West Texas A&M coach Hunter Hughes, hugs athletic director after the Buffs beat Midwestern State on Saturday. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]
West Texas A&M’s football season officially ended Sunday afternoon when the Buffs weren’t selected for the NCAA Division II playoffs, and they will not be playing in a postseason bowl game.
That doesn’t mean the Buffs’ season didn’t end on a high-note.
The Buffs beat rival Midwestern State, 34-24, Saturday afternoon to close out an impressive 8-3 season, while finishing 5-3 in the Lone Star Conference.
It’s the Buffs first eight win season and the first to time to win five conference games since 2013.
That speaks volumes to where coach Hunter Hughes and his staff have taken the program in only three years.
When Hughes, along with the original assistant coaches still on staff — J.T. Haddan (asst. head coach, defensive line), Cooper Bassett (offensive line), Rodney Freeman (receivers), Cory Crawford (graduate asst.) — arrived in Canyon, he promised a culture change. Things were going to be done a certain way. Hughes preached accountability, as well as academics, and if anyone didn’t like, get out of the way.
“We had a vision for our culture, and how we wanted to do things,” said Hughes, who is 17-16 after three seasons as the WT coach. “We had seven of 36 players that could have been here, and went through our first spring. The ones who stayed believed in the vision we had, and now they are infiltrating that to the younger players here.”
Anyone who followed Hughes’ progression knows how far his team has come in three seasons. During Hughes’ first spring, in the midst of the transition, he struggled to get 60 players on the roster.
WT alumni, boosters, and the fanbase scratched their heads when Hughes implemented a running offense. Fans asked for his resignation after a 3-8 first season in 2017.
Last season, Hughes started 10 plus true freshman and won six games.
This season came even more pressure.
WT opened its brand new gorgeous, J Ferg Field at Buffaloes Stadium.
One of the best small school stadiums in the country. An on-campus stadium like this has to have a team expected to win games.
Hughes, his coaches and team delivered. WT christened the stadium by dominating Azusa Pacific, 35-16 in front of 9,000 plus.
Hughes then earned what people call a “signature win” when the Buffs won the Wagon Wheel from Eastern New Mexico for the first time since 2015. Hughes first win over ENMU.
At the end of this 2019 season, what needs to be known most of all is that Hughes is contention for LSC Coach of the Year, having his team play meaningful football in November.
Hughes has a roster full of players that believe in the culture.
Hughes also has the support of the administration and student body to take this even farther in the coming years.