The Ron Hudson era of NMHU football is off and running, and on Thursday night, but it was not the start the team had hoped, dropping the season opening contest to Eastern New Mexico 34-18.
Eastern New Mexico historically has always been a really physical team, and I think their coaching staff has done a great job,” Hudson said. “They’ve transitioned away from the triple (option) and they’re physical, they were more physical than us up front on both sides of the ball.”
The story of the game was the Eastern New Mexico defensive line dominating the Cowboys up front. The Cowboys struggled protecting their quarterbacks, initially junior Ezekiel Payne, who left the game with an injury, and then freshman Michael Jackson, who stepped in for the injured starter. Simply put, the Greyhounds were just the more physical team up front.
Hudson would not comment on Payne’s status postgame, aside from saying that the training staff was still looking at him and that he is in good spirits. The early injury to Payne meant that the freshman backup Jackson had to step in. Hudson liked what he saw from the young signal caller, and in the second half the passing game did begin to open up and Jackson showed off his arm talent, connecting on 23 of 41 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns.
“The maturity that (Jackson) showed, the character and toughness that he showed really resonated with our team,” Hudson said. “I honestly believe that his toughness carried over, I thought the way he competed in the second half of that game especially, I thought the way he led, team’s here in the past would have fallen apart, I thought they rallied around him.”
The game was not without its positive moments for the Cowboys. Early in the third quarter it appeared that they had all the momentum, when junior running back Malakai Rango took off for a 50 yard run down the left sideline, which was followed up two plays later by a 14 yard touchdown catch from junior wide receiver Quavon Beckford. The Cowboys had tied the game up at 10 in the opening minutes of the third quarter after falling behind 10-0 early. From that point on the Greyhounds began to really assert themselves up front and begin to pull away from the Cowboys, scoring on their next three possessions to make it 27-10.
Hudson liked the way the Cowboys continued to fight in the second half, and they scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter to help make it a two possession game, but it ultimately was not enough, dropping the season opener 34-18.
Up next the Cowboys will have a bye week, and then will open up RMAC play on Sept. 17 at home against Fort Lewis. Kickoff is set for 1 pm at Sanchez Family Stadium.