By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico
BLACKWATER DRAW — With homecoming upon it, Eastern New Mexico suffered a power outage.
Visiting Angelo State held the Greyhounds’ high-powered offense scoreless until late in the third quarter, and salted the game away with a pair of defensive touchdowns in the fourth period for a 47-23 victory Saturday at Greyhound Stadium.
Josh Neiswander threw for 403 yards and three touchdowns for Angelo State (5-1), including a 17-yard pass to V’Keon Lacey with one second left in the first half for a 19-2 advantage at the break.
The Greyhounds (2-4), NCAA Division II’s second-ranked scoring offense entering the weekend, managed just a safety in the first half and lost the turnover battle 3-1.
“We didn’t play well on any side of the ball,” Greyhounds coach Mark Ribaudo said. “Our offense didn’t play well. Our defense played well in the first half and our special teams didn’t play well all night.
“We’re an offensive-minded football team. If our offense isn’t going it’s going to be tough all the way around.”
Instead, it was the Rams putting up the big plays, as Neiswander connected on a pair of long touchdown tosses to Dakarai Pecikonis — a 40-yarder with 1:22 left in the second quarter, and a 37-yarder 1:31 into the fourth quarter.
Rams coach Dale Carr said that wasn’t by design, noting the Greyhounds’ defense wouldn’t allow Angelo State to establish the run.
“When they’ve got that many guys in the box, you’ve got to try to hit it over the top,” Carr said, noting the Hounds would often show pass defense, then bring eight or nine defenders for the run. “They dare you (to throw).”
The Greyhounds passing game, which managed 394 yards and three touchdowns, didn’t have as much success.
D’Angelo Waites pounced on sophomore quarterback J.J. Harp’s fumble in the end zone after Pecikonis’ second score, and Alvin Johnson finished the scoring with a 80-yard interception return off Harp.
“(Harp) had a lot of pressure,” Ribaudo said. “We also got some holding calls at the wrong times, and we had some dropped passes at the wrong times.
“They came out and made the big play when they needed to, and we didn’t.”
The Greyhounds did cut the Angelo lead to 19-16 early in the fourth quarter on Harp’s 4-yard toss to Jesse Poku, but Angelo responded a minute later with Neiswander’s second touchdown toss to Pecikonis.
Carr said his team knew it would have to take second-half punches, even after handling the first half defensively.
“It will be a long time before we’re ever overconfident over anybody,” Carr said. “Every game has been close.”
The Greyhounds go on the road Saturday for the Wagon Wheel game at West Texas A&M. The Rams host Abilene Christian, also Saturday.