LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Suffice it to say, Central Arkansas spoiled Mark Ribaudo’s head coaching debut at Eastern New Mexico University Thursday night.
Senior quarterback Chris Reil threw for two touchdowns and 227 yards and senior tailback Kentrel Rogers rushed for 107 yards and a score as the Bears rolled to a 51-0 win over the Greyhounds in the season opener for both teams at Little Rock’s 53,000-seat War Memorial Stadium.
Ribaudo, an ENMU assistant under Bud Elliott for eight years and also the team’s defensive coordinator, became the head coach after Elliott retired following the 2004 season.
The Hounds, who played without three starters suspended for the first game and had several others nicked up going in, gave up two touchdowns in the first seven minutes and never recovered.
The game was played in Arkansas’ capital city, about 20 miles south of the Central Arkansas campus in Conway. Officials had hoped for a crowd in the neighborhood of 15,000, but the game drew 7,524.
It was dubbed the “Capital City Classic,” with part of the proceeds from ticket sales going to benefit Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
ENMU managed only seven first downs and 125 total yards, including just one yard passing. The Bears, meantime, piled up a school record 553 yards of total offense.
Central Arkansas scored less than a minute into the game on a 43-yard pass from Reil to wide receiver Aaron Fairooz, then forced an ENMU punt and marched in for a second score on a bizarre play. Reil hooked up with Austin Cade for 49 yards before he fumbled at the ENMU four, only to have teammate Ben Faires scoop up the loose ball at the one and take it into the end zone.
The Hounds stiffened at that point, allowing only a field goal by Garrett Morgan just before the end of the quarter until the Bears struck for 10 points in the final two minutes of the half to make it 27-0.
Willie Hopson scored on a seven-yard run and Cade caught a four-yard TD toss from backup Nathan Brown in the third quarter. Rogers went in from 17 yards on the first play of the final period and Morgan added his third field goal, a 27-yarder, to complete the scoring with almost 13 minutes to go.
Junior fullback Robert Garza was ENMU’s statistical leader on offense, finishing with 53 yards on eight carries. Defensively, junior linebacker Landon Morton and sophomore end Jorge Melendez were each in on seven tackles, and junior free safety J.J. Ortiz had a pass interception.
Central Arkansas 51, ENMU 0
ENMU 0 0 0 0 — 0
C. Arkansas 17 10 14 10 — 51
UCA — Aaron Fairooz 43-yard pass from Chris Reil (Garrett Morgan kick), 14:08
UCA — Ben Faires 1-yard fumble recovery (Morgan kick), 8:18
UCA — Morgan 38-yard FG, :02
UCA — Che Jones 13-yard pass from Reil (Morgan kick), 1:57
UCA — Morgan 20-yard FG, :00
UCA — Willie Hopson 7-yard run (Morgan kick), 9:10
UCA — Austin Cade 4-yard pass from Nathan Brown (James Paul kick), 6:22
UCA — Kentrel Rogers 17-yard run (Morgan kick), 14:52
UCA — Morgan 27-yard FG, 12:45
A — 7,524.
First downs 7 24
Rushes-yards 37-124 48-235
Passing yards 1 318
Total yards 125 553
Comp-att-int 2-8-1 17-23-1
Punting 8-35.9 1-49.0
Fumbles-lost 5-3 1-0
Penalties-yards 6-48 4-30
RUSHING — Eastern New Mexico, Robert Garza 8-53, Patrick Hemphill 5-26, Michael Benton 10-23, Zach Gerleve 6-22, Tristan Selman 2-8, Sukora Cooper 2-6, Marcus Robinson 1-minus 4, Christian Coronado 3-minus 10. Central Arkansas, Rogers 17-107, Hopson 9-81, Derrick McKenzie 11-31, Brandon Payne 1-12, Jones 1-11, Reil 4-6, Brown 2-minus 4, team 3-minus 9.
PASSING — Eastern New Mexico, Benton 2-8-1-1. Central Arkansas, Reil 11-15-1-227, Brown 6-8-0-91.
RECEIVING — Eastern New Mexico, Coronado 2-1. Central Arkansas, Michael Norvell 4-68, Cade 2-56, Fairooz 2-53, Miller McVay 2-40, Hopson 2-38, Rogers 2-31, Darren Shaw 1-14, Jones 1-13, Faires 1-5.