Defense forced to watch

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson ENMU receiver Tyler Finch makes the diving catch for a touchdown in the first half of Saturday’s scrimmage at Greyhound Stadium.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

BLACKWATER DRAW — The Greyhounds coaching staff didn’t like the sight of the offense scoring at will Saturday morning. So they made the defense watch the same thing.

Saturday marked a win for the offense in the final Eastern New Mexico University football scrimmage before the upcoming Green and Silver spring game, as sophomore-to-be Wes Wood displayed control of the “NASCAR offense” he inherited from the departed J.J. Harp.

Wood, who led Muleshoe to the Class 2A Division I state title two years ago, led the first-team offense to a touchdown on its first offensive play and helped account for a five-touchdown day on offense, against three interceptions.

“It’s really different than it was last year,” Wood said following the scrimmage. “I think we have more of a team chemistry. I’m feeling really confident.”

Wood had two of the interceptions and four of the touchdowns, including a 75-yard bomb to Jesse Poku to open Saturday’s action.

It wasn’t too long after that when Ribaudo and defensive coordinator Todd Wallis snapped, and ordered the defense to the Greyhound Stadium stands. For the next two offensive series, the plays were called dead at the point of the receiver’s catch.

“We came out kind of slow,” senior linebacker Devin Sweet said. “Coach Rib doesn’t like that. We’ve got to come out fired up.”

The defense picked things up a little after that, with Sweet picking off a Wood pass and later stopping fellow Clovis High grad Stefan Mills during a goal-line series that netted only a field goal.

“Me and Nate (Uland) were talking (in the stands),” Sweet said. “We said, ‘We’re the seniors, we’ve got to do something.’ They ran that route right at me, so I pounced on it and jumped the route.”

In a halftime rebuke, Ribaudo called the interception a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing performance. The offense scored three first-half touchdowns with Wood, who — as Ribaudo reminded them — has only started one game as a Greyhound.

“We’ve got some things we’ve got to improve,” Ribaudo told his players after the two hours and change scrimmage. “If we don’t get it fixed, it’s going to be a long, long season.”

Sweet agreed with Ribaudo’s sentiments, but said the switch to a 4-2-5 defense is going well overall.

The defense shifts an extra defensive back in the place of the 4-3 defense’s linebacker. But those defensive backs, Ribaudo said, have to be smarter and cover more of the field.

“I’m putting you out there,” Ribaudo said, “and saying, ‘My man is better than your man, he’s going to win more battles.’ That’s the beauty of this defense. But you can’t miss tackles, and you can’t go in without your head screwed on.”

The Green and Silver game is at 4 p.m. Saturday, also at Greyhound Stadium.