Hounds start rugged part of schedule

By Dave Wagner: Freedom New Mexico

When Eastern New Mexico University senior Bracy McCoy blocked a late field goal try to preserve the Greyhounds’ 23-21 Lone Star Conference win last week at Angelo State, it gave the program a much-needed boost.

To borrow from Yogi Berra, it was also a case of deja vu all over again.

In 1998, ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo, then the defensive co-ordinator, recalled the Greyhounds won at Angelo 10-7, preserving the lead with a late blocked field goal. The irony, he said, is that ENMU All-American Mike Walton, now ASU’s defensive coordinator, was one of two players to get a hand on that kick.

The uplifting victory sends the Hounds (2-3, 1-1 LSC) into a murderous four-week run, beginning with today’s 2 p.m. kickoff against No. 10 Abilene Christian (3-1, 2-0) at Blackwater Draw.

ENMU follows that up with road trips to No. 7 Northwest Missouri State and No. 20 West Texas A&M before returning to face No. 18 Midwestern State.

For now, the Hounds just want to enjoy the victory.

“It shows we can go play with LSC teams and win; it was huge for our kids to see that,” Ribaudo said. “It helps a lot. We didn’t just play, we found a way to win.”

Sophomore middle linebacker Eli Finch said everybody pitched in.

“It was a great win, and we made some huge plays,” said Finch, who is from Farmington. “It was a team effort.”

He said, though, that every week presents a new challenge in the LSC.

“It’s tough competition; everybody’s good,” Finch said. “You just can’t go in scared.

“We feel confident in our game plan. If we can execute and cut down on our mental errors, we’ll have a chance.”

Angelo State is a good team, Ribaudo said, but Abilene Christian may be on another level.

“They are classic ACU; they wear you down,” he said. “Then, if you’re lucky enough to hang with it for three quarters, that athleticism just kicks in.”

The Wildcats’ loss came in week 2, a 23-17 decision to top-ranked North Alabama at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

ACU coach Chris Thomsen said his team is solid again. The main areas the Wildcats have had to fill in from last year, he said, are linebacker and wide receiver.

“We’re still learning a lot about our team,” Thomsen said. “We’ve only played four games, but the schedule so far has been pretty tough. I think this team is still meshing and building chemistry.”

Thomsen, whose team beat Angelo at home 31-17 two weeks ago, said he was impressed with ENMU’s win over the Rams.

“Coming off a win like they had at Angelo State, their guys are playing with a lot of confidence,” he said. “Their whole team is playing hard. Their defense stepped up big last week, and so did their special teams.

“The Lone Star, any way you slice it, is going to be tough. You’ve just got to buckle down and play.”