By Jesse Wolfersberger: Freedom Newspapers
CANYON, Texas — The numbers were staggering — 1,183 yards of offense, 103 points, 14 touchdowns — and an overtime.
After all that, a record 22,993 fans left Kimbrough Memorial Stadium after seeing West Texas A&M beat Eastern New Mexico 52-51 in overtime.
After the Buffaloes scored in their first possession of overtime, Michael Benton answered for ENMU with a 1-yard run to bring his team within an extra point of tying the game.
Greyhounds coach Mark Ribaudo said the stadium noise won the game for the Buffaloes.
“We called a good fake,” he said. “We just couldn’t communicate it. It was so loud that half our offense didn’t hear it. They thought we running a different one, so we were running two different fakes at the end there.”
Lined up in the swinging gate, Corey White hiked the ball, fumbled it, rolled out to the right, and threw an interception to Darnell Johnson.
“I thought they heard me,” White said. “They reacted as if they heard me, but when I said ‘set’ they all shifted over. It’s just a mental mistake.”
“When they started to shift over, the jig was up,” Ribaudo said.
With the conversion failed, the WT faithful rushed the field, grabbed the wagon wheel and ripped down the goalpost.
“I tried to be the first to the Wagon Wheel,” Johnson said. “But I got bum-rushed in the middle of the field by fans. I looked up and saw (WT junior) Jason Jones was the first one up there, so I had to just go down there and get me a piece of it. It was just amazing.
“We didn’t play sound on defense all night. But we stepped it up when we had to.”
Overtime was not the only time the crowd hurt the Hounds.
With the game tied and only 12 seconds left to play, ENMU was threatening inside the WT 20-yard line. The Hounds went for the touchdown with a sweep to the right side, but Jason Tezeno gained only one yard and hit the turf in bounds with the clock showing two seconds.
“My side (of the argument) is that I thought we called a timeout with two seconds left,” Ribaudo said. “We were going to run out there and kick a field goal to win the game, but apparently the referees said we didn’t get it in on time. They didn’t see me, they couldn’t hear me, and time ran out.”
The clock continued to tick and the game headed to overtime.
“We were trying to get it up there a little bit closer for the field goal,” Benton said. “We had timeouts, we had three or four people signaling timeout. As (Tezeno) was going down, I was in the middle of the field signaling — while he was running, I was signaling.
“I definitely called a timeout, but I guess that’s football.”
In the first 17 minutes, each team scored only a field goal, but the rest of regulation best resembled a 12-round title fight, with each fighter landing blow after blow. Each team engineered six touchdown drives, none more than six plays.
ENMU set a school record with 475 rushing yards. Tezeno ended with 192 yards on the ground and three touchdowns and J.J. Jennings racked up 107 rushing yards on only two plays.
The Buffaloes had four players — Joe Harris, Tonae Martin, Jon Lockett, and Ramon Perry — with more than 80 yards receiving and at least a touchdown.
The crowd topped WT’s total attendance last year of 21,490.