Freshman Landon Morton reaches for a pass during Thursday’s Eastern New Mexico University practice at Ram Field. Photo by Kevin Wilson.
After having a 4-0 start spoiled by Abilene Christian for the fourth time in five years, Eastern New Mexico University football coach Bud Elliott wonders if confidence is a problem for his team.
ENMU returns to Blackwater Draw for Saturday’s 2 p.m. Homecoming game against Angelo State still ranked at No. 23 in both major NCAA Division II polls, but smarting from last week’s 24-14 loss at ACU in the Lone Star Conference South Division opener.
“We can’t go out and play the way we played against Abilene Christian,” Elliott said. “We need to take a hard look at ourselves. When you’re 4-0 or 4-1 you’ve got to be a pretty good football team, and sometimes I don’t think we believe that.
“We’ve got to get back to playing confidently. It’s just getting our kids to believe that when they get on people, we’re capable of doing some good stuff.”
Although ENMU has taken three of its last five meetings with the Rams (2-3, 1-0), the home team hasn’t won in that stretch. And ASU comes in with some momentum after winning its last two games over Southwestern Oklahoma (28-24) and West Texas A&M (20-19).
“This is not a good time to catch them because they’re feeling pretty good about themselves,” Elliott said.
Veteran Rams coach Jerry Vandergriff, whose had 18 consecutive winning seasons before going 2-8 in 2002, said ASU is just trying to get the winning feeling back.
“We’ve given up lots of yards (on defense), but we’ve also played some good football teams,” said Vandergriff, in his 21st year at the helm. “After five games, hopefully we’re going in the right direction.”
Vandergriff said the Rams are relying on young players in some positions. He pointed to the changes in NCAA scholarship limits as being an equalizer for programs.
“What’s happened over the last 10 years is (the NCAA has) cut down on the number of scholarships,” he said. “Everybody’s feeling the effects of that.”
The Hounds, Vandergriff said, “are just like they always are. They’re very proficient on offense, and they’re well-coached. I think those guys (ENMU coaches) do as good a job over there as anyone.”
Elliott had similar words for Vandergriff and his assistants.
“It’s a good coaching staff,” he said. “There’s some things you can do with matchups because they’re predictable, but Angelo State will be sound. They really believe in some things and they usually get better as the season goes.”