By Dave Wagner: Freedom New Mexico
It’s back to the drawing board this week for the Eastern New Mexico University football team.
After a seemingly insurmountable 28-0 halftime lead got away in a stunning 43-36 overtime loss to New Mexico Highlands in last week’s season opener at Greyhound Stadium, ENMU tries to bounce back today at Incarnate Word in the Lone Star Conference opener for both teams.
Meantime, the Cardinals (0-1) are also looking for a bounce-back after a 31-21 loss at home to former LSC member East Central.
ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo expected Highlands to mount some kind of rally last week, although he didn’t necessarily think the Cowboys could get all the way back.
“They have a bunch of good athletes, and we knew they were more dangerous than what they’d shown,” Ribaudo said. “The thing that hurt them in the first half was penalties.”
Incarnate Word, in just its third season of football and second in the LSC, went 5-5 in 2009 and 3-8 last year under coach Mike Santiago. He said what hurt the Cardinals last week was turnovers — two interceptions and two lost fumbles.
“We turned the ball over early,” he said of falling behind 14-0 in the opening quarter. “The game’s not real complicated. If you turn the ball over four times, you’re probably not going to win.”
Santiago said he’s concerned about containing ENMU’s wide-open attack, which generated 391 yards last week (337 through the air).
“I don’t know if we can slow them down,” he said. “We’ve just got to try to play our game and stay with them.”
Santiago has built the UIW program from the ground up.
“This year, for the first time we’re starting to build some depth,” he said.
Meantime, Ribaudo said the Hounds enter the game a bit shorthanded, including two players “who shall remain nameless” who will not make the trip for team violations.
Also, junior strong safety Linvel Mosby (shoulder) and junior running back Stefan Mills (broken hand) were injured last week. Ribaudo said Mosby will be replaced in the starting lineup by junior Denton Allmon.
Backup free safety Ronnie Slater won’t play after suffering a concussion in practice, while sophomore wide receiver Michael Matthews will miss his second game with an ankle injury.
“I think they’re a good football team,” Ribaudo said of the Cardinals. “East Central has one of the best teams they’ve had in a long time.
“(UIW is) sound in all aspects of the game. It’s going to be a tough challenge going down there.”