By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
A heartbreaking loss to second-ranked Texas A&M-Kingsville on Saturday has all but knocked the Eastern New Mexico University football team out of contention for the NCAA Division II playoffs.
Now the Greyhounds will try to do the same thing to Midwestern State when the teams clash in a noon (MDT) Lone Star Conference South Division game on Saturday at Wichita Falls, Texas.
A win would clinch second place in the division for ENMU (5-4, 4-1 South), while the Indians (6-2, 3-1) still have bigger fish to fry after pulling out a 25-24 win at East Central last weekend.
“The farthest thing from my mind right now is the playoffs,” MSU coach Bill Maskill said. “The most important thing is getting ready to play Eastern New Mexico. We’ve got a lot of respect for coach (Bud) Elliott and their entire football team.”
Elliott, preparing for his second-to-last game after 37 seasons as a college head coach, said the Hounds appear to have bounced back from the narrow loss to Kingsville.
“I think if we play our ‘A’ game, it’s going to be a heck of a football game,” he said. “I think the character of this football team is such that we’ll come out and play pretty good.
“We’re approaching it like it’s a playoff game for Midwestern.”
Maskill said the Indians’ game at ECU was a similar situation, with both teams coming in with two losses and trying to stay alive for the playoffs.
Getting focused again this week shouldn’t be a problem, Maskill said.
“They’re playing hard and playing well,” he said of the Hounds. “Regardless of who you play or who you’ve played, you want to try to get your team ready for the next one.”
MSU erased a 24-18 deficit at East Central on a 13-yard run by Ross Harrison with 3:01 left, then junior defensive tackles Marcel Moses and Derryk Davis stopped ECU running back King Davis short on fourth-and-inches with 33 seconds left.
MSU sophomore quarterback Rahsaan Bell, a hometown product, completed 15-of-22 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns against the Tigers.
“He’s pretty good,” Elliott said. “He runs the option well and he throws the ball decently. We tried to recruit him out of high school.”
Elliott said senior quarterback Steven Hinson, who injured a shoulder late in the Kingsville game, should be able to play Saturday. But he added that left guard Tyson Rush, third-string quarterback and holder Jon Bell and backup defensive back Randy Johnson are all either out or doubtful for the game with knee injuries.