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Wildcats bang out Sunday sweep
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The basketball and the national championship rested in the her hands four times in the final 30 seconds.
A crowd of 16,141 screaming fans — more than 50 times the population of her tiny hometown — stared down at this young girl from Nazareth, Texas, as she stepped to the free-throw line.
Noel Johnson’s four pressure-packed free throws helped preserve Texas Tech’s 84-82 win over Ohio State and the only national title in school history.
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PORTALES — Changing the offense got Eastern New Mexico University’s football squad a statistical title. Now, the Greyhounds hope a tweak to the defense is the missing piece to a division title.
The three-week spring football practice for ENMU starts Monday at 3:15 p.m., with 9:30 a.m. scrimmages at Greyhound Stadium the next two Saturdays and the Green-Silver scrimmage at 4 p.m. on April 24.
Monday, the program was awarded with a plaque from the NCAA recognizing the Greyhounds as Division II’s top passing attack with 448 yards a game — including team records for single-game scoring (76) and season scoring (374).
“I was really excited about our no-huddle, fast-paced offense,” ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo said. “I really felt like that gave us a chance in every game we played.”
But senior linebacker Nathan Uland knows the Greyhounds ultimately get judged by 3-8, their win-loss record.
“We haven’t been really up to par,” said Uland, a 5-foot-10, 220-pound Denton, Texas native who led the Hounds with 133 tackles last season. “We’re going at it this year like there’s no excuse. We can’t say we’re young, we can’t say we’ve changed everything up. It’s time to finish.”
West Texas A&M freshman defensive back Steven Wright and junior college transfer wide receiver Gabe Tuata traveled more than 3,500 miles each to play college football.
As the Buffs wrapped up spring practice last week, it is understandable Wright and Tuata might be battling homesickness and culture shock as much as battling for playing time.
Most of the Buffs are from Texas - arguably the most fertile recruiting ground in the nation - but the 49th and 50th states in the union are represented as well.
Wright, 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, is from North Pole, Alaska.
Tuata, 5-8, 190, is from Kailua Kona, Hawaii.
WT defensive coordinator Colby Carthel helps with a team camp during the summer in Alaska, which is how the Buffs found Wright. Tuata, who is coming off knee surgery, heard about WT when his junior college roommate at Mount San Antonio College in California had interest from the Buffs.
West Texas A&M Spring Football Capsule
Mike Nesbitt, previously the Buffs' outside receivers coach, will take over as offensive coordinator. Nesbitt succeeds Scott Parr, now the director of player development/assistant strength coach at Texas Tech.
The Buffs' lost three key defensive linemen in their 3-4 defense. Among the top candidates expected to see time on the D-line are all-LSC senior LB Bryan Braman, JUCO transfer and former Oregon State recruit Simi Kuli, and sophomore Aaron Wampler.
Starting QB Taylor Harris, who played with a partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder suffered in the first game of last season against Grand Valley State, had shoulder surgery in December. "That shows you what kind of courage and character and guts he has," Carthel said. Harris, a senior from Whitesboro, started every game last season, going 308-of-472 for 3,738 yards and 22 TDs with 12 picks. Harris participated in spring drills and is expected to be 100 percent.
Senior RB Kelvin Thompson is expected to be the starter at RB, taking over for Keithon Flemming. Thompson led WT with 529 yards rushing in eight games last season.
The Buffs return their top three receivers from last season - senior Stephen Burton; junior Brittan Golden and junior Tyson Williams. The trio combined for 174 catches, 2,681 yards and 17 TDs last season. "Golden had a tremendous spring. His work ethic is comparable to Charly Martin," Carthel said. "It is unbelievable how hard he works."
Senior Dan Sherwood of Amarillo High, who started the first three games at right offensive tackle last season, is back. Sherwood had a broken arm and gall bladder surgery last season.
The race to replace kicker James Chandler is between Bushland sophomore Todd Phillips and freshman Sergio Castillo. Phillips was 1-of-2 on field goals last season.
Carthel, summing up the spring: "We got everyone evaluated, the young kids all the way through the starters and the potential starters. It was a thorough spring and a very challenging spring for the players. We pushed them really hard ever since the first of January."
WICHITA FALLS, Texas - Midwestern State's annual Maroon vs. Gold spring football game is set for Saturday, April 10 at Memorial Stadium.
The Mustangs are coming off their 10th-straight winning season and third trip to the NCAA Division II postseason after completing the 2009 campaign with a 9-3 record.
Midwestern, which claimed its first Lone Star Conference championship last season, returns 2009 Harlon Hill Finalist and LSC Offensive Back of the Year Zack Eskridge.
The senior quarterback set MSU single season marks in passing yards (3,295), passing touchdowns (29), completion percentage (71.3), pass efficiency rating (180.2), pass completions (236) and passing yards per game (274.6).
MSU returns six starters on offense and four on defense.
The spring game will be run with standard timing and scoring with four traditional 15-minute quarters.
Kickoff is slated for noon.