By Dave Wagner
CNJ sports writer
If there were any questions about West Texas A&M’s firepower, they were probably answered in last week’s 90-57 rout of McMurray.
“Obviously, WT’s offense is explosive,” Eastern New Mexico University coach Josh Lynn said as the Greyhounds prepare for today’s 5 p.m. (MDT) Lone Star Conference and “Wagon Wheel” clash against the Buffaloes in Canyon, Texas.
WT ranks second in NCAA Division II football in scoring offense (54.5 ppg) and total offense (533.5 ypg). The Buffs (7-1, 3-1 LSC) have failed to score at least 34 points only once — in their only loss, a 31-27 setback at Tarleton State on Oct. 12.
WT is tied for second place in the LSC with Midwestern State, one-half game behind Tarleton (5-2, 4-1) and one-half game ahead of ENMU (4-3, 2-1).
Veteran coach Don Carthel was fired just before the season for what the schcol said a rules violation, but the Buffs seemingly haven’t missed a beat under interim coach Mike Nesbitt.
Lynn noted that the Buffs start seven seniors on both sides of the ball, and have a weapon most Division II teams can only dream of in place-kicker Sergio Castillo, who is the LSC’s all-time leading scorer.
The key to the team, though, is senior quarterback Dustin Vaughan, Lynn said. Vaughn leads the LSC in passing and total offense.
“Their team runs through Dustin Vaughan,” Lynn said. “He doesn’t play specials (special teams), he doesn’t play defense, but everything runs off him.”
And don’t be fooled by the 57 points allowed last week, either. Nesbitt said the score was the product of McMurry’s uptempo style.
“It’s the nature of the beast when you play them,” he said.
Despite the coaching change, WT appears to be steamrolling toward an NCAA Division II playoff berth.
“The kids have done a great job of paying attention to the task at hand and staying focused,” Nesbitt said. “There’s still some really good players here, and the goal is still the same.”
Meantime, ENMU has put together its first three-game winning streak in six years, and hopes that momentum gives them a shot at ending an eight-game losing streak against their rivals.
“That’s something Eastern hasn’t done in a long time,” Lynn said of the win streak. “They (Buffs) have got a lot of athletes, but I think we’ve closed that gap a little bit.
“The thing that concerns me is the speed with their receivers. All four of those guys are lightning bolts.”
Nesbitt said the Buffs face a completely different style this week with ENMU’s triple-option attasck as opposed to McMurry’s wide-open, all-out assault.
“Offensively, they’re doing a great job,” he said. “They know what they’re doing, and they’re really good at it.
“They’ve got the same opportunity in the conference as (the other one-loss teams).”
ENMU (4-3, 2-1 LSC)
at West Texas A&M (7-1, 3-1)
5 p.m. (MDT) today at Canyon, Texas
• Radio: KSEL-FM 105.9, KGNC-AM 710.
• Coaches: ENMU, Josh Lynn, 2nd year, 7-10; West Texas A&M, Mike Nesbitt, first year (interim), 7-1.
• Last meeting: 2012, the Buffaloes pulled away to a 44-21 win over the Greyhounds at Blackwater Draw.
• Last week: The Hounds edged Texas A&M-Kingsville 13-10 at Blackwater Draw, giving them their first three-game winning streak since 2007, while the Buffs outscored McMurry 90-57 at Abilene, Texas.
• WT players to watch: Dustin Vaughan, 6-5, 220, Sr., QB; Aaron Harris, 6-0, 205, Sr., RB; Torrence Allen, 6-1, 190, Sr., WR; Taylor McCuller, 6-2, 240, Sr., LB; Curtis Slater, 5-9, 195, Sr., DB.
• Notes: WT leads the all-time series 15-11, including 14-11 in the “Wagon Wheel” era, but ENMU hasn’t won since 2004. … Today begins a difficult finishing stretch for the Hounds, who host Midwestern State (6-1, 3-1) next week and play at Texas A&M-Commerce (6-2, 2-2) on Nov. 16. … Nesbitt, a native of Belen, was a punter in college. He played one year at ENMU (1990) and three at the University of New Mexico (1991-93). … Nesbitt spent four seasons as a WT assistant (2006-09), then returned this year as the assistant head coach and offensive line coach. He was named interim head coach after Don Carthel was fired shortly before the season began for what the school said was an NCAA rules violation. … WT’s wild win at McMurry boosted the Buffs over the .500 mark all-time (485-484-22). The teams combined for 1,401 total yards — 708 for McMurry, 693 for WT. … Last week’s output tied for the third-most points in WT history; the Buffs scored 104 points in 1922 and 100 the next year against Oklahoma Panhandle State. … The Buffs are ranked eighth in NCAA Division II in the D2Football.com poll, and 15th in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) poll. … WT senior PK Sergio Castillo set a conference record by going 12-for-12 on extra points last week (the previous mark of 11 had been matched several times). He is the LSC’s all-time scoring leader with 384 points, going 225-of-229 on PATs and 53-of-65 on field goals. … WT has ensured its ninth winning season in a row; the Hounds are trying to avoid a ninth consecutive losing campaign.
— Compiled by Dave Wagner