ENMU faces tough test in Tarleton

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

The Eastern New Mexico University Greyhounds doesn’t have time to dwell on last week’s heartbreaking 52-51 overtime loss at West Texas A&M.

Not with the Lone Star Conference South Division’s other nationally ranked teams — No. 22 Tarleton State today at Blackwater Draw and No. 6 Texas A&M-Kingsville next week on the road.

First-year ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo said he is trying to take it one day at a time.

“We can’t even look any further than today’s practice,” he said earlier in the week. “I don’t even want to think about next week.”

Tarleton (5-1, 1-1 South) bounced back from a narrow loss at Kingsville two weeks ago to blow past Midwestern State 37-7 last week. Still, first-year Texans coach Sam McElroy said his team has its work cut out at Blackwater Draw, a place where Tarleton has never won.

“Coach Ribaudo and his staff are doing a great job,” he said. “It’s going to be all we can do to slow down that offense. I know it’s going to be a battle.”

He doesn’t expect any letdown from the Hounds (4-3, 2-1).

“Eastern certainly had a chance to win that game (at WT),” he said. “I know they’ll be ready to roll. There’ll be no question Coach Ribaudo will have his team ready.”

Tarleton is back in the South Division this year after spending several seasons in the North. Easternand Tarleton haven’t met since 2001.

Senior running back Derrick Ross, the South’s preseason player of the year on offense, set a school single-season rushing record with 1,540 yards a year ago. Ribaudo compared the 6-foot, 240-pound Ross to former LSC running backs Dwayne Davis (ENMU) and Larry Williams (Kingsville) — big backs with some speed.

“They’ve got a great team,” Ribaudo said of the Texans. “They’re one of the upper echelon teams in the South.
“They don’t do things to put themselves in a bind. They don’t run a high-risk offense, but it’s very effective.”

Ribaudo said the Hounds are “a little beat up” but in relatively good shape physically for this point in the season. The big thing is bouncing back mentally after almost pulling the upset at WT.

Fast facts
Tarleton State at ENMU
6 p.m. today at Blackwater Draw
Tarleton State 5-1 (1-1 Lone Star Conference South), ENMU 4-3 (2-1).
Radio: KSEL-FM 95.3.
On the web: www.enmu.edu/athletics.
Coaches: Tarleton State, Sam McElroy, 1st year; ENMU, Mark Ribaudo, 1st year.
Last meeting: 2001, the Texans crushed ENMU 55-14 at Stephenville, Texas. It was Tarleton’s first win over the Greyhounds in 13 meetings all-time.
Last week: Tarleton routed Midwestern State 37-7. ENMU lost at West Texas A&M 52-51 in overtime.
Tarleton players to watch: Jeremy Madkins, 5-11, 180, Jr., WR; Renardrick Phillips, 5-10, 185, Jr., DB; Derrick Ross, 6-0, 238, Sr., RB; Erick Smith, 6-0, 240, Jr., LB; Tywain Myles, 6-2, 290, So., DT.
Tidbits: The Texans are 0-5 all-time at Blackwater Draw. Their only this season came two weeks ago at Texas A&M-Kingsville, with the Javelinas holding on for a 24-21 win after building a 21-0 halftime lead. “We didn’t play real well in the first half,” McElroy said. “Our kids showed some class to be down like that and come back.”… McElroy returned to Tarleton this year after two seasons as an assistant at Division I-A North Texas. He was the Texans’ defensive coordinator from 2000-02, also serving as assistant head coach the last year. … The Texans, who have won 9 of 10 dating to last October, are 23rd in this week’s NCAA Division II poll and fourth in the Southwest Region. Meantime, ENMU dropped just one spot this week in the regional rankings, from eighth to ninth. … McElroy this season became just the second Tarleton football coach to start his regime with four consecutive victories. … Ross is ranked second in NCAA Division II in rushing with 176.6 yards per game. … The Texans’ defense forced seven turnovers against Midwestern, including five interceptions.
Quotable: “It’s a good place for me to be. It’s a good university and a good program.” — McElroy, on coming back to Tarleton.