Buffs 3-3 season should never be forgotten
West Texas A&M played more games than any other school in Division II in 2020. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]
A hundred years from Saturday someone will be doing research on the West Texas A&M football season records and run across the year 2020.
They will pause for a second.
Can that be right? Six games? Is that all they played?
On they will move searching the next decade of WT season records and look more admiringly at 8-3, 10-2 and 13-1.
What they won’t know is those six games of 2020 are a badge of Division II honor, a football story for the ages, a season like no other WT team has ever experienced, and, hopefully never will.
The final of those six WT games played out under an ugly gray sky – typical for 2020 – Saturday afternoon at gorgeous Buffalo Stadium.
The outcome certainly wasn’t what the Buffs were hoping for as the Pittsburg State Gorillas used four West Texas A&M turnovers as the catalyst for a 42-28 victory played out before 1,500 fans.
The victory meant the Gorillas would finish their season at 2-2 and have a happy seven-hour bus ride back to Kansas.
The loss ended the season for fourth-year head coach Hunter Hughes and his Buffs at 3-3, a record looking pretty pedestrian on paper 100 years from now.
But this 3-3 was far from average or typical.
When COVID-19 stopped the U.S. cold back in March, on a level reaching far below the illness and lives lost in connection with the world pandemic, its path of destruction included college athletics.
What started as the unthinkable when 2020 March Madness – the money-making, backet-mania men’s Division I basketball tournament - bit the dust, soon to follow was all of college spring activities.
That included spring football at West Texas.
While nobody at the time could ever imagine COVID kicking our butts and taking names into the fall, then blindside tackle us all the way into Thanksgiving, it certainly has done that, and more.
Well, let’s not say “nobody.”
Way back in March In the offices of West Texas A&M meetings were held and a plan hatched in case COVID made it to the fall. The leaders, none other than WW himself _ WT president Dr. Walter Wendler _ and athletic director Michael McBroom, didn’t pout and say woe is me.
They went to work.
Why not try and play a football season? Be diligent, cut no corners and work out the safest possible plan for fans, players and coaches.
The determination and grit of Wendler and McBroom came to fruition Sept. 19 when Panhandle State arrived at Buffalo Stadium to play West Texas A&M.
“I proud of the university,” Hughes said. “I’m proud of Dr. Wendler. Him and Michael McBroom, I love them to death because they got us ready to play and a lot of people thought it was too risky to play.
“We thought it was too risky to play in the spring. To me it still is. “
The Buffs rolled to a 58-7 victory over Panhandle State, however, there was much more significance to the game than the score on the scoreboard.
West Texas would be one of nine Division II football teams to play in 2020. In comparison, 166 D-II football teams took the playing field last year.
When Saturday ended, the Buffs were the only D-II team in the nation to reach six football games played.
The ride at times was as smooth as driving over a Bell Street pot hole traveling 45 miles an hour.
What coach or player in this world ever sign up for a weekly COVID-19 test, stressing and losing sleep over whether the mask he wore all week helped him come up negative.
Well, three times entire WT games were cancelled this season because of COVID hitting opponents Abilene Christian, Missouri Western and Colorado Mesa.
Why even West Texas A&M was saddled with the “positives” and “contact tracing” – two currently common phrases that were in nobody’s vocabulary in March – while trying to get games in this season.
WT head coach Hughes made it to the sidelines Saturday, barely. He was coming off a quarantine after testing positive about 12 days ago (he was symptom free).
On the Wednesday before the Buffs 56-0 home win over North American on Halloween night, 35 players were lost to positive tests and tracing, “so we had to change our whole game plan. It was tough,” Hughes said. “It was terribly tough We test on Wedensday morning and I’m sitting back at home texting our trainer you got any results. It’s literally three o’clock and they are still testing and haven’t heard a word. Sometimes it was 10 o’clock at night before we got results. You just never knew.”
One thing Hughes knew was his players cared, endured and that’s when some missed games without a positive test he felt their pain.
“The disappoint in their faces is what hurt,” Hughes said. “I remember we had a freshman safety he was knocked out by contact tracing when we went to Angelo State. He was devastated. It killed him. Those are the kind of things that hurt.”
WT quarterback Nick Gerber, right, celebrates after a touchdown pass to Kenneath Redd Jr. after a touchdown against Pitt State on Saturday at Buffaloes Stadium. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]
No doubt the loss to Pitt State also hurt. Both offense pretty much had the upper hand but WT despite gaining 456 yards couldn’t overcome the turnovers and not coming away with any points on two drives reaching the 2-yard line.
“That was a good, hard fought game,” Hughes said. “We just dug ourselves too deep of a hole. When you do that eventually you just can’t climb out of the well.
“I’m proud of our guys. I’m proud of the way they handled themselves and how they did things all season long. The outcome of the game was not what we wanted, but hey, we got six games in when a lot of people didn’t get any. I think that will help us in the future.”
One hundred years into the future, a measly ol’ 3-3 record will sit next to year 2020 in the WT football history books.
No championships were won with that 3-3 record. No individual WT records were set with that 3-3 record. But that 3-3 record will never be forgotten.
Right, coach Hughes?
“The experience these guys got, the way they came together, the way they fought together,” Hughes said. “Absolutely it was worth it. I’d do it again.”
Pittsburg State 42, West Texas A&M 28
At Buffalo Stadium, Canyon
Pittsburg State 14 14 7 0 7 — 42
West Texas A&M 7 14 7 0 0 — 28
P - Max Sexton 1 run (Jaden Snyder kick), 13:00
P - Kaden Roy 48 fumble return (Snyder kick), 11:47
WT- Maxwell Perez 14 pass from Nick Gerber (Gage Urias kick), 9:03
WT-Kenneath Redd Jr. 15 pass from Gerber (Urias kick), 12:42
P-Tyler Adkins 1 run (Snyder kick), 7:59
WT-Jordan Johnson 3 run (Urias kick), 3:38
P-Dylan White 17 pass from Sexton (Snyder kick), 2:06
P-Adkins 13 run (Snyder kick), 10:18
WT-Prince Ugwu 41 run (Urias kick), 9:01
P-Bryce Murphy 31 pass from Sexton (Snyder kick), 13:54