Hounds open at CSU-Pueblo

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson ENMU assistant Todd Wallis, right, rolls a loose ball to Joey Mendez during a drill at Thursday’s practice. The Greyhounds open their season Saturday at Colorado State-Pueblo.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Colorado State-Pueblo is a new program. Eastern New Mexico just feels like one.

Both the Thunderwolves and Greyhounds are hoping to build on rough 2008 campaigns when they meet Saturday in Pueblo, Colo.

For Eastern, it’s the second year of the spread offense after years of a triple option attack.

“We’re going from building cars to building airplanes,” fifth-year coach Mark Ribaudo said. “We’re not in year six of an offense. We’re a second-year offense, a second-year defense.”

For CSU-Pueblo, it’s the second year of everything. The Thunderwolves rebuilt completely, having reconstituted their football program — dormant since 1985, when the school was called Colorado Southern.

“They started it up the right way,” Ribaudo said. “They dumped a lot of money into it. They hired really good coaches, they have really good facilities and there’s great community support.”

The team turned to its past, hiring former quarterback John Wristen, who had spent 15 years as an assistant with stops at UCLA, Northwestern and Colorado.

Wristen, who still holds Colorado Southern records for passing yards and touchdown passes, joked that the hardest part of last year’s 4-6 campaign was learning everyone’s name.

“In all seriousness, everything was kind of new,” Wristen said. “Trying to set a standard of what we wanted this program to be about was a big task.”

Now, before the Thunderwolves take on the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, the task is ENMU, which last year struggled to a 2-9 mark.

A win would be a solid start for both rebuilding programs.

“They’re in the RMAC and they won a few games last year; we won a few games last year,” ENMU center Ryan Torres said. “We aren’t taking anybody lightly. We’re playing them as if they’re (West Texas A&M).”

Strong safety Tex Henry said he thinks the Greyhounds are ready for a turnaround.

“We’re a whole lot better as a team,” Henry said. “We’re playing as one.”