By BEN JOHNSON
Eastern New Mexico strolled into Tahlequah in 2010 and posted 345 yards through the air. Quarterback Wesley Wood completed 29 of 42 passes for the Greyhounds, who lost in overtime, 43-40.
On Saturday, Eastern New Mexico returns to Doc Wadley Stadium for a non-conference clash with Northeastern State — an old Lone Star Conference cohort. However, don’t expect the Greyhounds to rack up so many yards through the air.
“They were throwing the ball around then,” NSU head coach Kenny Evans said. “They’ve since done a flip-flop and are one of the better running teams in the Lone Star.”
Through five games this season, the Greyhounds (2-3) have only tossed the ball around 114 times. The rest of the offense has been on the ground, putting up running totals like Missouri Southern does in the Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletics Association with the triple option.
Eastern New Mexico has run the ball 283 times for 1,140 yards, led by Jordan Wells, who has 325 yards on 49 carries. In all the Greyhounds have 15 players who have carried the ball at least once this season.
While the Greyhounds specialize in the ground game, Evans said not to overlook Eastern New Mexico’s passing attack.
“They still have some wide receivers and can pass the ball a little bit,” Evans said. “They’re a little bit better passing the ball than Missouri Southern.”
The RiverHawks (0-6) turn past the midway point of the season this week still looking for their first victory. In the first six weeks of the season, NSU faced either a ranked team or a team receiving votes in the national top 25 poll.
“(Eastern New Mexico) has done what we haven’t done this year,” Evans said. “They’ve tasted what it feels like to win.”
Playing without more than a dozen season-opening starters, NSU has turned to youngsters in the lineup to try and pick up its first victory. The RiverHawks have 11 freshman listed on their two-deep depth chart on offense, while the defensive side of the ball has 10 freshman and sophomores.
“We just have to get our young guys to understand the game,” Evans said. “If we do that, we’ll have a chance to win our final five games.”
Eastern New Mexico at Northeastern State
When: Saturday at 2 p.m.
Where: Doc Wadley Stadium.
Radio: KTLQ, AM-1350 and live on goriverhawksgo.com.
Nicknames: Northeastern State RiverHawks; Eastern New Mexico Greyhounds.
Coaches: NSU - Kenny Evans (sixth season, 20-41); Eastern New Mexico - Josh Lynn (second season, 5-10).
Records: NSU 0-6; ENMU 2-3.
Rankings: Neither team is ranked in Division II football.
Series record: ENMU leads 4-2.
Last meeting: In 2010, NSU beat Eastern New Mexico in overtime, 43-40. NSU wide receiver Trey McVay caught 12 passes for 175 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning 30-yard reception from Kenny Davis in extra time.
Last week: Missouri Western 54, NSU 10; Eastern New Mexico 29, Angelo State 28.
News to know: NSU running back Terrance Dixon has scored a touchdown in each of the last five games for the RiverHawks. ... Through six games, NSU linebacker Langston Jones leads the MIAA with 79 tackles. The next closest is Kendrick Casuey with 63 for Lindenwood. ... The RiverHawks have nine drives that have resulted in touchdowns this season. All of those drives have been of 75 yards or more. ... NSU could have a healthy Prince McJunkins this week. The wide receiver and backup quarterback has been hobbled during the early part of the season. ... The RiverHawks could also get back defensive lineman Faafetai Te’o, who has been dealing with a hand injury.
Looking ahead: NSU will return to MIAA play with a road game at Central Missouri. ENMU will host Texas A&M-Kingsville.