By Dave Wagner
It’s been quite a run over the last month or so for Eastern New Mexico University’s football team.
With four consecutive wins under their belts, including two Lone Star Conference roadies in which they’ve overcome deficits of more than 20 points, the Greyhounds find themselves in the unlikely position of LSC contender heading into the final two games of the season.
Today, the Hounds (5-3, 3-1 LSC) try to extend their winning streak and keep their hopes for a share of the LSC title alive against 12th-ranked Midwestern State (7-1, 3-1) in a 2 p.m. kickoff at Greyhound Stadium.
ENMU and MSU are the only teams with a chance of catching Tarleton State (6-2, 5-1), which has already completed LSC play. The winner will have that chance next week, the Mustangs hosting West Texas A&M (7-2, 3-2) and the Hounds visiting Texas A&M-Commerce (6-3, 2-3).
“We’ve got to get back to work,” ENMU coach Josh Lynn said in the aftermath of last week’s 39-38 win at WT. “We’re still a blue-collar, step-by-step, day-by-day team.”
The Mustangs, meantime, were expected to be a title contender and come into Blackwater Draw on a seven-game winning streak since losing to Tarleton State 27-24 in their opener. Still, veteran coach Bill Maskill said he doesn’t figure today’s game will be easy.
“They’re much-improved over a year ago,” he said of the Hounds. “They’ve solidified their defense. They’ve just gotten a lot better, and you can see it on tape.”
Lynn said the Mustangs aren’t that flashy. They just try to pound the ball at opponents behind senior running back Keidrick Jackson, whom he called “the best running back we’ve seen all year.”
“They’re No. 1 in the conference in rushing,” he said. “They’re going to say, ‘Here it is, try to come get us.’”
ENMU’s winning streak — longest for the Hounds since 2007 — is evidence of their progress, Lynn said.
“We’ve closed the talent gap a little bit,” he said. “I don’t think we could do what we’re doing without at least halfway matching up with teams.”
After last week’s upset by the Hounds at WT, Maskill is certainly hoping his squad doesn’t get caught looking ahead.
“Our concern this week is Eastern New Mexico,” he said. “We can’t be concerned about West Texas (A&M) or the playoffs. None of that (matters) if you don’t win the game you’re playing.”
Midwestern State (7-1, 3-1 LSC) at ENMU (5-3, 3-1)
1 p.m. today at Blackwater Draw
• Radio: KSEL-FM 105.9
• Coaches: Midwestern State, Bill Maskill, 12th year, 95-35; ENMU, Josh Lynn, 2nd year, 8-10.
• Last meeting: 2012, MSU beat the Greyhounds 51-28 at Wichita Falls, Texas.
• Last week: The Mustangs blasted NAIA member Menlo College (Calif.) 64-7 at home. The Hounds ended a seven-game losing streak against rival West Texas A&M with a come-from-behind 39-38 win at Canyon, Texas.
• MSU players to watch: Keidrick Jackson, 5-9, 210, Sr., RB; Jake Glover, 6-4, 225, Jr., QB; Bryan Keith, 6-5, 271, Sr., OT; Gadrian Muse, 6-1, 245, Sr., LB; Marqui Christian, 6-1, 200, So., S; Neiko Conway, 5-10, 185, Sr., CB.
• Notes: MSU leads the all-time series 14-4 and has won 11 in a row — all under Maskill. The Hounds last win was a 36-33 decision on Sept. 15, 2001. … The Mustangs are ranked 12th in the American Football Coaches Association Division II poll. They are currently the only LSC team ranked in the top 25 in either the AFCA poll or the D2Football.com pool. (13th). … Six players combined for seven rushing touchdowns last week against Menlo. The only one not to score was Jackson, considered a Harlon Hill Award (Division II player of the year) candidate. … Last week’s win over WT assured the Hounds will end their run of eight consecutive losing seasons. Meantime, the Mustangs have clinched the school’s 14th consecutive winning campaign.
• Quotable: “We’ve improved. We’re not where we need to be, but we’re getting better every week.” — Maskill.
— Compiled by Dave Wagner