Buffs avoid upset

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo ENMU’s Terrence Griffin evades the lunging tackle of West Texas A&M’s Jared Brock early in the second quarter of Saturday’s game at Greyhound Stadium.

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

BLACKWATER DRAW — The Eastern New Mexico University football team was on the verge of one of the most stunning comebacks imaginable Saturday night.

Trailing 37-0 early in the second quarter against fourth-ranked rival West Texas A&M, the Greyhounds intercepted WT senior quarterback Keith Null three times and pulled to within 10 points with barely two minutes gone in the third quarter.

Then the Buffaloes got back on track and eventually nailed down a 51-27 Lone Star Conference South Division victory at Greyhound Stadium.

Null finished 35-of-55 through the air with three touchdown tosses while senior running back Wayne McKnight added 101 yards rushing and scored twice. McKnight filled in with starter Keithon Fleming out with broken hand suffered in last week’s game against Midwestern State.

The game, which started at 6 p.m., ended at 10:48 p.m. after three lightning delays, all in the range of a half-hour. Part of the second half was played in a steady shower.

The Hounds (1-6, 0-3 South) scored three times in a span of less than three minutes late in the second quarter to pull to 37-20. Senior linebacker Allen Perez had two interceptions, the first off a deflection, which set quarterback J.J. Harp’s 1-yard scoring run.

Perez then stepped in front of a WT receiver on the first play following the kickoff and weaved his way into the end zone from 23 yards out. That was followed by the first lightning delay.

When play resumed, WT (7-0, 3-0) moved to the Hounds’ 7, but Null overthrew wide receiver Charly Martin in the end zone as time expired in the half.

On the third play of the second half, freshman cornerback Reggie Butler intercepted Null, giving the Hounds the ball at the WT 21. Three plays later, on third-and-4, Harp found freshman Matt Handler wide open over the middle for a 15-yard score, making it 37-27.

The second delay came after a WT punt with 8:20 left in the third quarter. When play resumed, ENMU used an unsportsmanlike penalty against the Buffs to gain a first down at the 13, but WT held and blocked a 30-yard field goal attempt by ENMU’s Adam Richards.

The Buffs responded by driving 80 yards in 12 plays — a drive interrupted by the final delay. McKnight got the touchdown with seven seconds left in the period on a 6-yard run.

Running back Kelvin Thompson capped an 80-yard, 14-play drive with a 3-yard TD run with 5:34 left.

WT outgained the Hounds 554-213. The Buffs ran 99 plays from scrimmage and five Hounds were in double figures in tackles, led by free safety Jeremy Hibbler with four solo stops and 13 assists.

Harp finished 26-of-49 passing for 214 yards, with running back Terrence Griffin catching eight passes for 56 yards and wide receiver Jessie Poku six for 48.