Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
Two teams riding momentum collide tonight at Blackwater Draw.
Riding a three-game winning streak, Eastern New Mexico University takes one of the Lone Star Conference’s surprise squads in unbeaten Angelo State in the Greyhounds’ 6 p.m. homecoming game at Blackwater Draw.
Both began division play last week with pulsating wins. While ENMU held off Abilene Christian 33-30 on the road, the Rams (5-0, 1-0 South) trailed all the way before pulling out a 30-29 win over Midwestern State on a 20-yard field goal by junior J.D. Williams with three seconds left.
Angelo State trailed 23-7 early in the fourth quarter before storming back.
The Rams may actually be getting used to exciting finishes, having won their last three contests by a total of eight points. It’s the first time they’ve started 5-0 since winning their first nine games in 1997, when they advancd to the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs and reached a No. 5 ranking at one point in NCAA Division II.
Angelo’s last winning season came in 2001 (6-4).
Former Tyler (Texas) Junior College coach Dale Carr took over the program this season following the retirement of longtime coach Jerry Vandergriff.
“They’re playing hard and they’re playing sound,” ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo said. “They’re doing some good things with their kids.”
Ribaudo said the Rams have done it with a lot of the same players from last year’s squad, which finished 2-9 after losing its first seven games.
“They know what they’re doing,” he said. “They’ve got kids playing better and more disciplined than ever. And their defense is doing a good job.
“They’re a good overall football team.”
Meantime, the Hounds (3-2) are walking with a little more spring in their step after jumping over the .500 mark with a hard-earned win at Abilene Christian, their first on the road against the Wildcats since 1998.
Eastern’s defense bent, but made enough plays to let the team get out of town with a win. The Hounds also held Abilene Christian’s dangerous return man, Danieal Manning, in check.
Sophomore running back Zach Gerleve said game experience has helped.
“We’re just playing better than we were at the beginning of the year,” Gerleve said. “I think the younger guys are starting to get a feel of game speed.”
Angelo has 17 fewer first downs than its opponents this season, while total yardage is virtually even. But its defense has recovered 10 fumbles and compiled 14 quarterback sacks.
Junior quarterback Trey Weishuhn has thrown for six touchdowns and is averaging more than 200 yards passing a game.