West Texas A&M coach Hunter Hughes enters his third season at the helm for the Buffs. [Tyler Anderson/ Press Pass Sports]
There will be plenty of hoopla surrounding West Texas A&M’s season opener Saturday, when the university opens its brand new on-campus stadium.
WT’s new digs is going to bring an electric crowd, filled to capacity and hyped up to enjoy the bells and whistles of the newly completed venue.
That energy will create more of a concert type feel than a season opening football game, giving a group of young players a huge boost of adrenaline.
That’s why it’s so key for WT coach Hunter Hughes to keep his team in check.
No matter what’s going on around them, the Buffs’ sole focus has to be on a Azusa Pacific team that’s had their number of late.
The Cougars have bested the Buffs in the last four season openers, with two of those wins coming in Canyon.
Azusa Pacific running back Zikel Reddick (23) runs past West Texas A&M defensive back Tobias Harris during last years meeting. [Provided by Azusa Pacific athletics]
When looking at the numbers, Week 1 hasn’t been kind to WT in quite some time. In fact, the Buffs haven’t won a season opener since beating Western State 48-21 on Sept. 7, 2013. Ironically, six years to the date of Saturday’s inaugural game in new stadium.
As groundbreaking a day as Saturday will be in the school’s history, it’s just as important a game in the third year of the Hughes era.
Hughes and the Buffs made strides last year, going 6-5 and finishing tied for fourth in the Lone Star Conference. That is much improved from a tumultuous 3-8 record in Hughes’ first season.
The program is in much better shape than it was three years ago, and Hughes has done a tremendous job recruiting his type of players to gel with those left from former coach Mike Nesbitt’s regime.
But, does that mean WT is ready to contend for a Lone Star Conference title?
That’s a tough question. The Buffs are still extremely young roster-wise, with at least 80 players in the program being underclassman.
However, any alumni, booster, fan or media member that has attended fall camp has seen a certain focus from this team.
The Buffs are still fuming from a 24-23 loss to MSU-Texas in last year’s season finale. A game that still drives Hughes and his players at every practice.
So no matter the element on Saturday, know that WT is there to win a ballgame. The circus will be exciting, but at the end of the night, a W will make the christening of a new stadium that much sweeter.