By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
Age is a relative thing, but Eastern New Mexico senior tackle T.J. Cobb thinks it has helped the Greyhounds’ offensive line mesh into a cohesive unit this season.
“Up front we’re pretty old,” said Cobb, a senior from Alvin, Texas, who had to sit out in 2004 after suffering a knee injury in preseason. “Expectations were high for us, and we’re just trying to meet those expectations.”
ENMU (4-3, 2-1 Lone Star Conference South Division) has increased its point total in each game this season, although to continue that trend might be asking a bit much. The Greyhounds, shut out in their opener against Central Arkansas, are coming off an emotional 52-51 overtime loss to rival West Texas A&M last week at Canyon, Texas.
ENMU hosts South Division rival Tarleton State (5-1, 1-1) today at Blackwater Draw.
A big part of the reason for the team’s success on offense is in the line, which features four seniors with significant starting experience. At WT, with nearly 23,000 people in attendance, the Hounds set a school record with 475 yards rushing and came close to a school mark with 632 total yards.
The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Cobb said the players enjoyed the atmosphere.
“It was crazy,” Cobb said of the game. “It was one of the craziest games I’ve ever been involved in.”
Cobb started two years ago in the line. Meantime, seniors Tyson Rush (6-6, 310) and Robert Acuna (6-0, 307) at the guards and Devin Pilgrim (6-2, 270) at center were regulars last season.
The only player without starting experience before this season is junior tackle Marcus Smith (6-3, 271).
“They practice hard, and when they practice hard they play hard,” ENMU offensive coordinator Mike Howard said. “You always think you can play better, but they’re playing hard.”
The line has become a relatively cohesive unit, Cobb said.
“If one of us has a bad day, someone else picks him up,” he said. “We just all try and help each other out.”
Behind the current starters, Howard said the Hounds are grooming underclassmen to step in next season. All get several series during a game spelling the starters.
“You just kind of go by feel and see how it goes,” Howard said. “As long as the ball’s being moved when they’re in there, they’ll get to play.”
Pilgrim, from Grapevine, Texas, said the goal of the offense is to be able to move the chains.
“We’re just trying to be able to make first downs and control the clock,” he said. “We try to keep the ball in our hands as much as possible.”
He said losing the “Wagon Wheel Game” at WT was disappointing, but not devastating.
“We’d like to have gotten the wheel, but we’ve still got a good chance to win the South,” Pilgrim said. “It was the best game I’ve been a part of.”