By Dave Wagner
Any loss can be hard to take. Eastern New Mexico University football coach Mark Ribaudo said Tuesday he’s still having trouble getting over the Greyhounds’ 43-40 Lone Star Conference North Division overtime loss to Northeastern State on Saturday at Tahlequah, Okla.
The game bounced back and forth, but the Hounds (4-6, 3-3 North), trailing 37-34, thought they’d won the game on a short Wes Wood-to-Chase Kyser touchdown pass as time expired.
An official, though, called ENMU for an illegal formation — meaning not enough men were on the line of scrimmage. Under the circumstances, Ribaudo thought it was, at best, picky.
Sophomore Taylor Cannon kicked a game-tying field goal on an untimed play, then added another on the first possession of overtime. But the RiverHawks (6-4, 5-1), facing first-and-15 at the 30 after an illegal procedure penalty, got the third touchdown pass of the day from quarterback Kenny Davis to wide receiver Trey McVay on the next play to give themselves a share of the division title with East Central, a 36-33 winner later at Texas A&M-Commerce.
“It was just a heartbreaker,” Ribaudo said. “That last drive (in regulation) was as thrilling as any I’ve ever seen.”
He considered going for the win in regulation.
“I thought a field goal, with the way our defense was playing, we would win it (in overtime),” he said. “We had a lot of mojo going.”
Junior linebacker Perron Sellers, the North’s defensive player of the week after making 15 tackles, said the 10-hour bus ride home was quiet. Had ENMU won and ECU lost, the Hounds would’ve earned a three-way tie for the North title.
“It probably felt like about 12 hours on the way back,” said Sellers, a junior college transfer from La Marque, Texas.
Early start: ENMU will close the season on Saturday with an 11 a.m. (MST) kickoff against LSC South member Tarleton State at Stephenville, Texas. The early start is due, in part, to a TSU basketball doubleheader scheduled for later in the day.
Tarleton, ranked in some preseason Division II polls, has struggled to a 3-7 overall record, but the Texans have played nationally ranked Texas A&M-Kingsville (13-10) and Midwestern State (31-26) tough, losing both in the final seconds.
“They’ve got some weapons,” Ribaudo said. “Their defense is typical Tarleton, very physical. We’re going to their place, so we’ve got quite a task ahead of us.”
Of note: The North co-title was the first LSC championship for East Central and the fourth for Northeastern, its first since 2007. … All LSC teams will play crossovers this week. The South has dominated the North, going 18-3.