BLACKWATER DRAW — Saturday’s 49-31 Lone Star Conference North Division win over Central Oklahoma at Greyhound Stadium provided Eastern New Mexico University’s defense with something it hasn’t had often had this season — rest on the sidelines.
The Greyhounds (3-3, 2-1 North), averaging around 23 minutes a game in time of possession, controlled the ball for nearly 20 minutes in the second half alone in outscoring the Bronchos 28-7 and erasing a three-point halftime deficit.
“They gave us a lot of rest, which is always needed,” said senior safety Tillman Stevens, who had three of the team’s four second-half interceptions, including one he returned 62 yards for a touchdown.
The Hounds rushed the ball for a season-best 229 yards, including 167 in the second half.
“We’re not used to that,” said senior wide receiver Jessie Poku, whose three touchdown catches put him ahead of Derrick Hunter for the most career TD receptions in school history (24). “It was a great game. I’m very proud of the way we came out.”
The win was vindication of sorts, after ENMU’s surprising 21-10 loss at Southwestern Oklahoma the week before.
“Last week was tough and there were a lot of people who lost their faith in the Greyhounds,” ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo said after the game. “I’m just super-proud of everyone today.”
Take what they give: Quarterback Wes Wood, who threw roughly half as many passes Saturday as he did at Southwestern Oklahoma, said the Hounds adjusted better in this game to what the defense was giving them.
“They dropped eight people (against the pass), and that means every receiver was double-covered,” said Wood, who finished 20-of-31 for 194 yards and four TDs. “We just (took) what they were giving us.”
Poku, a question mark going in after sustaining a neck injury at Southwestern, said he was happy to see it.
“Our run game got going,” he said. “Our offensive line had a hell of a day blocking, and Wes (nine carries for 73 yards) had a hell of a day scrambling.”
Motivation: Stevens, who also had two interceptions the week before at Southwestern, said he played a little harder in Saturday’s contest after he had a cousin die on Monday.
“I just had to leave everything on the field,” he said. “We definitely needed to come out this week and play hard. Everybody knows last week was a letdown.”
Deceptive pass rush: Even though ENMU had no sacks against the Bronchos, the Hounds had plenty of pressure on sophomore QB Ethan Sharp, who took a number of hits and was officially “hurried” eight times.
“They did a really good job,” UCO coach Tracy Holland said of ENMU’s defensive front. “From a defensive standpoint for Eastern New Mexico, I felt that was a key.”
Up next: East Central hosts the Hounds in a 1 p.m. (MDT) kickoff on Saturday at Ada, Okla. Despite the Tigers’ 1-5 record (1-1 North), Ribaudo said they are better than that, particularly on defense.
“They’re a very improved team,” Ribaudo said. “Their defense flies around.”