By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
LACKWATER DRAW — Eastern New Mexico University ended a five-year losing streak against Abilene Christian Saturday night with a 28-21 Lone Star Conference South Division victory at Greyhound Stadium.
Junior running back Jason Tezeno scored the deciding touchdown on an 11-yard run in the first minute of the fourth quarter, two plays after ENMU linebacker Courage Idemudia forced a fumble that Jeff Howard recovered at the ACU 19. Tezeno got a key block on the flank from running back Christian Coronado to help him get in.
Senior quarterback Steven Hinson took a lot of punishment from the ACU defense, but finished with 89 yards rushing and another 79 yards passing for the Greyhounds (2-3, 1-0 South). Included were a pair of 23-yard touchdown passes to junior Derrick Hunter.
“We did some things to shoot ourselves in the leg tonight, but we were able to overcome it,” ENMU coach Bud Elliott said, referring to, among other things, a costly fumble just before halftime which set up the go-ahead score for Abilene Christian. “It was just a great effort by a lot of kids.”
The second of the Hinson-to-Hunter TD strikes tied the game 14-14 early in the third quarter, and just over a minute later, Howard intercepted a pass in the flat by ACU’s Greg Wiggins and ran it back 41 yards for a touchdown.
“We stayed strong this whole game and pulled it off,” Hinson said. “I think we turned a new leaf today, and showed everybody in the conference what we can do.
“Derrick ran good routes and the line played great all night. We just have to keep it going now; we’re going to take it one game at a time. There’s no looking back.”
It was Howard’s second interception return for a touchdown in three home games this season.
“One thing that’s been good about our defense is that no matter what, we always play hard and stay together,” said Howard, who was also in on eight tackles. “We had a lot of guys, particularly young guys, step up tonight, and the secondary played well.”
The Wildcats (2-2, 0-1) mounted a final scoring threat, picking up four first downs — two on pass interference penalties — in moving from their own 21 to inside the ENMU 20 with less than two minutes left. But on fourth-and-2 from the 17, running back Rashon Myles was stacked up about a yard and a half short by the middle of the Eastern defense.
“Hopefully, Lord willing, we can keep building on this,” Howard said. “The Lone Star South is tough, and it won’t be easy.”
Wiggins went 17-of-34 through the air for the Wildcats, throwing touchdown passes of 4 yards to Tony Martinez and 24 to Dillon Cobb. The latter put ACU up 14-7 with 19 seconds left in the half, coming two plays after Hinson and Coronado had an exchange problem and ACU’s Clayton Farrell recovered at the Eastern 31.
After Howard’s interception, the Wildcats marched 70 yards in nine plays following the kickoff and got the tying touchdown on a 17-yard run by Mark Gaines with 4:25 left in the third quarter.