At 1-3, it’s not hard to see where the Eastern New Mexico University football team might have turned some of those games around.
• The Greyhounds saw a 28-0 halftime lead slip away in a season-opening 43-36 overtime loss to New Mexico Highlands;
• They compiled 449 total yards but turned the ball over four times in a 41-28 loss at Incarnate Word;
• Last week, Tarleton State mustered two goalline stands and returned a fumble — one of four ENMU turnovers — for a touchdown, holding on for a 34-28 win in the Hounds’ Lone Star Conference opener.
Certainly on paper, the schedule gets progressively tougher, starting with today’s LSC clash at Angelo State (3-1, 0-1 LSC).
“We’ve made key mistakes in these games,” ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo said. “Last week, we had the four turnovers and got stopped twice inside the 5-yard-line.
“They’re (Rams) as big as all get-out and they’re athletic where they need to be athletic.”
First-year Rams coach Will Wagner, who came to ASU after a long stint as an assistant at perennial Division II power Northwest Missouri State, is determined to change the culture in the program.
“The main thing I’m preaching to our kids is to get better every week,” he said.
One of the Rams’ wins came at Chadron State, a perennial playoff team. ASU trailed by 21 points in the fourth quarter before storming back for a 49-42 win.
“That was a big confidence-builder for us,” Wagner said. “It said a lot about our kids.”
The teams are similar on defense, both coaches said — not surprising in that former ENMU defensive coordinator Mike Walton now has the same role at ASU.
“They probably know more about us than we know about them,” Ribaudo said.
The Hounds’ spread offense isn’t all that easy to prepare for, said Wagner, a former secondary coach at Northwest Missouri.
“They do some things that cause you problems,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge for our defense.”
Ribaudo, meantime, said the Hounds are certainly capable, but added that they’re a long way from having played their best game.
“We’re going to have to be a lot more sound as we go,” he said. “It’s kind of frustrating, because we see we could be a better football team.”
ENMU (1-3, 0-2 Lone Star Conference)
at Angelo State (3-1, 1-0)
5 p.m. (MDT) today at San Angelo, Texas
• Radio: KSEL-FM 105.9.
• Coaches: ENMU, Mark Ribaudo, 7th year, 23-46; Angelo State, Will Wagner, 1st year, 3-1.
• Last meeting: 2010, Angelo State outlasted the Greyhounds 41-38 at San Angelo, getting a 9-yard TD pass with 32 seconds left.
• Last week: The Greyhounds’ late rally came up just short in a 34-28 LSC to Tarleton State at Blackwater Draw. The Rams dropped their first game of the season and LSC opener at nationally-ranked Abilene Christian 31-17.
• Angelo players to watch: Blake Hamblin, 6-2, 200, So., QB; Nate Bayless, 6-5, 240, Gr., TE; Alvin Johnson 5-8, 180, Jr., FS; Lawrence Rumph, 6-4, 250, Sr., DE.
• Notes: ASU leads the all-time series 21-13-1 and has won the last five meetings. … Wagner, a native of Odessa, Texas, and a 12-year assistant at perennial NCAA Division II power Northwest Missouri State, was hired in December to replace Dale Carr, who went 9-3 in his first year at the helm in 2005 but had been 19-33 since. … At Northwest Missouri, Wagner was a part of 10 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association championships and three NCAA Division II national titles (1998, 1999, 2009). ENMU plays the Bearcats, currently ranked No. 1, on Oct. 15 at Maryville, Mo. … Junior QB Wes Wood will start against ASU, Ribaudo said. Backup Sawyer Cornelius, who replaced Wood in the fourth quarter last week, led the Hounds to one touchdown and nearly pulled out the game with a Hail Mary pass as time expired. … Six Rams receivers have between 11 and 13 catches for the season, led by Bayless (13 for 127 yards and a team-high three touchdowns) and Tris Carter (13 for 39 yards). … Former ENMU middle linebacker (1996-99) and assistant coach (2000-07) Mike Walton is now ASU’s defensive coordinator, while 2009-10 ENMU grad assistant Gary Saligado was hired by the Rams this year as linebackers coach. Walton, from Earth, Texas, was an All-American at ENMU and served as defensive coordinator in 2006 and 2007.
• Quotable: We’ve got to stop the run. (Teams) won’t stop running the ball on us we show we can stop it.” — Ribaudo on the Hounds’ defense, which is allowing 260 rushing yards per game.
— Compiled by Dave Wagner