The rivalry is back. Just the second year into renewing the yearly showdown, the Western New Mexico University football team went toe-to-toe with Eastern New Mexico University with The Greyhounds pulling out the hard-fought 37-34 Lone Star Conference victory on Saturday in front of a packed Altamirano Field.
Redshirt senior quarterback Javia Hall threw for 418 yards and four touchdowns, with senior Evan Beebe hauling in five passes for 125 yards and a score to lead the way. Freshman Elijah Jones added three catches for 104 yards and a TD, while reigning LSC Offensive Player of the Week redshirt senior D’Angelo Bowie brought in six for 93 yards and a TD.
While the passing game was clicking, it was another struggle on the ground for the Mustangs (0-2, 0-1 LSC) as they rushed 26 times for 26 yards. As expected, it was the opposite for the Greyhounds (2-0, 1-0 LSC) as they chewed up 367 yards on the ground and only passed for 37 yards.
Turnovers were big with ENMU committing just one to five for WNMU which led to a 17-7 points off turnover advantage for the Greyhounds.
Early on, ENMU took advantage of recovering an on-side kick at the WNMU 40. Wyatt Strand wasted no time running 33 yards down to the WNMU 7. On third-and-goal at the three, Johnny Smith took it in for the touchdown and the Greyhounds were up 7-0 just over a minute into the game.
WNMU turned the ball over on downs on the next possession at their own 31, but a big play by the Mustang defense ended up turning the tables over. Already back in the red zone at the WNMU 14, Strand lost the snap and wasn’t able to secure the ball and as it was kicked around, redshirt junior Tyler Butler scooped up the fumble and went all the way untouched for an 85-yard score to knot the game at seven.
After holding ENMU on the next drive, WNMU was moving the ball out near midfield when an interception by Brad Hardin help setup the Greyhounds out near midfield. The intended pass along the far sideline hit the back of the intended receiver and Hardin was there to snag the INT. Eight plays later, Tucker finished off the drive for ENMU on first-and-10 at the WNMU 13 when he scampered in for the score and a 14-7 ENMU lead near the end of the first quarter.
Another turnover cost the Mustangs points early in the second quarter when an attempted lateral pass from senior Justin Harris to Hall hit the ground and was recovered by ENMU’s Hayden Hill at the WNMU 47. The Mustang defense limited the damage forcing the Greyhounds to a 32-yard field goal attempt that was good by Bailey Hale to move the lead to 17-7 with 10:24 to play before halftime.
It looked like the teams would stay that way into halftime until a big penalty kept a WNMU drive going late in the half. On fourth-and-six at the ENMU 25, Hall’s pass was intercepted by Dakota Montoya, but on the play, roughing the passer was called keeping the drive alive. WNMU made good on the mistake as on the next snap Hall found Bowie for the 12-yard strike to leave the score at 17-14 in favor of ENMU at halftime.
WNMU came out firing to start the second half as they took the kickoff and marched 75 yards in 10 plays to take their first lead of the game. On the drive, Harris picked up a big first down on third down and then on the scoring play, Hall hooked up with Beebe on fourth-and-12, as Beebe adjusted to the underthrown ball and went in for the 29-yard score as Hall just avoided an all-out blitz. After junior Colin Grady added the extra point WNMU moved ahead 21-17.
ENMU methodically answered back after recovering the on-side kick out near midfield, they went on a 13 play, 48-yard drive to regain the lead. On the drive, they converted two fourth downs, including a fourth-and-goal at the one as Kamal Cass was just able to get across for the score to move the Greyhounds to the 24-21 lead with 5:21 to play in the third quarter.
In a theme of the third frame, WNMU was ready to strike back. Starting at their own 25 after a touchback, Hall found Jones on a big third-and-11 that went for 53 yards to the ENMU 23. A few plays later, Hall looked around and hit North, who broke free down the near sideline for the TD to move WNMU to the 27-24 lead as the ensuing extra point was blocked.
With WNMU still holding a three-point lead into the fourth quarter, WNMU looked to be in good shape down inside the Greyhound 30 when the ENMU defense made a big play. On second-and-14, Hall tried to hand it off to sophomore DeAndre Williams, but he was met by several Greyhounds and fumbled in which ENMU recovered at their 35. A big run by Tayshaun Gary had the Greyhounds in business when he went 53 yards down to the WNMU nine. On the next snap, Cass went up the middle for the score and ENMU moved back in front 31-27 with 13:50 to play in the game.
The next drive had WNMU quickly out to midfield after a couple of pass completions, but the turnover bug was back when Harris was hit near midfield and fumbled with ENMU picking it up at the ENMU 48. The Greyhounds threatened to move in front by two scores, but the Mustang defense refused to go away. After a fourth down penalty on WNMU kept the drive alive, ENMU got all the way down to the WNMU seven and were faced with a fourth-and-one. The Greyhounds turned to Cass, but redshirt senior Dominic Barry and redshirt sophomore Tariq Myricks came up with the stop for no gain to turn the ball over on downs with still eight minutes to play.
After two quick incompletions, Hall hit a big strike on third down to Beebe who got loose for 59 yards down to the ENMU 34. A pass interference play marched the ball down to the 19, but the drive stalled there. On fourth-and-eight, a pass to Beebe was knocked away by Dante Urrea to turn the ball over on downs.
ENMU then chewed up almost five minutes on the next drive, going 11 plays and capping the drive with a one-yard TD by Strand to move in front 37-27 as the extra point was blocked. During the drive, ENMU used the rare passing attack to pick up a big third-and-fourth when Strand hit Russell Montoya for 18 yards.
With just over a minute to play, WNMU wasn’t about to go away. The Mustangs responded in a swift 29 seconds, as Hall found Jones for the 23-yard touchdown. Leading up to the TD, Hall found sophomore Jelani James for 11 yards and Jones the first time for 28 yards. After the TD, WNMU was back to within three at 37-34 with still 55 seconds to play.
That meant another on-side kick was coming, but ENMU was able to secure it and run out the rest of the clock.
ENMU ended up passing just nine times, completing four for 37 yards. Gary led the ground attack with 113 yards on nine attempts. Cass added 91 yards and Strand with 68.
The Mustang defense was busy going against the triple option attack as Barry posted 15 tackles, with four coming solo. Senior Aaron Leauma had 12, with five solo and redshirt sophomore James Lee was also in double-figures with 11 tackles, four solo.
Three Greyhounds all had six tackles in Fe’ao Vunipola, Hayden Hill and Zach Johnson.
On special teams, Grady had a booming punt where he sent one 72 yards and was downed at the ENMU 1 midway through the second quarter to help flip field position.
ENMU came into the game receiving votes in the latest AFCA Coaches Poll.
The Mustangs will remain home this coming week when they will play a non-conference game against Western Oregon on Saturday with kickoff set for noon.