By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University’s offense continued to move the ball on Saturday at Angelo State.
Even though the stats don’t reflect it, Greyhounds coach Mark Ribaudo said the defense also played well in a last-minute, 41-38 Lone Star Conference crossover loss to the Rams.
“It might not look like it on paper, but our defense played well,” Ribaudo said Tuesday. “That offense is the best they’ve had since 1997 (when Ribaudo came to ENMU as an assistant).”
Senior quarterback Josh Neiswander threw for five touchdowns, including a 9-yarder to Tristan Carter with 32 seconds left, after ENMU (1-1) had taken a 38-34 lead with 2 1/2 minutes to go.
Needless to say, it was a tough loss for the Hounds, who have dropped their last five meetings with ASU and 20 in a row against South Division competition.
“I see a lot of progress, but when you lose a game like that it feels like your first girlfriend dumped you, or your favorite uncle passed away,” Ribaudo said. “I can’t ask any more from these kids. Every kid on this team is trying the best they can. They want to win — terribly bad.”
Sophomore quarterback Wes Wood completed 39-of-65 passes for 303 yards and four TDs, giving him 11 in two games. But the Rams (1-0) were able to pick him off three times in the final period.
ENMU erased a pair of 10-point deficits to lead 38-34 on a 3-yard run by redshirt freshman Melvis Hawkins.
“The offense is looking great,” said junior wide receiver Darian Dale, who caught eight passes for 60 yards against the Rams. “(Wood) is doing his job, putting the ball where we need it, and our job is to catch it.”
Dale said the Hounds are providing opponents with a major challenge in trying to cover four wide-outs on every play. ENMU will be put to the test on Saturday in a 6 p.m. game against 13th-ranked Midwestern State (2-0) at Blackwater Draw.
“I think if we can run our offense like we have been, we can get the job done,” Dale said.
ENMU offensive coordinator Mike Howard, who underwent triple bypass surgery last week in Lubbock, has returned home and is progressing, Ribaudo said. The Hounds have a bye after this week’s game, but Ribaudo said there’s at least an outside chance Howard could be back the following week when ENMU opens LSC North play at home against Texas A&M-Commerce.