By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico
Incarnate Word has had an inaugural football season worth remembering. Eastern New Mexico, meanwhile, is looking to cap off a season with both forgettable and unforgettable accomplishments.
“We want to get the victory, and we want to play well,” Greyhounds coach Mark Ribaudo said of Saturday’s 6 p.m. season finale against the first-year Cardinals at Blackwater Draw. “Hopefully, that will springboard us on recruiting and offseason stuff.”
A win leaves ENMU at 3-8, with an 0-6 mark in Lone Star Conference South play. But the Greyhounds have gained national attention for their spread offense, with a school-record 76-point performance against Texas A&M-Commerce, a 49-47 loss where the squad set more than a dozen school and NCAA records and a short stretch where the Hounds were the top offense in college football, regardless of division.
“I think our offense took some huge steps forward,” Ribaudo said. “To go from where we were to leading the nation in several offensive categories, I really feel offensively we’ve turned the corner.”
The Greyhounds are first in Division II in passing offense (454.5 yards per game) and second in total offense (512.1 yards per game). But it hasn’t translated into the wins, mostly due to poorly-timed turnovers and significant disadvantages in possession time.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, have had a successful first season by almost any metric, including a 5-4 record and five games above the 35-point mark.
“They have a lot of enthusiasm and good players,” Ribaudo said. “They hired good people. They’ve got a top-notch staff, and they gave them a year to recruit. They put some thought into it.”
The Cardinals are coached by Mike Santiago, a former offensive coordinator at Utah State and scout for the Cleveland Browns. Attempts to contact Santiago were unsuccessful.
“I thought we did pretty good against the run, but we didn’t control the pass,” Ribaudo said of last week’s 50-17 loss to Midwestern State, a game tied at 10 late in the second quarter. “We moved the sticks pretty well, but we turned the ball over too much.”
Saturday will mark the final game for now for the Greyhounds as a representative of the Lone Star Conference South Division, and it will be a passing of the torch of sorts. The Hounds will be moved to the LSC North, where they will form a seven-team division with East Central, Texas A&M-Commerce, Southeastern Oklahoma, Central Oklahoma, Northeastern State and Southwestern Oklahoma.
The Cardinals will replace the Greyhounds in the South Division.
Incarnate Word (5-4) at ENMU (2-8)
6 p.m. today,
Radio: KSEL 105.9 FM
Coaches: UIW, Mike Santiago, first season, 5-4. ENMU, Mark Ribaudo, fifth season, 17-36.
Last week: ENMU absorbed a 50-17 home setback to then-No. 13 Midwestern State, while the Cardinals suffered a 24-22 loss to Southern Arkansas.
Last meeting: Incarnate Word is a first-year program.
Cardinals players to watch: QB Eric Massoni, Fr. 6-2,