WT claims Wagon Wheel with convincing win at ENMU
West Texas A&M celebrates after beating rival Eastern New Mexico 35-14 on Saturday night at Greyhounds Stadium. [Trevor Fleeman/ WT athletics]
West Texas A&M didn’t show any effects from its heartbreaking loss last week to Angelo State.
The Buffs played their first complete game of the year, dominating arch-rival Eastern New Mexico from start to finish 35-14 on Saturday night Greyhounds Stadium in Portales, N.M.
WT reclaims the coveted Wagon Wheel for the first time since a 52-42 win in 2015.
It’s the first time the Buffs have won in Portales since beating the Greyhounds 44-21 in 2012.
It’s also the first win against the Greyhounds for WT head coach Hunter Hughes, who has had to watch ENMU run up the south hill at Kimbrough Stadium to celebrate the past two seasons.
“It feels great, but their hill isn’t big enough,” Hughes said. “I wanted to run up a little higher. But it was a great win. We’ve had to hear how we can’t win this game. It doesn’t feel like a weight off my shoulders, but it’s good for our players.”
What the win does the most is help WT in its quest for an NCAA Division II playoff spot. With the first look at the South Central Regional Rankings coming Monday, this win over the Greyhounds puts the Buffs at 6-2 overall and 3-2 in the Lone Star Conference.
ENMU has work to do for its playoff hopes, falling to 5-3 overall and 3-3 in the LSC.
The WT Offense
For the first time all season the Buffs offense got out to a fast start, maintaining it’s consistency throughout the first half to take a commanding 28-7 lead into halftime.
WT took advantage of field position and turnovers, making the Greyhounds defense pay by scoring 21 first quarter points. Even the ball bounced the Buffs way in every meaning of the word. With WT leading 14-0 late in the first quarter, quarterback Nick Gerber threw an interception to ENMU defender Rocky Barfield. As Barfield brought the ball out of the endzone he was hit and fumbled at his own 6-yard line, allowing WT to recover for a fresh set of downs.
On the very next play, running back Duke Carter slithered in for a touchdown giving the Buffs a 21-0 lead.
The WT offense was 5 of 13 on third downs and were 5 of 6 on scoring chances inside the redzone.
Gerber was quick with his feet rushing for two touchdowns while throwing for 133 yards and two TDs. Carter carried the ball 15 times for 92 yards with a score.
“The coaches challenged us to start fast,” Gerber said. “We put an emphasis on that, and we played great in all three phases. Everything worked in our favor, and it’s great to get the win.”
The WT Defense
For a second straight week the WT defense was absolutely stellar. The Buffs made changes to to their scheme, running a 4-4 defense that took ENMU’s ground game out of sync, limiting the Greyhounds to two yards in the first quarter.
The Buffs forced fumbles when ENMU drove into the redzone and Tobias Harris made an interception inside the 5-yard line. At the end of the night, WT held ENMU to 239 yards rushing, well below its 400 plus season average.
Tascosa graduate Josiah Pennington made a season-high 10 tackles for the Buffs.
The WT Special Teams
If there was a grade to give the WT special teams, it’s an easy A. Yes, the Buffs did get a punt blocked, however, the Buffs special teams returned a muff punt of their own when Markel Stephens-Peppers returned the muffed fumble to the ENMU 7-yard line. The WT kickoff team also snagged a fumble as part of six turnovers on the night for the Buffs, and after a rough week following the ASU loss, kicker Mauricio Gonzalez was 5 of 5 on extra points.
With the win the Buffs tie all-time series, 17-17, against the Greyhounds.
For a look at complete game stats click this link.