By Dave Wagner
Eastern New Mexico University and East Central turned in performances last weekend that both hope to build on when the teams meet in a 5 p.m. (MDT) Lone Star Conference crossover football game on Saturday at Ada, Okla.
The Greyhounds trounced Southwestern Oklahoma 39-0 for veteran coach Bud Elliott’s 200th college coaching victory. The Tigers, who were just 3-8 in 2003, pulled even with fourth-ranked Texas A&M-Kingsville 7-7 on a 24-yard touchdown run by junior King Bennett late in the third quarter before falling to the homestanding Javelinas 24-7.
Elliott expressed concern about the Greyhounds’ offense on Thursday, noting that senior quarterback Steven Hinson sat out the second half against Southwestern with a shoulder injury while junior guard Robert Acuna and senior backup fullback Sukora Cooper both went down with knee injuries.
Acuna is likely to miss four weeks, Elliott said, and will be replaced by junior Joe Lewis. Cooper sustained an ACL injury and has been lost for the season.
Hinson, meantime, is listed as probably for Saturday, but was having some problems with the shoulder in midweek.
“He’s made a lot of improvement, but he’s still not throwing the ball well,” Elliott said Thursday. “But I talked to him this morning and he’s feeling better.
“Right now he thinks he could take a hit. He’s been in the training room a lot, and we’ve still got about 48 hours.”
Hinson will not be used on returns this week. Elliott said if he can’t start at quarterback, the nod would go to redshirt freshman Michael Benton, who saw some second-half action against Southwestern.
First-year ECU coach Tim McCarty, whose defense has kept the Tigers (1-1) in both of their games so far, expects a stern test from the Hounds (1-2).
“They’re a very scary team,” McCarty said. “Offensively, they’re putting points on the board. They put 39 points on the board last weekend and they were scoring in all areas.”
The Tigers, though, have to be feeling pretty good after winning a low-scoring (13-6) matchup against West Texas A&M (13-6) in their opener and then scaring Kingsville on the road.
McCarty, who has a mix of veteran and new players, said his team is still a work in progress.
“We slugged it out with (Kingsville), and they’re a talented team,” he said. “I’m proud our team never quit, but we’re not that level of team yet.”
After struggling with potent offenses in their first two games, the Hounds overwhelmed the Southwestern offense to get themselves back on track.
“I think we’ll build on that,” Elliott said. “We finally got everything in sync.”
ECU has enjoyed a solid football tradition, but McCarty noted the program has won just 33 games over the past decade.
“Really, it’s been just the last 10 years the program’s been down,” he said. “We want to get (the winning tradition) back.”
ENMU at East Central
5 p.m. (MDT) Saturday
LSC crossover game
At Ada, Okla.
Radio: KSEL-FM 95.3
Records: ENMU 1-2, East Central 1-1.
Coaches: ENMU, Bud Elliott, 11th year; East Central, Tim McCarty, 1st year.
Last meeting: 2003, ENMU’s defense dominated the Tigers, and the Greyhounds cruised to a 32-2 victory at Blackwater Draw.
ECU players to watch: Jay DeShields, Sr. OT, 6-6, 305; Willie Lane, So. WR, 5-9, 150; King Bennett, Jr. RB, 6-1, 210; Justin Brown, Sr. DE, 6-2, 270; Andrew O’Neill, 6-2, 225; Eric Johnson, Sr. FS, 5-10, 170.
Of note: DeShields and Johnson earned All-LSC North accolades last season. Lane was ineligible last year, but was chosen the North’s Freshman of the Year in 2002. … McCarty spent the last five seasons as the head coach at Tabor College, an NAIA school in Hillsboro, Kan. … ECU has neither scored nor allowed any first-quarter points through two games. … East Central has faced two of the South’s better quarterbacks in West Texas A&M’s Derek Maupin and Texas A&M-Kingsville’s Daniel Taylor. Maupin completed 34-of-53 passes for 288 yards, but the Tigers held the Buffaloes out of the end zone to win 13-6 for their first victory in a season opener since 1996.
Quotable: “They’re a better football team than last year. … I anticipate a very difficult game, but I feel like we’re the better football team. We need to go up there and prove it.” — ENMU coach Bud Elliott, on Saturday’s game against ECU.