PORTALES — While the season didn’t turn out quite the way Eastern New Mexico University coach Mark Ribaudo and his team hoped, the Greyhounds ended it with one of their better performances in some time.
Ribaudo credited his team’s discipline in part for Saturday’s 35-10 Lone Star Conference crossover drubbing of Tarleton State at Stephenville, Texas. It was the Hounds’ first win over an LSC South opponent in four years and first road triumph over a South foe since 2005.
Ribaudo said the game had a chance to get chippy early on, but ENMU coaches were able to get their players to reign in their emotions while the Texans (3-8), enduring their first losing season since 1999, were whistled for a number of personal fouls.
“They just didn’t play Tarleton-style football,” Ribaudo said. “(The penalties) gave us a lot of momentum.”
ENMU (5-6) had lost six in a row to the Texans, including last year when they led 13-0 at Blackwater Draw only to see Tarleton rally for a 30-20 victory.
“They gave us some opportunities (to win) last year, but this year we’re at the level where we can and did take advantage of (opponents’ mistakes),” Ribaudo said. “It was a great thing for us to see.”
Players of the week: Senior running back Tony Valenzuela and senior cornerback Tavius Bigelow were accorded LSC North Division player of the week honors on offense and defense, respectively.
Valenzuela, who has been ENMU’s top back the last half of the season, scored three touchdowns and rushed for 92 yards against Tarleton while Bigelow had seven tackles and two interceptions. He took a lateral from Clovis senior Devin Sweet on another interception and carried it the final 20 yards for a touchdown, giving ENMU a commanding 21-3 halftime lead.
“It was pretty impressive,” said junior free safety Curtis Jackson, who had a fourth ENMU interception and would have had another except he was ruled to have come down out of bounds. “We just came out ready to play. It was an incredible way for our seniors to go out.”
Oklahoma schools leaving: The LSC will apparently go from 14 teams to nine in football next year with the five Oklahoma schools leaving — Northeastern State and Central Oklahoma for the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association and Southeastern Oklahoma, Southwestern Oklahoma and East Central for the Gulf South Conference.
Ribaudo has released a schedule which calls for eight LSC games and two non-conference outings, beginning on Sept. 3 at home against New Mexico Highlands. The Hounds, who have a bye on Oct. 15, finish the season at Texas A&M-Kingsville on Nov. 12.