By Dave Wagner
Jerry Vandergriff has done a lot of winning in his 34 seasons in the Angelo State football program, the last 23 as head coach.
Right now, though, the Rams are going through some tough times.
ASU takes an 0-5 record (0-1 Lone Star Conference South) into Saturday’s 6 p.m. (MDT) kickoff against Eastern New Mexico University in San Angelo, Texas.
The Rams’ best chance came in the season opener, when they went four overtimes with Western New Mexico before losing to the Mustangs 23-20.
They’ve played a murderer’s row-type schedule since then, with three of the LSC’s better teams plus Division I-AA Texas State-San Marcos.
“We’ve run into some buzzsaws,” Vandergriff said. “It’s taken a while to get this thing headed back in the right direction, and we’re still struggling to get things going.
“But I think we’re making progress; we’re better than we’ve been in the last two years. But I think the (LSC) is better.”
ENMU coach Bud Elliott, whose squad is coming off a solid performance in a 28-21 win over Abilene Christian at Blackwater Draw, warned that the Greyhounds had best not look past ASU.
The Hounds haven’t played well in their two previous road games, he said, and are yet to put solid performances together back-to-back.
“They’re 0-5, but they’ve got some good-looking athletes on both sides of the ball,” Elliott said. “If we don’t take our ‘A’ game down there, we’ll be in trouble. We can’t let them get off to a good start.”
Vandergriff played one season (1960) at ASU before the school dropped the program for three years. He came back in the early 1970s and served as the Rams’ offensive coordinator for 11 seasons before moving into the top position.
He said he’s a bit baffled by the sudden downturn — only five wins since the start of the 2002 season.
“I don’t know whether we’ve taken (winning) for granted or what,” he said.
From a confidence standpoint, he said he’s not sure how much winning the WNMU tilt would have helped.
“It would’ve been nice to get one under your belt,” he said. “But I don’t know if that would’ve made any difference against who we’ve played after that.”
While he’s wary of the Rams, Elliott said the Hounds should be in much better shape physically than they’ve been in a while, with senior defensive tackle Brandon Wickware (knee), senior guard Joe Lewis (concussion) and, possibly, junior guard Robert Acuna (knee) ready to return to action after missing time.
“I know he really wants to play against Angelo, because that’s where he transferred from,” Elliott said of Acuna. “He’s a pretty tough kid.”
ENMU at Angelo State
6 p.m. (MDT) Saturday
At San Angelo, Texas
Radio: KSEL-FM 95.3
Records: ENMU 2-3 (1-0 Lone Star Conference South), ASU 0-5 (0-1).
Coaches: ENMU, Bud Elliott, 11th year; ASU, Jerry Vandergriff, 23rd year.
Last week: ENMU defeated Abilene Christian 28-21 at Blackwater Draw. ASU fell behind 27-0 at halftime and lost 41-13 at Midwestern State.
Last year: ENMU put together a dominating performance on both sides of the ball and shut out the Rams 31-0 at Blackwater Draw.
ASU players to watch: Trey Weishuhn, So. QB, 6-4, 200; Sol Southall, So. QB, 6-2, 200; James Williamson, Sr. LB, 6-3, 235; Terale Bush, Sr. CB, 6-1, 192; Bryan Hepler, So. P, 5-10, 210.
Of note: Vandergriff, who has been LSC Coach of the Year three times, ranks among the top 10 coaches in Division II in wins and is easily ASU’s all-time leader at 141-97-2. … Freshman quarterback and Portales High grad Seth Clabaugh is redshirting this year at ASU. “We’re glad to have that guy; he’s a good prospect, and he’s getting some reps in practice. He’s a good-sized, solid kid who’s got a big arm,” Vandergriff said. … Since their string of 18 consecutive winning seasons ended in 2001, the Rams have gone just 5-21.
Quotable: “They haven’t changed. You know Bud’s teams are well-coached, and they’re going to play hard.” — ASU coach Jerry Vandergriff, on facing ENMU.