Win next week gives ENMU share of LSC title
By Dave Wagner
CMI sports writer
BLACKWATER DRAW — Another long losing streak for Eastern New Mexico University’s football team fell by the wayside on Saturday — this one in impressive fashion.
Now the Greyhounds will bid to end another drought — as in Lone Star Conference titles — when they end the regular season next Saturday at Texas A&M-Commerce (7-3, 2-3 LSC), which routed non-league Houston Baptist 55-21 at home on Saturday.
Junior quarterback Jeremy Buurma directed a balanced offense that amassed 428 total yards and the ENMU defense rose to the challenge several times in a 40-21 dismantling of 12th-ranked Midwestern State at Greyhound Stadium for the school’s first win over the Mustangs since 2001.
ENMU (6-3, 4-1) has won five in a row, including back-to-back over ranked teams, and now has a chance with a win next week to share the LSC crown with Tarleton State, something the Greyhounds haven’t been a part of since sharing back-to-back LSC South titles in 1998 and 1999.
Clearly, second-year coach Josh Lynn has instilled confidence in the Hounds, but even he was a bit taken aback by this performance.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I didn’t see it coming. It’s a credit to our kids; they’re dogs and they fight.”
The Hounds controlled play for most of the first half and led 27-0 with under five minutes left after Buurma flipped a 16-yard scoring pass to junior Jacob Johnson.
“This might’ve been the game where we put it all together,” Lynn said. “It was a major effort by our defense. They had to throw the ball, which they don’t like to do that much.”
MSU (7-2, 3-2), which had a seven-game winning streak snapped, struck for two scores late in the half to get within range, and got the ball first to begin the second half. But ENMU’s feisty defense forced a punt, and the Hounds mounted a 68-yard drive that ended when senior running back Rashan Lawrence lunged inside the pylon for a 9-yard TD and a 34-14 bulge.
“They kicked our (rears),” said veteran MSU coach Bill Maskill, who lost to ENMU for the first time in 12 tries. “They played better than we did and coached better than we did.
“They (Hounds) play hard. I tried to tell our guys that all week.”
A Buurma-to-Johnson completion for 38 yards on the first play of ENMU’s second possession moved the ball to the MSU 11, and junior E’lon Spight went over two plays later from the 7. The Hounds forced a punt, then marched 80 yards in 10 plays for a 13-0 lead on fullback Christian Long’s 5-yard run with under two minutes left in the quarter.
“I think we just came together as a team,” said Spight, who rushed for a game-high 90 yards and added a 25-yard TD run early in the second quarter to cap a nine-play, 99-yard drive. “We took every play step by step, and everybody played hard.”
Greg Saladino’s punt was downed at the ENMU 1 early in the second quarter, but Buurma found Johnson for 22 yards on the first play and the Hounds moved steadily down the field to score.
Saladino was then stopped short by four yards on a fourth-and-8 fake punt, giving the Hounds possession at the MSU 41, and Buurma’s scoring pass to Johnson followed eight plays later.
Maskill said he called for the fake with his team struggling.
“I was trying to jump-start us and get us going,” he said.
Star running back Keidrick Jackson was held out for the Mustangs’ first two series for disciplinary reasons, Maskill said, but he added that it didn’t make much difference.
Jackson finished with 87 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
“Even if he’d been in the game, we still didn’t stop (the Hounds),” he said. “That didn’t have anything to do with Keidrick Jackson.”
While the Hounds have needed some almost miraculous comebacks during their winning streak, this one left little doubt.
“A lot of people don’t believe in us, but we really believe in each other,” said junior safety Conner Brinton, who tied for the team lead with nine tackles (six solos) and had an interception and two pass break-ups. “We prepare very well; that’s the main thing. We don’t take days off (in practice).”
Brinton said the Hounds thought they had the talent to be competitive when the season began.
“We just needed to come together as a team,” he said. “We knew we could play with anybody.”
Midwestern eventually replaced starting QB Jake Glover with freshman Quade Coward in the third quarter. He scored on a 20-yard keeper late in the period, but the Mustangs were unable to do much after that.
Junior Kevin Reaves’ 49-yard punt return to the MSU 31 set up a 9-yard TD run by junior Jordan Wells midway through the final quarter to all but salt the game away.