By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
BLACKWATER DRAW — Eastern New Mexico University football coach Mark Ribaudo knew he had to do something to get Angelo State quarterback Trey Weishuhn under control.
Otherwise, the Greyhounds were going to be in for a long night.
Completing six of his first seven passes, Weishuhn engineered the Rams into a 14-7 first-quarter lead.
Then ENMU changed its defensive scheme, going away from a four-man front to three down linemen with two linebackers essentially lined up as defensive ends to provide pressure on the quarterback from the outside.
The adjustment, called “Lobo,” helped the Hounds dominate the rest of the game. The Rams were blanked over the final three stanzas, managing only 78 yards in that time, as ENMU celebrated its homecoming by rolling to a 38-14 Lone Star Conference South Division victory.
The win sets up a showdown at 5 p.m. (MDT) on Saturday at Canyon, Texas, against rival West Texas A&M for the early division lead.
Ribaudo said he was searching for something to get the Rams’ offense under control, and it worked.
“Once we got heat on (Weishuhn), we did well,” he said. “I was concerned (early) about their running game. We had trouble with that at first, but they kind of got away from it, thank goodness.”
Weishuhn finished 14 of 25 for 144 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Junior linebacker Tim Ojeda was credited with 3 1/2 of ENMU’s five quarterback sacks in the game. He and fellow linebacker Kenneth Odie tried to apply pressure from the outside.
“At the beginning, the quarterback was just getting ‘free’ passes,” said Ojeda, a junior college transfer from California. “We started bringing some heat off the edge. We didn’t want him just standing still and passing.”
With Angelo still in striking distance and moving inside the ENMU 10 early in the final period, linebacker Tony Johnson helped keep the Hounds (4-2, 2-0 South) in control when he intercepted a pass intended for tight end Justin Carter just shy of the goalline. Johnson brought it out to the 13, and quarterback Michael Benton engineered a game-clinching 87-yard drive that lasted more than seven minutes and culminated with his third of four touchdown runs with 3:37 left.
“We came in trying to stop the run, but then coach Ribaudo (had us start) blitzing a little more and things just opened up for us,” said Johnson, who was credited with a second interception in the game on a play that was originally called a fumble. “That forced (Angelo) to start passing, and we got a lot of pressure off the edge.”
Meantime, the offense effectively control the ball. Behind Benton, who posted his fifth consecutive 100-yard rushing effort, the Hounds had the ball for more than 35 minutes and finished with 455 total yards.
Benton was also able to hit a couple of deep throws in the first half, helping keep the Rams honest on defense.
“We wanted to take advantage of the 1-on-1 matchups,” he said. “The line did an excellent job tonight. I had plenty of time to sit back there and see the field.
“It was a total team effort. Everybody stepped up tonight.”
Saturday’s “Wagon Wheel” game carries more than the usual weight. WT (6-0, 2-0), coached by former ENMU coach Don Carthel, was ranked 22nd in NCAA Division II last week and is coming off a 47-44 win at Midwestern State on Saturday.
Ojeda said the Hounds weren’t going to get ahead of themselves.
“They’ve been playing well this year,” he said of the Buffaloes. “When we go in to watch film on Monday, we’ll get a good look at them.”