ADA, Okla. — Sophomore defensive end Randall Hutchinson returned an interception 30 yards for a first-quarter touchdown and junior quarterback Michael Benton scored on two short runs in the final period Saturday night as Eastern New Mexico University defeated East Central 24-15.
The Greyhounds (1-1), bouncing back from a season-opening 42-7 drubbing at Northeastern State on Sept. 7, never trailed in the contest and took the lead for good on senior Lee Price’s 47-yard field goal midway through the second quarter for a 10-7 advantage.
ENMU’s defense made it stand up, holding the Tigers to 219 total yards and forcing five turnovers. The Hounds also dominated time of possession by nearly a 2-1 margin (39:59-20:01).
“We played pretty well all the way around,” ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo said. “They (Tigers) didn’t have the ball much tonight. Things just went our way.
“I’ve never been involved in a game where one team had the ball for nearly 40 minutes.”
Benton, who rushed for 157 yards at Northeastern State, compiled 160 yards on the ground in this one. Meantime, fullback J.J. Jennings added 76 yards and halfback Fide Davalos added 61.
“Our fullbacks had big nights, and that was nice,” Ribaudo said. “J.J. was a real workhorse tonight (16 carries). That was our strategy on offense, to run the ball in the middle. Our offensive coaches put together some good options to that end.
“I was really proud of what we did after losing like we did last week.”
Late in the first quarter, freshman outside linebacker Courtland White tipped a pass by East Central’s Robby Treadwell into the hands of Hutchinson, who sprinted in for the game’s first score.
The Tigers (1-2) didn’t wait long to tie it. Three plays after the kickoff, on third-and-1, Treadwell found Keith Jones on a 52-yard scoring play to tie it.
Price, who missed a 34-yard field goal in the first quarter, capped a 39-yard, 14-play with his go-ahead field goal with 8:17 left in the half. The Hounds preserved the lead when linebacker Jeremy Mullins recovered a fumble by Tigers running back Evans Gordon in the end zone with less than three minutes left in the half.
Each team had a turnover and a punt in the third quarter before the Hounds mounted a 93-yard, nine-play drive after Jeremy Thompson fair-caught an East Central punt at the ENMU seven late in the period.
Benton’s 58-yard run on third-and-two pushed the ball to the East Central 27. The Hounds picked up two more first downs before Benton made it 17-7 on his first touchdown with 11:46 left.
“Once we got a couple of turnovdrs in the second half, I felt pretty good,” Ribaudo said. “For the whole first half, and at the beginning of the third quarter, the game was tight.”
Junior quarterback Derek Higgs then intercepted a Treadwell pass and returned it 21 yards to the East Central 12 with 10:55 to play. Benton carried around end for the score four plays later in third-and-2 from the 4.
Backup QB Ryan McGuire led the Tigers on a late scoring drive, capped by a 21-yard scoring toss to Michael Glover with 17 seconds left.