The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Wheel big deal on Saturday for Hounds

 

October 23, 2019

Kevin Wilson

Paul Terry looks for a running lane in Eastern New Mexico's Oct. 12 home game against No. 4 Tarleton State. Terry has rushed for the century mark in all seven games this season and is second in Division-II with 1,167 rushing yards.

PORTALES — From the Chile Bowl to the Wagon Wheel game.

Eastern New Mexico’s football team is pivoting off its 48-17 victory at Western New Mexico last weekend and into this Saturday’s Week 8 matchup against West Texas A&M with the rivarly game’s trophy, the Wagon Wheel, at stake.

ENMU will take a 5-2 overall record, 3-2 in the Lone Star Conference, into that game against WT (5-2, 2-2), which is scheduled for a 6 p.m. start at Greyhound Stadium.

An important late-October game and a rivalry with a trophy to boot. Is there anything quite like it?

“Oh, its exciting,” ENMU head coach Kelley Lee said. “It’s one of the best things about coaching at Eastern New Mexico and WT, that we’ve got a true rivalry. I know it won’t take much coaching or motivation. The kids will take care of that and be excited to play.”

For the first time since 2016, the Greyhounds will get to play for the Wagon Wheel on their own turf. That game three years ago was won by Eastern 39-30, when Lee was in his final season as the Hounds’ offensive coordinator.

ENMU won the past two matchups in Canyon, Texas — 28-14 in 2017 and 28-0 last year — but the key phrase there is, ‘in Canyon, Texas’. The Greyhounds finally get to play the game in Portales on Al Whitehead Field again.

“We had to go to their place in back-to-back years,” Lee said. “It’s nice to be back home and playing at Greyhound Stadium and playing for the Wagon Wheel.”

As for the game that will determine who gets the trophy, WT seems a lot more balanced than Eastern offensively, passing for 1,143 yards and rushing for 961. ENMU is run-heavy, owning the nation’s top rushing attack with 2,847 yards on the ground, but just 403 passing.

Lee says WT’s balance isn’t just on offense. The Buffaloes, he says, are solid all-around.

“They’re really sound in the return game,” Lee said. “They’ve got a bend-but-don’t-break defense, they make you earn things. And offensively, they make your defense have to be on its toes.”

The West Texas A&M offense is piloted by Nick Gerber, whose football history is impressive. As a senior at Levelland High School in 2016, Gerber threw for a state-record 5,617 yards and 77 touchdown passes. He went on to Tyler Junior College in 2017, where he passed for 624 yards and two scores in eight games as a true freshman, before coming to Texas Tech as a preferred walk-on last season. During his stay in Lubbock, Gerber redshirted while working with then-Red Raiders and current Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

In January, Gerber announced that he was transferring to West Texas A&M, where so far this season he has completed 102-of-171 passes (59.6 percent) for all of the aforementioned 1,143 yards, plus eight scores and three interceptions.

Gerber (6-1, 184 lbs.) is now a redshirt sophomore for WT, guiding an offense that has averaged 36.5 points per game, and he’s looking to unleash that big arm on an Eastern defense that has surrendered 33.4 points per contest.

Of course, like any week, if the Greyhounds can get their nationally-respected running game churning, they can keep Gerber and his WT offense on the bench.

“We’ve got to take care of the football,” Lee said. “We’ve got to get manageable third downs.”

Eastern has proven capable of doing both of the above. The Greyhounds, though, will attempt to do it this week with a banged-up squad.

“We’ve had some pretty key injuries the last few weeks,” Lee said. “We might be down a few and we may get back a few. But that’s Lone Star Conference football in October. We’re going to play with what we have and expect to win.”

 
 

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