By Dave Wagner
BLACKWATER DRAW — The game could not have been more memorable for West Texas A&M coach Ronnie Jones.
Eastern New Mexico University’s football team would just as soon forget it.
WT handed the Greyhounds a stunning 49-23 Lone Star Conference South Division loss, capturing the “Wagon Wheel” game for the first time in five years.
The Buffaloes (3-7, 2-3 South) put together four touchdown drives of 65 or more yards in the first half, then returned two kicks for scores after the intermission to put the game out of reach.
“We felt like this one makes our season,” Jones said, noting WT’s seniors had never won in the series. “The kids have battled all year and deserved to win a game like this.
“To do it against a class coach and a class football team was really special. This was just our day.”
Junior tailback Aubrey Lacy, who had missed the Buffs’ last three games with a knee injury, rushed for 128 yards and four touchdowns. WT, winning for only the second time in its last 27 games against LSC competition, piled up a deceptively close 460-355 margin in total offense — the spread was 388-128 at halftime.
“Our defense stepped up this week,” Jones said. “They’ve been criticized, and sometimes rightfully so, but these young men have a lot of pride.”
Even a couple of early breaks couldn’t save the Hounds (6-4, 2-4). With WT leading 7-0 and driving, junior linebacker Jordon Lambert returned an interception 82 yards to tie it with just over six minutes left in the first quarter.
Later, a pass from ENMU quarterback Steven Hinson that bounced off the hands of wide receiver Derrick Hunter was grabbed by teammate Art Tennison on a 79-yard play to the WT 13.
Fide Davalos gained nine yards on first down, but the Hounds lost two yards on the next two plays and Lee Price’s 23-yard field goal try was partially deflected for a touchback on the final play of the period.
It was all Buffs after that. Quarterback Derek Maupin threw a 20-yard TD pass to tight end Jerry Hicks early in the second period, then Lacy scored on runs of 55 and 17 yards to make it 28-7 at halftime.
Eastern couldn’t mount anything on offense until it was far too late.
“They outplayed us and they deserved to win the Wagon Wheel,” ENMU coach Bud Elliott said. “I thought we were hesitant on offense from the get-go, and defensively we didn’t tackle anybody. They really had a good scheme and played it well; you have to give them credit.”
The Buffs stopped ENMU following the second-half kickoff and promptly stretched their lead on an 80-yard punt return by Jason Jones.
The Hounds got a 61-yard pass play from backup quarterback Jon Bell to Derrick Hunter early in the final period, but WT’s Anthony Armstrong caught the ensuing kickoff a yard deep in the end zone and took it all the way — officially 100 yards — to make it 49-14.
Among other things, Elliott was disappointed by the breakdowns on special teams.
“You’ve got to go out and execute,” he said. “We just didn’t to a good job of it.”
ENMU wrapped up the scoring with a safety and Bell’s 14-yard touchdown run in the final 6:13.