EDMOND, Okla. — Senior quarterback Michael Benton ran for 243 yards and two touchdowns and threw for another Saturday night as Eastern New Mexico University defeated Central Oklahoma 21-7 in a Lone Star Conference crossover game.
Benton, the LSC’s leading rusher, scored on runs of 51 and 39 yards after the Bronchos tied the score with their only TD midway through the third quarter. His total was the second-highest for a single game in school history, behind Heath Ridenour’s 294-yard effort in 2002 in a 37-34 win over Texas A&M-Kingsville at Greyhound Stadium.
Benton’s 32-yard TD pass to freshman wide receiver Justin Campos with two seconds left in the half — only the fourth completion for the Greyhounds (4-0) this season, but second for a touchdown — broke up a scorless tie.
ENMU last won its first four games in 2003. The Hounds begin South Division play next Saturday at preseason favorite Abilene Christian.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo said. “It might have been a game where we showed more perserverance that I’ve ever seen.
“We got put in some tough (field) positions, but the guys stood by each other.”
Freshman defensive back Tillman Stevens led a solid ENMU effort on that side of the ball with nine tackles, including six solos. Jeremy Hibbler and Tony Johnson each recorded pass interceptions.
The Bronchos mounted two scoring drives in the first half, but the first ended when linebacker Kenneth Odie threw Stu Taron for a nine-yard loss to the ENMU 13 and the second ended when running back Ben Birmingham fumbled on second-and-goal at the ENMU 2 and defensive back Dwane Davis recovered for the Hounds.
After a one-yard punt by ENMU’s Brandon Haug gave the Bronchos the ball at the ENMU 12, Johnson picked off a pass by quarterback Colin Clancy two plays later and returned it 19 yards to the 24.
“It seemed like we played in our ‘red zone’ the whole time, but we really came up with some big plays,” Ribaudo said of the defense.”
Benton then led the Hounds on a drive, but his pass into the end zone was picked off by Kerry Johnson for a touchback.
Hibbler’s interception at the Central 46 in the final minute of the half gave the Hounds one last chance. Benton carried twice for seven yards, then fired two incomplete passes before hitting Campos for the game’s first score.
Haug had two more short punts early in the third period, and the Bronchos took advantage on the second. They drove 25 yards in seven plays, with Clancy hitting Marcellus Parker for 14 yards to the 1 on third-and-14 and then going over on a sneak with 6:52 left in the period.
The Hounds wasted no time coming back. Kyle Harris returned the kickoff 22 yards to the ENMU 45 before Benton broke a third-and-6 play for the go-ahead score.
Benton’s other TD capped a 73-yard drive in four plays and put the contest out of reach with just over three minutes left. Running back Jason Walker got the drive started with a 25-yard run just past midfield after the Hounds stopped Central on downs at the ENMU 27 with just over five minutes to go.
Ribaudo said sophomore safety Devin Sweet of Clovis suffered a concussion during the game and is unlikely to be available for next week’s clash with Abilene Christian.