Rush helps form experienced O-line

By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers

Tyson Rush doesn’t think you can put much stock in Eastern New Mexico University’s 28-0 win over Southwestern Oklahoma on Saturday at Weatherford, Okla.
After all, there’s another game coming up.

“I’m looking forward to Saturday,” the 6-foot-6, 315-pound senior guard said of this week’s Lone Star Conference crossover matchup against East Central at Blackwater Draw. “It was nice to win, but we have to take it one game at a time and it’s always a battle in the Lone Star. We don’t have any weeks off.

“It’s always good to win, but they played us tough. I felt like we worked together pretty well.”

Rush is a third-year starter and a key part of a veteran line which should help the offense be formidable this season. All five starters have been in the program at least three years, and four have previous starting experience.

Senior center Devin Pilgrim and senior guard Robert Acuna are returning starters from last year, while senior tackle T.J. Cobb started two years ago before sitting out last season with an injury.

The fifth starter is junior tackle Marcus Smith, who is in his third year in the program.

“We’ve played with each other for a while,” said Rush, a fifth-year senior who is a graduate of Hot Springs High School in Truth or Consequences. “We’re a pretty good offensive line, I think, and we’re getting better every week. We’ve just got to keep improving.”

ENMU offensive coordinator Mike Howard said the line, despite its experience, is still a bit of a work in progress.
“I think the big thing is I have a really high expectation of our offensive line,” he said. “They’ve got to be consistent on every play, and with the experience they have they should be able to do that.”

Offensive line play requires more than brute strength. Players spend considerable time studying game film of the opponent.

“They have to know a lot about the defense (they’re facing) because they have to be able to anticipate what the defense is going to do,” Howard said. “We try to keep the schemes as simple as we can for the offensive line so they can be as aggressive as they need to be.”

Facing high-quality opponents in the first two weeks, ENMU struggled and scored only 12 points. Against Southwestern, though, the Hounds were consistent with at least one first down on every possession except for one which started inside the Bulldogs’ 10 following an interception.

Rush, a graduate of Hot Springs High School in Truth or Consequences, said the Hounds expect to have their hands full with East Central (1-2), which is coming off losses to West Texas A&M and Texas A&M-Kingsville.

“They look pretty tough,” he said of the Tigers, who beat ENMU 33-14 last year in Ada, Okla. “They’ve got a good defense —they always do.”