Freedom New Mexico
Veteran Eastern New Mexico University offensive coordinator Mike Howard, who underwent triple bypass surgery on Monday night in Lubbock after experiencing chest pains earlier in the day, appears to be doing well and should make a full recovery, ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo said Tuesday.
“It went well,” Ribaudo said Tuesday of the surgery. “Mike’s going to be fine. There was no heart damage.”
Howard was on the sideline calling plays for the Greyhounds’ season-opening 59-21 win over Southern Nazarene on Saturday at Blackwater Draw. ENMU piled up more than 500 total yards, with quarterback Wes Wood throwing for seven touchdowns and wide receiver Jesse Poku making 10 catches to surpass Derrick Hunter’s school career record for receptions.
Ribaudo said there is no timetable for Howard’s return, although it almost surely won’t be this week when the Hounds visit Angelo State in a 5 p.m. Lone Star Conference crossover game on Saturday.
The coaching staff was busy Tuesday adjusting to Howard’s absence. Ribaudo said offensive line coach Draco Miller will fill in as offensive coordinator.
“It’s pretty tough, but we will find a way,” Ribaudo said. “Coach Miller has been coaching here for the last several years, and he’s been Mike’s right-hand man. I have plenty of confidence in him and (outside receivers) coach (Josh) Faith.”
As well as the offense played Saturday, ENMU’s defense came on strong after a slow start, holding the Crimson Storm scoreless over the final 39 1/2 minutes. The Hounds limited SNU to 283 total yards and picked off five passes, including Curtis Jackson’s 77-yard touchdown return for the final tally of the game.
“The defense really played well,” Ribaudo said. “They had a kickoff return (of 85 yards by junior FaFa Alce to the ENMU 4) to set up one of their scores.
“I wasn’t surprised. Any time you hold anybody to under 300 yards, that’s a hell of a day. I thought we had that capability.”