By Dave Wagner: Freedom New Mexico
BLACKWATER DRAW — Going into Saturday’s Lone Star Conference South Division clash against 10th-ranked Tarleton State without starting quarterback Michael Benton made Eastern New Mexico University’s odds longer than they already were.
Freshman Anthony Ramos performed capably for ENMU in his first collegiate start, but the Texans simply had too many horses and ran away late from the Greyhounds for a 40-10 Lone Star Conference South Division victory at Greyhound Stadium.
Tarleton (8-0, 3-0) racked up 591 total yards and kept pace in the division with sixth-ranked West Texas A&M (8-0, 4-0), a 41-31 winner at No. 12 Abilene Christian on Saturday. The Texans host the Buffaloes in the regular-season finale on Nov. 10.
Freshman quarterback Scott Grantham threw for 345 yards and three touchdowns for Tarleton. Leading just 23-10 after a 10-yard scoring pass from Ramos to Jason Walker on the second play of the final period, the Texans added two touchdowns and a field goal in the remaining time.
“They really played well early,” Tarleton coach Sam McElroy said of the Hounds. “They’re playing without their No. 1 guy (Benton); if they have him, it’s a different story.”
Still, Ramos handled himself well. He rushed for 83 yards on 19 carries and completed 7-of-19 passes for 110 yards.
Benton and No. 2 QB J.T. Thompson (dislocated shoulder) were both hurt in last week’s 62-31 loss at WT.
“This is really his first week getting a lot of reps in practice,” ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo said of Ramos. “To jump right in there and show the guts he did, I’m really proud of him.”
With or without Benton, the Hounds were going to have their hands full.
“We’ve got some guys that can make plays,” McElroy said. “You’ve got to give (Eastern) credit; they did a good job of keeping us down. I’m just glad to get out of here with a win.”
Ramos led the Hounds on an 11-play, 57-yard drive following the opening kickoff, but Tarleton stiffened long enough to limit ENMU to freshman Jordan Walker’s 25-yard field goal.
The Texans took the lead when freshman quarterback Scott Grantham hit Devin Guinn on a 19-yard TD pass on the first play of the second quarter, then scored twice in the final 2 1/2 minutes of the period to take control after thwarting the Hounds again with a goal-line stand.
After Kyle Hopf’s 43-yard punt was downed at the ENMU 1, the Hounds marched the length of the field — buoyed by a 60-yard completion from Ramos to Justin Campos to the Texans’ 10 — and eventually reached the Tarleton 3.
But on fourth-and-goal, Ramos was thrown for a 2-yard loss. The Texans then went up 14-3 when running back Michael Sampson broke several tackles on a screen pass and turned it into a 65-yard touchdown.
A 1-yard TD run by Sampson made it 21-3 just before halftime, and pretty much gave the Texans a stranglehold on the game.
“They’re definitely one of the elite teams,” Ribaudo said. “We had some key injuries, and we’re just not executing against these Top 10 teams.”
Ribaudo said the Hounds struggled to finish the Texans on third-down situations. For the game, Tarleton went 7-of-14 in that department.
“That’s been a nemesis for us all year,” he said.