By Dave Wagner
A heartbreaking loss to second-ranked Texas A&M-Kingsville on Saturday has all but knocked the Eastern New Mexico University football team out of contention for the NCAA Division II playoffs.
Now the Greyhounds will try to do the same thing to Midwestern State when the teams clash in a noon (MDT) Lone Star Conference South Division game on Saturday at Wichita Falls, Texas.
A win would clinch second place in the division for ENMU (5-4, 4-1 South), while the Indians (6-2, 3-1) still have bigger fish to fry after pulling out a 25-24 win at East Central last weekend.
“The farthest thing from my mind right now is the playoffs,” MSU coach Bill Maskill said. “The most important thing is getting ready to play Eastern New Mexico. We’ve got a lot of respect for coach (Bud) Elliott and their entire football team.”
Elliott, preparing for his second-to-last game after 37 seasons as a college head coach, said the Hounds appear to have bounced back from the narrow loss to Kingsville.
“I think if we play our ‘A’ game, it’s going to be a heck of a football game,” he said. “I think the character of this football team is such that we’ll come out and play pretty good.
“We’re approaching it like it’s a playoff game for Midwestern.”
Maskill said the Indians’ game at ECU was a similar situation, with both teams coming in with two losses and trying to stay alive for the playoffs.
Getting focused again this week shouldn’t be a problem, Maskill said.
“They’re playing hard and playing well,” he said of the Hounds. “Regardless of who you play or who you’ve played, you want to try to get your team ready for the next one.”
MSU erased a 24-18 deficit at East Central on a 13-yard run by Ross Harrison with 3:01 left, then junior defensive tackles Marcel Moses and Derryk Davis stopped ECU running back King Davis short on fourth-and-inches with 33 seconds left.
MSU sophomore quarterback Rahsaan Bell, a hometown product, completed 15-of-22 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns against the Tigers.
“He’s pretty good,” Elliott said. “He runs the option well and he throws the ball decently. We tried to recruit him out of high school.”
Elliott said senior quarterback Steven Hinson, who injured a shoulder late in the Kingsville game, should be able to play Saturday. But he added that left guard Tyson Rush, third-string quarterback and holder Jon Bell and backup defensive back Randy Johnson are all either out or doubtful for the game with knee injuries.
ENMU at Midwestern State
Noon (MDT) Saturday
At Wichita Falls, Texas
Radio: KSEL-FM 95.3
Records: ENMU 5-4 (4-1 Lone Star Conference South), MSU 6-2 (3-1).
Coaches: ENMU, Bud Elliott, 11th year; MSU, Bill Maskill, 3rd year.
Last week: ENMU led by one point in the closing moments before losing to second-ranked Texas A&M-Kingsville 29-22 at Blackwater Draw. MSU scored with about three minutes left, then stopped a late East Central bid to post a 25-24 win at Ada, Okla.
Last meeting: 2003, the Indians beat the Greyhounds 24-14 at Wichita Falls.
MSU players to watch: Rahsaan Bell, Fr. QB, 6-2, 200; Ross Harrison, Fr. RB, 5-10, 210; Cornelius Cooper, Sr. LB, 5-10, 220; Kevin Taulton, Sr. LB, 5-11, 225.
Of note: The Indians have won the last two meetings from ENMU and are 5-4 all-time against the Greyhounds. … The winner will likely finish second in the South, unless Kingsville (7-0, 4-0) slips up in one of its final two games against Abilene Christian or Angelo State. … MSU has gone 4-0 this season in games decided by five points or less. The Indians’ only losses are to Tarleton State (19-3) and Kingsville (27-3).
Quotable: “I thought it was a great football game. We just made some mistakes that cost us.” — ENMU coach Bud Elliott, on last week’s 29-22 loss to second-ranked Texas A&M-Kingsville.