By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer
With two games left in the season, Eastern New Mexico’s offense is either the most prolific in the program’s history, with 4,556 yards gained through Division II’s top passing offense, or close, with 18 points needed to break the school season record of 339.
“The obvious thing is they go 100 miles an hour with that pace,” Midwestern State coach Bill Maskill said of his Mustangs’ Saturday opponent at Blackwater Draw. “Going that fast, it’s hard to prepare for them. They’re throwing it every down.
“There’s a lot of people who wish they had the stats they’ve got.”
Of course, the Greyhounds would love to have Midwestern’s No. 13 ranking, or its 7-2 record (2-2 Lone Star Conference South). But they hope they can settle for an upset to propel them into the offseason.
“It would help us tremendously against a great opponent,” Greyhounds coach Mark Ribaudo said. “It would be a great shot in the arm. It would be a big pickup.”
The 7 p.m. contest against the Mustangs is the first of a two-game, season-ending homestand for ENMU. Next Saturday, the Hounds host first-year program Incarnate Word in a non-conference affair.
A two-game winning streak to end the season still wouldn’t give the Greyhounds anywhere near their first winning season since 2004, but it would help the squad forget a season with three one-possession losses and three separate losses of 11 points or less.
In most of those games, Ribaudo said, it just came down to doing a few more bad things than good things.
“Every week, it’s kind of been something different,” Ribaudo said. “Last week, we didn’t play the run well. The week before, we turned over the ball.”
Those are situations the Mustangs have been able to avoid for the most part, but there have been hiccups in a Lone Star Conference South Division where three other teams are nationally ranked. Both of Midwestern’s losses have come via last-second field goals — 20-17 against Angelo State and 31-28 against Tarleton State.
“They’re an excellent defense,” Ribaudo said. “They have a top-rated quarterback (Zack Eskridge). I think they’re the best team in the league, to tell you the truth. They’re high-powered on offense, their special teams are really good, they’re very fast.”
Maskill said his defense has been good as long as it avoids the big plays. The problem with defending the Greyhounds — throwing for 440 yards a game — is they can score without the home-run play.
“They throw it short, they try to wear you out,” Maskill said. “The team that doesn’t get worn out is going to have a good chance at success.”
Midwestern State (7-2)
at ENMU (2-7)
7 p.m., Greyhound Stadium.
Radio: KSEL 105.9 FM
Coaches: MSU, Bill Maskill, eighth season, 59-26. ENMU, Mark Ribaudo, fifth season, 17-35.
Last week: The Greyhounds are coming off a 38-31 loss at Texas A&M-Kingsville, while the Mustangs rolled to a 43-16 home victory over Central Oklahoma.
Last meeting: 2008, Midwestern State won 59-16 at Wichita Falls, Texas. The Mustangs lead the all-time series 9-4 and have won the last seven meetings.
Tarleton players to watch: QB Zack Eskridge, RB Marcus Mathis, KR/PR BeeJay Mathis, LB Emmanuel Bagley.
Notes: With two games left in the season, ENMU receivers Jesse Poku and Arvin Jackson are each closing in on Steve Jackson’s 1993 season record of 75 receptions. Poku has 63 catches and Jackson has 61. … Freshman PK Taylor Cannon is tied for 23rd in NCAA Division II in field goals (11), and is sixth in the LSC in scoring with 7.1 points per game.