Eastern New Mexico University linebacker Tony Johnson (43) tackles Texas A&M-Kingsville’s Raymorris Miller in Saturday’s Lone Star Conference South Division football game at Greyhound Stadium. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
BLACKWATER DRAW — If Michael Benton was feeling any effects from a mild concussion which knocked him out of the previous game, the Eastern New Mexico University quarterback did a pretty good job of hiding it.
Benton caught a 55-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Logan Capps on ENMU’s opening series — the Greyhounds’ first touchdown pass this season — then threw a touchdown pass and ran for two more scores in a 37-14 Lone Star Conference South Division victory over Texas A&M-Kingsville on Saturday night.
The Greyhounds (2-6, 1-4 South) piled up easily a season-best 435 yards and moved out of last place in the division past the Javelinas (3-6, 0-4).
Benton was knocked out in the first quarter of ENMU’s game at Midwestern State on Oct. 21 on a helmet-to-helmet hit. He didn’t practice until Wednesday.
“I was just looking to get back on the field,” said Benton, who rushed for 157 yards on 19 carries and completed 3-of-8 passes for 62 yards. “I knew I had to come out here and prove something.”
ENMU overcame a holding penalty on the opening kickoff and two more penalties early in the possession to drive 93 yards for a score. The touchdown came on an end-around pitch to wide receiver Logan Capps, who pulled up and hit a wide-open Benton streaking down the right sideline on a 55-yard play.
“We wanted to shake thing up and get (the Javelinas) on their heels early,” ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo said. “I think it took a little air out of them.”
Kingsville followed with its best drive of the night, going 76 yards in 18 plays to tie it on quarterback Jeremy Heatley’s 2-yard run.
The Hounds dominated the rest of the half.
Lee Price put ENMU up for good with a 32-yard field goal, and on the first play of the second quarter, Benton threw a 29-yard TD pass to running back Fide Davalos for a 17-7 lead.
“It was good to get involved in our offense,” said Davalos, a Floyd High School grad who added 73 yards rushing on 11 carries. “Our offensive line played a heck of a game, and we were able to run through some good holes.”
Kingsville pulled to 17-14 in the third quarter when Heatley capped a 66-yard drive with a 44-yard TD strike to wide receiver Jareko Taylor, but outside of the two scoring drives, the Javs did little on offense. They were held to 233 yards.
“We didn’t really make any adjustments (after Kingsville’s long opening drive),” ENMU senior linebacker Jeremy Mullins said. “We mainly started executing better on third downs.
“(Kingsville’s) been kind of down. We knew if we could get up on them, we might be able to get it going. Our offense did a great job tonight.”
Benton put the game out of reach with touchdown runs of 21 and 40 yards early in the final quarter, and running back Jason Walker added a 1-yard scoring run with 1:50 left.
Senior linebacker Tony Johnson, who was in on a game-high 14 tackles, said having the lead gave the defense a lift.
“A lot of teams would give up when the season goes bad,” he said. “It’s all about heart. This feels good to go out and play your best and come out with a victory.”