Not only is the Eastern New Mexico University football team putting together a winning streak like nothing seen in several years at the school, the Greyhounds are also ending some slides against members of the Lone Star Conference.
The Greyhounds rallied for the final 22 points on Saturday night to nudge rival West Texas A&M 39-38 in the “Wagon Wheel” game at Canyon, Texas, their fourth win in a row — for the first time since 2007 — and a result that keeps them alive for a possible share of the Lone Star Conference title.
That’s certainly not going to be easy — the Hounds (5-3, 3-1 LSC) host 15th-ranked Midwestern State (7-1, 3-1) on Saturday, then finish at Texas A&M-Commerce (6-3, 2-3) on Nov. 16. Tarleton State (6-2, 5-1) has already wrapped up LSC play and is assured no worse than a share of the title.
In their winning streak, the Hounds have:
n beaten Angelo State, rallying from a 28-0 deficit to win 29-28 on the road. The Rams had won six of the last seven in the series;
n beaten Texas A&M-Kingsville 13-10. The Javelinas came in leading the all-time series 23-4 and had won the previous five;
n beaten WT, ending a seven-game losing streak to the Buffs and knocking them from 15th out of the American Football Coaches’ Association Division II poll.
Counting an exhibition win at the Air Force junior varsity in September, ENMU has gone 5-1 away from home this season.
Senior fullback Christian Long, the LSC’s offensive player of the week with three touchdowns and 121 rushing yards, capped a late drive with a 2-yard touchdown run in the final minute to make it 38-37, and second-year coach Josh Lynn didn’t hesitate to go for the win. After a timeout, the Hounds ran a pitch play to freshman D’majeric Tucker away from the strong side and he went in untouched.
“You’ve got to go for two there,” Lynn said Monday. “We haven’t won (in the series) since 2004, and you’ve got a Harlon Hill (D-II player of the year) candidate sitting across from you (in Buffaloes’ quarterback Dustin Vaughan) — and an All-American kicker (in senior Sergio Castillo).”
Still, it was a missed 32-yard field goal by Castillo, who has been as automatic as anyone in Division II in his WT career, that kept the Hounds within seven points and left the door open.
“When I really thought we had a chance was when he missed that field goal,” Lynn said. “If he makes it, it puts us two scores down.”
The Buffs were almost in range to win it at the end, reaching the ENMU 40 in the closing seconds, but a holding penalty set them back to midfield and forced Castillo to try a 67-yarder that was short.
The Hounds fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter and never led until the final minute. They held the Buffs to seven points and less than 100 total yards in the second half.
Lynn said he felt relatively good at halftime despite staring at a 31-17 deficit.
“With this group, I just said, ‘This is our game,’” he said. “We’re down 14 — this is nothing for us.
“Defensively, in the second half we got pressure, which was completely different from the first half.”