By Dave Wagner: Freedom New Mexico
It’s been seven long weeks since the Eastern New Mexico University football team has tasted victory.
Of course, their run through the Lone Star Conference South Division schedule, normally a big challenge, has been even more difficult than usual this season. Four of their six South brethren are ranked in the NCAA Division II Top 25 and all appear to have the physical qualifications to be playoff teams, although probably no more than two will make it.
Today, the Greyhounds (4-6) will see the other end of the spectrum when they end the season at Goodwell, Okla., in a noon (MST) kickoff against Oklahoma Panhandle State (0-9).
ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo said his team is looking forward to another game.
“We want to play,” he said. “We’re approaching it like any other game.”
Last season, the teams played for the first time since 1983 and the Hounds put a 63-14 whipping on OPSU at Blackwater Draw, finishing off an 0-10 campaign for the Aggies.
Still, ENMU doesn’t feel in a position to overlook anyone.
“They’re struggling, but we are too,” senior guard Kevin Parker said. “We have to prepare the same way for everybody.
“We need a win bad to get things going in the right direction.”
The Hounds had high hopes after getting off to a 4-0 start, but they knew the tougher games were coming in division play.
“We started out looking real good,” Parker said. “We had the potential to do some great things. We just had some tough games against great teams.”
Facing teams with more athletic ability isn’t uncommon for the Hounds, Parker said.
“It’s a challenge we like to face,” he said. “Eastern has never had the greatest athletes, but we’ve always wanted to take on that challenge.”
Perhaps the telling item is that the teams have faced just one common opponent. The Hounds opened the season with a 63-20 win over Bacone College at Muskogee, Okla., while the Aggies lost to the Warriors 30-0 on Oct. 13.
“They’re trying to learn a new system (under first-year coach Mike Wyatt),” Ribaudo said. “They’re young like us, with a lot of freshmen playing.
“We want to finish on a high note and gain a little bit of momentum going into the offseason.”
ENMU at Oklahoma Panhandle State
When: noon (MST) today in a non-conference game at Goodwell, Okla.
Records: ENMU 4-6, Oklahoma Panhandle State 0-9.
Last week: Midwestern State handed the Greyhounds a 63-7 Lone Star Conference shellacking at Blackwater Draw. OPSU lost to NAIA No. 25 Southern Nazarene 35-14 at Bethany, Okla.
Radio: KSEL-FM 95.3.
On the Net: www.enmusports.com
Coaches: Eastern New Mexico, Mark Ribaudo, 3rd year; Oklahoma Panhandle State, Mike Wyatt, 1st year.
Last meeting: 2006, ENNU beat the Aggies 63-14 at Blackwater Draw.
Midwestern State players to watch: Gabe Gillmore, 6-2, 226, Jr., QB; Matt Warner, 6-1, 230, Jr., LB; Andrew McGlory, 6-4, 215, Fr., QB; Mario Wokocha, 6-3, 192, Fr., DB; Johnnie King, 6-2, 190, Jr., WR; Craig Maynard, 5-11, 195, Sr., DB.
Notes: The Hounds are 16-8-2 all-time against Panhandle, winning the last eight. OPSU’s last win in the series was a 7-3 verdict in 1973 at Goodwell. … ENMU senior QB Michael Benton enters the final game of his college career with 3,686 yards rushing and 46 touchdowns. With 181 yards today, he would tie the school’s single-season rushing record of 1,441 yards set by Tom Manley in 1974. He needs two touchdowns to tie his own school single-season record of 17 set in 2005. … Warner leads NCAA Division II with more than 13 tackles per game. He had 18 in the loss at Southern Nazarene. … Maynard had two pass interceptions last week, returning one of them 100 yards for a touchdown.
— Compiled by Dave Wagner