By Dave Wagner, Freedom Newspapers
BLACKWATER DRAW — The Eastern New Mexico University defense had tried to get its hands on Northeastern State quarterback Joe Hogan all night — without success.
Then, with the game on the line early in the fourth quarter, junior defensive end David Reed found himself with a clean shot. He blind-sided Hogan from the right, forcing a fumble that senior linebacker Kenneth Odie scooped and returned 58 yards for a touchdown to lift ENMU to a 14-10 Lone Star Conference crossover win on Thursday night at Greyhound Stadium.
Reed said the defense was just hoping to come up with a big play.
“We knew we had to do something,” he said. “I just got ‘big,’ and he (Hogan) held onto it a little bit too long.”
Odie picked up the ball cleanly, but had to avoid a couple of would-be tacklers as he neared the goalline.
“I had moved to the weak (opposite) side and I was just coming off the block,” Odie said of the play. “I thought I was going to get the sack, actually, but (Reed) got their first.”
Odie said he had a similar opportunity two years ago in a game against Abilene Christian, but got caught from behind short of the end zone.
“I kept looking back and I saw them coming,” he said. “That’s why I changed directions.”
ENMU (2-0) overcame a muffed punt later in the fourth quarter, forcing three three-and-outs and then stopping the RiverHawks (0-2) on a last-ditch, 12-play drive that ended when receiver Domingo Codner was dragged down at the ENMU 42, a yard short of the first down on a fourth-down play with 35 seconds left.
The Hounds did not attempt a pass in the game, churning out 282 yards on 55 rushes. Senior quarterback Michael Benton gained 159 yards on 35 carries and backup QB J.T. Thompson added 56 yards on eight carries.
“It wasn’t a plan (not to throw), but we need to run the option,” ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo said. “We started out pretty good. I thought we controlled the game until the end of the half.”
The Hounds had an 11-play drive on their opening possession that ended in a blocked field goal.
Benton carried on four of five plays on an 80-yard scoring march later in the period. His 75-yard, third-and-13 sprint inside the 10 set it up, and he went over the left side from eight yards out on the first play of the second quarter.
Northeastern, held without a first down for 27 minutes, marched 60 yards in 15 plays and pulled to 7-3 at halftime on a 36-yard field goal by Jared Homer with four seconds left. The RiverHawks took a 10-7 lead when wide receiver Damien Henderson went 24 yards on an end-around play late in the third quarter.
“I think Eastern New Mexico is a good football team,” Northeastern coach John Horner said. “They’re tough and physical and they did what they needed to do. The put the ball in their best player’s hands.”
Hogan, a Division I transfer from Kansas, completed 17 of 38 passes for 136 yards.