Silver quarterback Michael Benton, center, releases a throw during the second half of ENMU’s spring football game on Saturday at Leon Williams Stadium. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
Little things sometimes make a big difference, as Eastern New Mexico University running back J.J. Jennings found out Saturday.
Jennings had just put the Green squad ahead with a 78-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter of Saturday’s Green & Silver spring game at Leon Williams Stadium. As he approached the goalline, he took off on a headlong dive into the end zone.
Game officials saw the move as “unsportsmanlike conduct,” penalizing Green 15 yards on the extra point, and Lee Price’s kick was blocked.
Quarterback Michael Benton then scored on a 17-yard run as time elapsed in the third period, and with Price’s PAT kick Silver held on for a 14-13 victory.
Jennings, who will be a junior next fall, felt good about the run but bad about the penalty that essentially cost his team an extra point.
“I was just thinking, ‘Get to the end zone,’” said Jennings, who led all rushers in the game with 107 yards on 12 carries. “I wasn’t trying to show off.”
Benton threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Logan Capps in the second quarter. He went 5-of-14 passing for 98 yards and also led Silver in rushing with 51 yards on 13 attempts.
Defense had the better of it for most of the game, both teams finishing with just over 200 total yards.
“I think everybody came out with enthusiasm and the will to play well,” said Silver linebacker Tony Johnson said. “Last year wasn’t a game. This year we’ve got a new system (on defense), and everybody plays their roles.”
Asked if it was an advantage for the defense having a fairly good idea of what the offense was doing, Johnson said the Hounds’ option game is simply tough to defend.
“Everybody has to play their roles,” he said. “If somebody doesn’t do their job, they’re going to break one for a TD like J.J. did.”
Jennings said the offenses didn’t always execute.
“Our coaches called some good plays, but we were shooting ourselves in the foot most of the time,” he said. “When we executed, we were able to maintain drives.”
The game was certainly much more competitive than last year’s 35-7 Silver blowout. ENMU coaches changed the draft procedure to ensure a more competitive game.
ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo said that because the teams are a mix of starters and reserves, mistakes are probably more frequent.
“I thought it was a good, competitive game,” Ribaudo said. “I thought we ran around on defense and tackled pretty well.
“I was pleased with how the sprint went; we got a lot of things done. We tinkered with our defense and got some (younger) kids educated (in the system.”
Benton nearly gave Silver a quick lead, scampering 67 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the game only to have it called back for holding.
Green broke through late in the quarter when freshman running back Marcus Robinson raced 40 yards into the end zone. That held until Benton’s TD pass to Capps, a freshman from Cloudcroft who caught four passes overall for 73 yards.
“He’s really been making his mark over the spring,” Ribaudo said of Capps. “We’re very pleased with him.”
Ribaudo, also ENMU’s defensive coordinator, said coaches have been tinkering with the scheme during the spring after the Hounds gave up 30 points a game during the 2005 campaign.
“We want to take away big plays,” he said. “We want to get some speed on the field. We just gave up too many big plays last year.”