No. 13 Mustangs set to test Hounds

Dave Wagner

PORTALES — Midwestern State got off to a flying start last weekend, pounding host New Mexico Highlands 52-6 in a game that really wasn’t that close.

The rout moved the Mustangs from 17th to 13th in this week’s NCAA Division II rankings. Still, Midwestern State coach Bill Maskill said he isn’t sure what to make of it.

“We’ve never scored 52 points out of the box,” said Maskill, in his ninth year as MSU’s coach. “I think our program has strengths and weaknesses, like everybody else.

“We’ve got some good athletes; we just have high expectations.”

The Mustangs play their second consecutive game in New Mexico today, facing Eastern New Mexico University in a 6 p.m. Lone Star Conference crossover contest at Blackwater Draw.

Like many coaches, Maskill maintains he doesn’t put much stock in rankings.

“That doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “It’s good talk for alumni and boosters.”

ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo knows his team, which came within seconds of its first road win over an LSC South foe since 2005 in last week’s 41-38 loss at Angelo State, will have its work cut out.

“It’s definitely going to be a challenge,” Ribaudo said. “(But) I think we’re a better team than we were last year. We’re a team people are going to have to contend with.

“It’s the third game (of the season); we’re still pretty fresh and fairly healthy. Our offense is doing well (97 points in two games), and I really believe our defense is playing well too.”

With longtime offensive coordinator Mike Howard recuperating from heart bypass surgery on Aug. 29, the Hounds continued to move the ball last week, piling up 421 yards at Angelo. Quarterback Wes Wood has thrown for 11 touchdowns so far.

“(Midwestern is) definitely a good football team,” said ENMU sophomore running back Stefan Mills of Clovis, part of a rotation in the Hounds’ one-back alignment. “It’ll be a good test for us, and it’ll be a good test for them to play us.”

Although ENMU is averaging nearly 120 yards rushing through two games, Mills realizes that part of the game is complementary.

“We have responsibilities in protection (of the quarterback) first,” he said. “From there, we can get out on our assigned (pass) routes.”

Offensive line coach Draco Miller will call plays again this week. The Hounds have an open date coming up, and could perhaps have Howard back by their Sept. 25 LSC North opener against Texas A&M-Commerce at home.

Ribaudo said with Howard away, Miller, outside receivers coach Josh Faith and grad assistant and inside receivers coach Katlan French have been shouldering a heavy workload.

“I don’t know if anybody understands the monumental task our offensive staff has taken on,” Ribaudo said.

GAMEDAY
Midwestern State (1-0) at ENMU (1-1)
6 p.m. today, Blackwater Draw

Radio: KSEL-FM 105.9
• Coaches: MSU, Bill Maskill, 9th year, 62-27; ENMU, Mark Ribaudo, 6th year, 19-37.
Last meeting: 2009, the Mustangs led by 10 points through three quarters before pulling away to a 50-17 win at Blackwater Draw.
MSU players to watch: Zack Eskridge, Sr., QB, 6-4, 220; Marcus Mathis, Sr., TB, 5-7, 215; Justin Rideau, Sr., WR, 6-2, 200; Austin McDaniel, Sr., OLB, 5-11, 190; Matt Ellerbrock, So., MLB, 6-3, 225; Ryan Craven, Sr., S, 5-11, 175.
Notes: The Mustangs lead the all-time series 10-4, and have won the last eight. ENMU’s last victory came on Sept. 15, 2001 — four days after 9/11 — when QB Heath Ridenour threw three touchdown passes in a 36-33 decision at Wichita Falls, Texas. … MSU has dropped 50 or more points on the Hounds in four of the last five seasons. … Mathis rushed for 131 yards last week, including a 70-yard TD run on the first play from scrimmage that set in motion a 28-point first quarter. … Eskridge, a third-year starter, went 10-of-15 passing for 152 yards against the Cowboys, ending a streak of 12 consecutive games with 200 or more yards through the air. But with the lopsided score, he left midway through the third period. … Former Mustangs standout Andy Tanner, who set school single-season records in receptions (75), yards (1,186) and touchdowns (12) in 2009, was waived on Aug. 31 by the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. Tanner, who has two younger brothers on the MSU roster, had signed in the spring as an undrafted free agent.
n Quote: “I look at it one year at a time, one game at a time. Coach Ribaudo and his staff do an outstanding job, and we’ve got the utmost respect for them.” — Maskill, on the Mustangs’ recent dominance of ENMU.

— Compiled by Dave Wagner