounded outmanned Angelo State 31-0 on Saturday in front of a Homecoming crowd of 2,500 at Greyhound Stadium. It was the Hounds’ first shutout since October 1999.
ENMU (5-1, 1-1 LSC), ranked No. 23 in nation in NCAA Division II, took the game by the throat early and dominated the Rams (2-4, 0-1) on both sides of the ball in becoming the first home team to win in the series since 1996.
“We came out and played a good game,” said sophomore wide receiver Derrick Hunter, one of four ENMU players to catch two passes in the game. “We needed to bounce back from last week.”
While ENMU had three touchdown drives of 80 or more yards, Hunter said the team rode a solid performance by its defense, which limited ASU to five first downs and 104 total yards, including one yard rushing.
“We feed off the defense,” Hunter said. “For them to pitch a shutout is great. It made our job a lot easier.”
Junior middle linebacker Jeff Howard, who led ENMU in tackles with 11 and had one of the team’s five quarterback sacks, said the play of tackles Tremaine Johnson and Brandon Wickware was key for his platoon.
“It helps to have tackles like that because they end up double-teaming those guys and that allows (the ends and linebackers) to make tackles,” the Portales High grad said. “We just kept playing aggressively, because those guys had come from behind the last two games to win.”
Junior quarterback Steven Hinson rushed for 135 yards and completing 8 of 14 passes for 142 yards, including two touchdown tosses to sophomore tight end Art Tennison.
The Hounds punted on their first series, but then put together touchdown drives of 80 and 84 yards.
“I was really pleased,” ENMU coach Bud Elliott said. “I felt like we really played well on both offense and defense.
“We mixed it up a little (on offense). We were able to throw successfully on them a couple of times, but we really hurt them with the option.”
ENMU’s first possession of the second half sealed the win, a 50-yard drive in which the 5-foot-8 Hinson zipped through the right side, broke a couple of tackles and scored on a 25-yard run for a 21-0 lead.
“The first series of the third quarter dictated the rest of the game,” Howard said. “When we scored there, they pretty much quit.”
ASU, which had 18 consecutive winning seasons under coach Jerry Vandergriff before going 2-8 last fall, picked up three first downs on its first possession in moving into field goal range. But kicker Ryan Hunt missed right from 25 yards.
Angelo made one first down on its next series, but quarterback Kyle Hardin went down with a shoulder injury on a hard hit by ENMU linebacker Courage Idamudia and never returned. The Rams didn’t pick up another first down until early in the final period.
“It was a bad day at Black Rock,” Vandergriff quipped. “We just didn’t play very well, and they did.”
The Rams had some success early with a bit of an unusual formation, putting two receivers far to the left, but Vandergriff said it came down to players. He added that Hardin’s injury also hurt.
“He makes a difference,” Vandergriff said. “We’re riddled (with injuries) up front, but he gives you a better opportunity because of his mobility.
“You can’t trick people all the time. You’ve got to have players to line up with people, and right now we don’t.”