By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
With consecutive wins under their collective belt, Eastern New Mexico University football coach Bud Elliott believes the Greyhounds are starting to hit their stride.
But as they found out last year, rival West Texas A&M is perfectly capable of throwing up a major roadblock.
The Lone Star Conference South Division foes clash in a 2 p.m. Homecoming kickoff on Saturday at Blackwater Draw, with the Hounds (3-3, 2-0 South) trying to maintain a piece of the division lead and the Buffaloes (1-4, 0-2) hoping to get off the deck.
In 2003, the Buffs were struggling when they shocked the Hounds 49-23 at Blackwater Draw, ending a four-year losing streak against ENMU with a dominating performance.
That was part of a season-ending, three-game losing streak for the Hounds.
“It usually doesn’t make much difference who’s been winning,” Elliott said of the rivalry. “Last year, we were in a downward spiral (when the teams met), and they just played harder than we did.”
Buffs coach Ronnie Jones said it’s a slow process trying to build a program which went 0-11 in 2002, his first season. But he added that they’re making strides behind a West Coast-style offense led by senior quarterback Derek Maupin.
“When you’re trying to build a program, you’ve got to remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” he said. “If we continue to get better, I think we’ve got a chance to eventually be pretty good.”
Both teams are coming off major comeback efforts last week. The Hounds erased a 23-point deficit in the final quarter to edge Angelo State 38-35, while WT wiped out most of Midwestern State’s 28-3, second-quarter cushion before falling 30-26.
Two turnovers were vital to the ENMU comeback — a fumble on a kickoff return, forced by Theo Watson, and an interception by free safety Ty Touchstone. Both set the Hounds up deep in ASU territory.
“We kind of figured out about every way to lose it in the first three quarters,” Elliott said. “All of a sudden, we scored and then we got a turnover on the kickoff. We took advantage of everything in the fourth quarter.”
He doesn’t anticipate his team going through the same kind of meltdown it did last year against WT.
“I think we’ve been getting a little better every week for the last three weeks,” Elliott said. “I think we’re in better shape this year, attitude-wise, than we were last year when we played them.”