By Dave Wagner
Eastern New Mexico University’s football team had an easy time with Northeastern State in 2002, rolling to a 46-14 victory at Blackwater Draw.
Coach Bud Elliott doesn’t expect that type of game when the teams collide at 1 p.m. (MDT) Saturday on the Redmen’s home field in Tahlequah, Okla.
ENMU owns a 2-0 record after vanquishing New Mexico Highlands 45-14 at home on Saturday. Meantime, NSU (1-1) won at Missouri Southern for the first time in 16 years, erasing a 10-point deficit to notch a 15-10 victory over the Lions at Joplin, Mo.
“We’re just trying to get better game by game,” said first-year NSU coach John Horner, who was the defensive coordinator before taking over the top position this season. “We just had to fight through adversity (at Southern). That’s one thing you have to deal with as a young football team.”
The Redmen drove 75 yards in eight plays for their winning touchdown, which came on an 18-yard pass from Forrest Mazey to John King with 4:23 left in the game.
Elliott said NSU relies heavily on its defense.
“I think Northeastern is pretty solid defensively,” he said. “I think that’s the strength of their football team. They have very good athletes on both offense and defense.”
Northeastern won its first two games in 2002, but the Redmen were undergoing a quarterback change when they came to Blackwater Draw. After pulling even 7-7 late in the first quarter, the roof quickly fell in and Eastern ran away to a commanding lead.
“Last year we had a lot of turnovers early,” Horner said. “We were definitely still trying to find ourselves then.”
The Hounds felt pretty good about their win over Highlands, coming off a one-point squeaker the week before in the opener at Adams State. But Elliott said they enter this game a bit beat up.
Senior wide receiver Cale Sanders is definitely out this week, and Elliott said he may be done for the year. Sanders, who sustained a groin injury in preseason, saw limited duty against Highlands but continues to be bothered by his injury, Elliott said.
“It’s not responding (to treatment) very well,” he said. “We’re going to go ahead and try to aggressively treat it for a couple of weeks, and if that doesn’t work we’ll probably send him to a specialist in Philadelphia.”
Senior cornerback Eric Mims sustained a dislocated shoulder in practice last week and is not expected back for several weeks. Meantime, junior guard Joe Lewis (ankle) will play, Elliott said, “but I’m not sure how long.”