By Dave Wagner: Freedom New Mexico
Eastern New Mexico University wide receiver Nicholas Hill is hardly discouraged by the Greyhounds’ 0-2 start.
They’ve seen a 28-0 halftime lead slip away in an overtime loss to New Mexico Highlands, then got behind early last week in a 41-28 Lone Star Conference setback at Incarnate Word.
“With the week of practice we’ve had, we just put it out of our heads,” said Hill, a wide receiver from San Diego and a transfer last year from Grossmont (Calif.) Junior College. “The guys have short memories. Sometimes you take losses, (but) it’s a matter of how you get up from it.”
ENMU hopes to get untracked today at Oklahoma Panhandle State, which lost its coach, Mike Wyatt, to a heart attack in December.
First-year coach Jon Lyles, a 1999 OPSU graduate, said the Aggies (0-2) have work to do after losing at Highlands 60-14 last week. Panhandle had a rare winning season last year, finishing 6-5.
“We’re definitely going to have to play our best game to win,” said Lyles, who last year coached for Amarillo in the Arena Football League. “They’re (Hounds) much better than their record shows.”
It’s been a challenge to build a program for Lyles, who previously has served as an assistant coach at OPSU and West Texas A&M. He was hired in February.
“We got in here late,” Lyles said. “Coach Wyatt had passed away, and we just tried to piece it together.”
ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo said the Aggies are also better than their record shows.
“It’s the best, most athletic Panhandle team I’ve seen in 20 years,” he said. “They’ve got some good running backs, and they’ve busted some long runs.”
The Hounds have struggled with turnovers (seven) in their first two games. Junior quarterback Wes Wood had three interceptions last week, all in scoring range, but Ribaudo said two came on tipped balls.
“We need to stop the run and be more consistent on offense,” he said. “The problems we’re having are fixable.
“We’ve got a lot of football left to play, and we’re going to get better.”
Hill, for one, agrees — even though what should be the meaty part of the schedule is down the road. The Hounds have a murderous stretch in midseason with four consecutive ranked teams — Abilene Christian, Northwest Missouri State, West Texas A&M and Midwestern State.
“That’s the good part,” Hill said. “You get to go and play against the best teams. Nobody has their head down.
“We left everything on the field (last week). It’s just that sometimes the ball goes the other way.”