CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson ENMU senior linebacker Devin Sweet makes a tackle on a Southern Nazarene ballcarrier during last week’s season opener at Blackwater Draw. The Greyhounds play at Angelo State tonight.
By Dave Wagner
PORTALES — It’s been nearly four years since the Eastern New Mexico University football team has beaten a Lone Star Conference South Division opponent.
Senior wide receiver Jessie Poku, who last week broke the school’s career pass receptions record, figures it’s about time for that to end.
The Greyhounds, now members of the North Division, take a 19-game losing streak against the South into today’s 5 p.m. (MDT) crossover contest against Angelo State at San Angelo, Texas.
Armed with some confidence after last week’s season-opening 59-21 blowout of Southern Nazarene, Poku said the Hounds are anxious for this week’s challenge. ENMU’s last LSC South win was 37-14 over Texas Texas A&M-Kingsville on Oct. 28, 2006.
“I’m really stressing this year that we live every down and every play as if it’s our last,” said Poku, who had 10 catches and scored three touchdowns against SNU and now has 137 grabs in four seasons. “I want to bury every single team we play because I’m tired of everybody looking at Eastern like it’s the bottom of the barrel.”
Just how the season plays out remains to be seen even after last week’s win, to be sure, but people no doubt took notice.
Sixth-year Rams coach Dale Carr believes he has his best squad this season, but he’s not sure what to expect because this is Angelo’s first game.
“We haven’t been tested yet, of course,” Carr said. “We’re always respectful of Eastern New Mexico and what they bring to the table.
“We’ve been hitting on each other (in practice), but you never know how you’re going to react in a game.”
The Hounds will be without offensive coordinator Mike Howard, who underwent triple bypass surgery on Monday in Lubbock. ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo said Thursday that Howard hoped to be released on Friday.
Offensive line coach Draco Miller will step in for Howard this weekend.
“I’ve been here a long time,” said Poku, a fifth-year senior from Murphy, Texas. “Coach Howard has been like a father (figure) to me. When I found out he was in the hospital, I almost cried. He’s a critical part of this team, and you want to go the extra mile for the guy.”
Ribaudo said he has confidence in Miller to do the job.
“Coach Miller and the whole offensive staff have been working their butts off,” he said. “If we don’t succeed, it’s not going to be for lack of effort. We’re going down there and play the game like we’re trying to win it, not just survive it.”
Ribaudo said the Rams will change little from recent years, with an I-formation on offense and a 3-4 look on defense.
“They’re not going to trick you,” he said. “They’re going to try to run it over you, and throw it to better people than you have to cover them.”
ENMU (1-0) at Angelo State (0-0)
5 p.m. (MDT) today, San Angelo, Texas
Radio: KSEL-FM 105.9.
Coaches: ENMU, Mark Ribaudo, 6th season, 19-36; Angelo State, Dale Carr, 6th season, 23-31.
Last meeting: 2009, Angelo State held the high-powered ENMU offense in check en route to a 47-23 win at Blackwater Draw.
ASU players to watch: Josh Neiswander, Sr., QB, 6-2, 215, Sr.; V’Keon Lacey, WR, 6-4, 217, Sr.; Cody Smith, NG, 6-2, 260, Sr.; Zach Petitt, Sr., 6-2, 245, Sr.
Notes: The Rams lead the all-time series 20-13-1 and have won the last four. Prior to that, ENMU had strung together five wins in six games. … Neiswander threw for 403 yards at ENMU last season, the third-highest total in ASU history. … Angelo has sent 11 players to the NFL over the years, including Pierce Holt, who won Super Bowl rings with the San Francisco 49ers in 1988 and 1989. … The Rams are 35-11 all-time in home openers. … Next week, ASU faces Texas A&M-Commerce at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas in the Harvey Martin Classic, named for the former Cowboys star who played at Commerce (then known as East Texas State).
Quote: “I think the only people who put much stock in that are the media and fans.” — Angelo State coach Dale Carr, on his team’s preseason prediction of sixth place in the seven-team South.
— Compiled by Dave Wagner