By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
About the only thing not going well for Eastern New Mexico University on Saturday night was its passing game.
It didn’t really matter, though. The Greyhounds took control in the second quarter and wore down East Central in the second half in posting a 30-13 Lone Star Conference crossover win over the Tigers at Greyhound Stadium.
Quarterback Michael Benton and running back Jason Tezeno each rushed for more than 100 yards and junior kicker Lee Price booted three field goals as Eastern (2-2) won its second-straight game in convincing fashion.
ENMU finished with 425 yards rushing on 73 carries, easily overcoming a 1-for-7 passing performance for nine yards by Benton.
Meantime, the Hounds limited East Central (1-3) to 127 yards, including only 63 after the first quarter.
“I’m pleased with our progress,” ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo said. “We’re getting better every week and every practice at some things. Of course, these next four of five weeks are Murderers’ Row (with the start of LSC South Division play).”
Price, kicking into a crosswind, capped a 58-yard ENMU drive following the opening kickoff by clanking his first field goal off the crossbar and through. The 44-yarder was his first field goal attempt of the season.
He boomed a 52-yarder in the final seconds of the half — which cleared with several yards to spare — and gave the Hounds a 13-6 halftime lead. It was one yard short of the school record set by Rosli Hussein in 1983 and again in 1985.
“I was just glad coach had the faith in me to call my name out,” Price said. “We work on (field goals) every day in practice, and we’re ready when we’re called.”
Price, who kicked a 49-yarder in a game against Texas A&M-Commerce two years ago, handles all of ENMU’s kicking duties. He punted four times in the game for an average of 42.6 yards.
“It’s all just about concentration,” Price said of the field goals. “I want everything to be in a routine. A field goal to me is just really a longer extra point.”
Tezeno, who had carried the ball just three times for 31 yards this season, was a busy man against the Tigers.
“This year, we’ve got a new emphasis to our offense,” said Tezeno, who finished with 126 yards on 18 carries. “Tonight, we wanted to show the LSC that we can run the ball as well as pass it.
“We had some pretty good play-calling tonight. We started out running the option and then we went to more misdirection plays.”
East Central’s only effective possession until late came after Price’s first field goal, when Ervin McGee’s 38-yard kickoff return set the Tigers up at their 42.
Four plays later, on third-and-6, King Bennett took a pitch from quarterback Wilson Pirtle powered through a couple of ENMU defenders to score on a 47-yard run.
Bennett, who rushed for 173 yards against the Greyhounds last year, finished with 116 yards.
A muff on the hold foiled Max Mauser’s extra point attempt, and it was all downhill for the Tigers from there.
Tezeno had the ball stripped inside the East Central 5 early in the second quarter, thwarting an ENMU scoring bid, but the Hounds forced a punt and went 47 yards in just four plays — highlighted by Benton’s 44-yard scamper inside the Tigers’ 1.
Two plays later, fullback Patrick Hemphill went inside to score with 7:56 left in the half.
Benton finished with 162 yards on 21 carries.
“We got their defensive tackles real tired (in the second half),” Tezeno said. “Their secondary was making most of the plays. We just clicked real good tonight.”
ENMU’s defense throttled the Tigers in the second half, forcing six consecutive three-and-outs and then stopping a fourth-and-1 gamble by East Central on its own 35.
Meantime, Davalos ran 11 yards for a touchdown on Eastern’s first possession of the second half. Price tacked on his final field goal early in the fourth quarter, and Benton scored on a 3-yard run with less than a minute left.