GAME NOTES: Buffaloes To Face ECU Tigers In Season-Opener

Sept. 2, 2004

The Game:
The West Texas A&M University Buffaloes will open the 2004 campaign by traveling to Ada, Okla., to face the East Central University Tigers in a Lone Star Conference crossover game. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at ECU's Norris Field.

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On The Air
Listen to Buffalo football action on the Buffalo Sports Network on KGNC 710 AM. You can also listen to the broadcast via the internet at, the official web site of WTAMU Athletics. Fans can additionally access rosters, schedules, statistics and press releases of the Buffs and Lady Buffs throughout the year.

The Teams
WTAMU is opening its 2004 campaign Saturday. The Buffaloes were picked fifth in the Preseason LSC South Poll, following last year's squad that finished with a 3-8 overall mark and 2-4 in LSC South play, finishing in a three-way tie for fourth-place in the division standings. WTAMU returns 20 starters, with 10 of them returning to the offensive side of the ball, while the defense returns eight and special teams has two returning starters. WTAMU returns 37 letterwinners (18 offense, 18 defense and two special teams) from last year's team.

The Buffaloes have won four of their last six season-openers, including last year's 42-21 romp over Oklahoma Panhandle State. This is WTAMU's first season-opener on the road since the 1999 season, when the Buffaloes traveled to Goodwell, Okla., to take on Oklahoma Panhandle State, winning 30-20.

Saturday's game will also be ECU's season-opener, as well as the debut of new Tigers' head coach Tim McCarty, who came to ECU from Tabor College. The Tigers are coming off their second-straight 3-8 season, finishing 2-3 in LSC North play.

New Look On Both Sides
WTAMU will be unveiling its new helmet logo Saturday. The Buffaloes' helmets will remain white, but adorned with a maroon "Horned WT" logo this season, after having the players' numbers on the side of the helmets the past two seasons.

ECU will be revealing new uniforms and helmets, as the Tigers are taking a new and different look under a new coach. ECU's home uniforms will be orange jersey's with white trim and orange pants. The Tigers will also have a new helmet look, with white helmets and orange "ECU" block letters on the side.

Closing In On 400
WTAMU is closing in on its 400th all-time win, as the Buffaloes are currently 395-450-22 (.471), entering their 92nd year of play.

The Coaches
Ronnie Jones (Northwestern Oklahoma State, 1978), enters his third season at the helm of the Buffs. Jones is 3-19 (.136) at WTAMU and has a four-year career record of 9-23 (.281), after spending one season directing the Ottawa (Kan.) University program. Jones has 25 years of coaching experience at the NCAA Division I level and in the National Football League. This will be Jones' first meeting vs. ECU.

Jones has been a part of seven collegiate conference championships, one Rose Bowl championship and two National Football League division titles. He has coached teams that have made four NFL playoff appearances.

ECU head coach Tim McCarty (Fort Hays State, 1985) is making his Tigers' debut Saturday night, taking over the ECU program after rebuilding the Tabor College, Kan., program. McCarty's first team was 0-10 in 1999 and he turned the program around to 9-2 finish in 2003.

WTAMU On The Road
The Buffaloes have won their last two games in the road-whites, dating back to last season.

WTAMU lost in its last and only trip to Ada, 26-17, in 2000.

Tigers and Buffaloes Series
ECU leads the overall series, 4-3, as this is the first meeting between the two teams since 2001, when ECU grabbed a 38-30 win on the Buffaloes' home field.

The series began back in 1933 and was played in 1934, before taking a 53-year hiatus, before being renewed in 1987.

ECU leads 4-3
1933 East Central 12, WTAMU 0
1934 East Central 12, at WTAMU 0
1987 at WTAMU 27, East Central 17
1997 at WTAMU 48, East Central 0
1998 at WTAMU 42, East Central 0
2000 at East Central 26, WTAMU 17
2001 East Central 38, at WTAMU 30

Last Meeting: ECU 38, WTAMU 30 - Oct. 27, 2001 at Canyon, Texas
The Buffs played arguably their best game of the season against the No. 2 team from the LSC North, but fell, 38-30, in Canyon. A Buffalo fumble at the ECU 21-yard line with 6:24 remaining led to the Tigers' last score. Sirquon Hardy (JR, Long Beach, Calif.) had four catches for 103 yards and junior tight end Kuwese Walker (JR, Sacramento, Calif.) caught three passes for 57 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore linebacker Adam St. Clair (SO, Lazbuddie, Texas) led the defense with 16 tackles, and junior linebacker Chaun Thompson (JR, Mt. Pleasant, Texas) had 15.

About The WTAMU Buffaloes
Leading the offense is the senior tandem of Harlon Hill candidates quarterback Derek Maupin (6-3, 210, Canadian, Texas/Canadian HS) and wideout Anthony Armstrong (6-0, 180, Carrolton, Texas/Newman Smith HS).

Maupin enters the season fourth on the WTAMU career passing list with 4,262 career yards, and can move into the top two spots this season. Last year as a junior, Maupin threw for 2,789 yards, a total which by itself would rank ninth on the school career passing list.

Maupin set a new WTAMU and Lone Star Conference record with 43 completions in a game against Texas A&M-Commerce, and also led the nation in passing attempts and was third in completions. In the game against TAMU-Commerce, Maupin also had 447 total yards of offense, the highest output in the LSC last season.

Maupin also ranked third in the conference and 14th in the nation in total offense with 280.9 yards per game, including 253.5 yards of that coming through the air.

Armstrong was the most highly decorated Buffalo last year, as the wideout collected LSC South Receiver of the Year honors as well as first-team All-LSC South accolades, to go with second-team Daktronics All-West Region and second-team All-West Region accommodations. Last season, Armstrong had 54 receptions for 740 yards (13.7 ypr) with four TDs. He had three 100-yard outings in his last five games, including a season-high 198 yards vs. Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

Junior transfer Tonae Martin (6-4, 180, Aldeo, Texas/Kilgore College) is expected to make an immediate impact after a standout season at Kilgore, where he was a preseason All-American and a Top 100 Junior College Gridwire Prospect, after averaging 13.2 ypr average with six TDs.

Incoming freshmen Jake Butler (6-0, 185, Amarillo, Texas/Randall HS), Johnny Moore (5-9, 175, Pampa, Texas/Pampa HS), Jesse Tarango (5-11, 185, Pampa, Texas/Pampa HS) and Tanden Harvey (6-1, 180, Lubbock, Texas/Monterey HS) will provide quality depth.

At the tight end position, junior Patrick Lindsey (6-1, 225, Crane, Texas/Crane HS) is back after earning first-team All-LSC South accolades last season with 29 receptions for 239 yards (8.2 ypr) with two TDs.

When the Buffaloes run the ball, they can depend on senior tailback Aubrey Lacy (5-8, 185, Center, Texas/Ottawa Univ.), who rushed for 727 yards (6.7 ypc/90.9 ypg) last season, and tied for the team-lead in scoring with 60 points on 10 TDs.

The other running option is junior fullback Dominique Bibben (5-9, 200, Houston, Texas/Alief Hastings HS), who was second on the team in rushing last year behind Lacy with 341 yards on 43 carries for a pair of TDs, with a team-leading 7.9 ypc.

The offensive line draws the assignment of protecting Maupin and clearing holes for Lacy. Nick Ashley (JR, 6-1, 285, Stratford, Texas/Stratford HS) and John Shear (SO, 6-0, 270, Arlington, Texas/Arlington HS) headline the returners. Sam Ireifej (JR, 6-4, 285, Huntington Beach, Calif./Golden West College), Emmitt Tatum (JR, 6-6, 300, West Palm Beach, Fla./Kilgore College), James Corbett (SO, 6-7, 290, Tulare, Calif./Fresno City College), Dejuan Skinner (JR, 6-6, 300, Starkville, Miss./East Mississippi College) and Patrick McCoy (JR, 6-6, 325, Fairfield, Calif./Solano College) form a talented group of newcomers that had great springs adapting to the new offense and are expected to contribute immediately.

The WTAMU defense showed continued improvement last season, and has its top two tacklers returning in tough-as-nails, speedy linebackers senior Adam Shaw (6-2, 225, Cooper, Texas/Cooper HS) and junior Chad Webster (6-1, 220, Odessa, Texas/Univ. of North Texas). Shaw, a first-team All-LSC South selection, tallied 114 tackles while Webster, an honorable mention All-LSC South selection, registered 81 stops.

Junior T.J. Sparks (6-2, 230, Odessa, Texas/Permian HS) gives WTAMU stability and strength to the linebackers, after making 33 tackles with two and half sacks last season. Sophomore newcomer Lee Orr (6-2, 220, Amarillo, Texas/Amarillo HS) joins the Buffaloes after spending two seasons at the Univ. of Northern Colorado and gives the linebacking corps added speed and depth.

The defensive line is anchored by junior Darrell Lewis (5-11, 225, Muleshoe, Texas/Muleshoe HS), who was an honorable mention All-LSC South selection after leading WTAMU with 15 tackles for loss and five sacks.

Seniors Deyon Scott (6-3, 260, Mansfield, Texas/Mansfield HS), Vincent Puaina (6-1, 270, Wilmington, Calif./Los Angeles Harbor College) and junior John Saluni (6-3, 275, Haywood, Calif./Chabot College) give the Buffaloes added depth and talent on the defensive line. Scott registered 27 tackles last season, including five and half tackles for loss and two sacks, while Puaina tallied 30 tackles with five TFL and one sack, and Saluni chalked up 17 tackles with three TFL and one and half sacks.

First-team All-LSC South selection Dominique Carter (senior, 6-0, 190, Los Angeles, Calif./Compton College) returns after leading the Buffaloes with three INTs and registering 49 tackles and tallying a team-high four pass break-ups. Sophomores Larry Wilson (6-1, 190, Gainesville, Texas/Gainesville HS) and Jason Jones (5-8, 170, Killeen, Texas/Killeen HS) give WTAMU added depth and talent. Wilson had 50 tackles last season, while Jones recorded 39 tackles and snagged two INTs.

Junior transfer Marques Kelley (6-2, 210, Los Angeles, Calif./Santa Monica College) had an impressive spring and is expected to make an immediate impact in helping mend last year's Achilles heel of a defensive secondary for the Buffaloes. Also expected to contribute immediately is incoming freshman Jeremy Hibbler (6-0, 190, Amarillo, Texas/Amarillo HS).

Senior Chad Kennedy (6-4, 225, Amarillo, Texas/University of Texas-El Paso) was tabbed as a Don Hansen Football Gazette Preseason All-American after earning second-team All-LSC South honors last season. Kennedy averaged 42.7 yards per punt, including booming a season-long of 76 yards. He had eight touchbacks with 15 kicks inside the 20. For his career, Kennedy has a 39.9 ypp average with 12 touchbacks and 26 inside the 20 with a career-long of 80 yards. Kennedy was going to forego his final year of eligibility to attend medical school, but has opted to return for his final season and attend graduate school at WTAMU.

Junior Jacob Felton (6-0, 200, Amarillo, Texas/Randall HS) returns for place kicking duties, after tying for the team-lead in scoring with 60 points on nine field goals and 33 PATs. Xavier Candelaria (5-9, 150, Houston, Texas, Ottawa University) will handle WTAMU's kick offs.

Jones and Armstrong share kick returning duties, as Armstrong ranked 26th in the NCAA-II statistics and second in the LSC for kickoff returns, including school and conference record-tying 100-yard return for a TD in the Buffaloes' Wagon Wheel victory over Eastern New Mexico. Jones had 10 punt returns for a 10.8 average on the year, including an 80-yard return for a score in the Wagon Wheel win.

About The East Central University Tigers
East Central begins their season with home field advantage against the Buffaloes, even though the Tigers have not won a home opener in eight years. After finishing last year, 3-8 overall and 2-3 in the LSC North, ECU is now under the direction of a new coach, Tim McCarty.

The Tigers return 13 offensive and defensive starters to the line-up but lose key starters such as their quarterback Pete Darnell. Yet even with the loss, spirits are high as senior wideouts Stephen Langford (6-1, 205) and Wayne Rogers (6-1, 200) who combined for 594 yards, will be key to a young offensive squad.

Returning to the Tigers lineup after sitting out for the 2003 season, junior wide receiver Willie Lane (5-9, 170) joins the offensive scheme. After a brilliant freshman season, earning Lone Star Conference North Freshman of the Year, Lane looks to capitalize on that effort as he set a school record for most receptions in a game, 13, in their 42-12 victory against the Redmen of Northeastern State. At the end of that season, Lane had recorded 70 receptions for 661 yards and five touchdowns.

After playing back-up to Darnell, junior quarterback Wilson Pirtle (6-0, 190) will be the passing hub for the Tigers after playing seven games and recording eight completions on 17 attempts for 53 yards. He also threw for one interception and was 47.1 average per game.

Defensively, for the Tigers they have three key returners to rely on led by senior Keith Edwards (6-0, 220) who recorded 87 total tackles and 36 solo while grabbing one interception. Teammates Zac Hawkins (6-2, 205) and Eric Johnson (5-8, 170) had a great season recording 149 total tackles combined while Hawkins tallied 37 solo tackles, and Johnson 38 solo.

Eight of the returners for the Tigers earned LSC postseason awards at the end of the 2003 season for their performance over the year. Senior offensive tackle Jay DeShields (6-6, 305) earned the sole first-team honor for the team, while teammates, senior defensive end Justin Brown (6-2, 260), junior linebacker Keith Edwards (6-0, 220) and senior defensive back Eric Johnson (5-8, 170) were second-team honorees. Honorable mention selections went to wide receiver Stephen Langford, senior tight end Sam Hobson (6-1, 230), senior offensive guard Brad Widger (6-1, 280) and senior linebacker Eli Kieslich (6-1, 220).

On The Horizon
WTAMU's home opener is Patriot Day, Sept. 11, as the Buffaloes host the 10th-ranked University of Central Oklahoma Bronchos at 6 p.m. at Kimbrough Memorial Stadium, featuring a special pregame ceremony, as well as post-game fireworks and laser light show to honor Patriot Day.

For ticket information, contact the WTAMU Athletics Ticket Office: 806-651-4424.




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Senior quarterback Derek Maupin will lead the Buffaloes into their season-opener Saturday at Ada, Okla., against East Central Univeristy.
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