The West Texas A&M football team will take a break from Lone Star Conference play to play its final nonconference contest, as well as the longest road trip of the year.
The Buffs flew halfway across the country Friday, up to to the Pacific Northwest, to face No. 14-ranked Central Washington at newly renovated Tomlinson Stadium in Ellensburg, Wash.
CWU, from the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, recently upgraded its stadium, adding new field turf, new stands, as well as new stadium lights. Tonight's 8 p.m. kickoff against WT will mark the first night game for the program.
This is the second trip to the Pacific time zone for the Buffs, who will log a total of 6,890 miles in travel this season. The Buffs lost its season opener to another GNAC opponent, Azusa Pacific, in California, 17-7, on Sept. 1.
It's also the first time since 1990 WT has played two schools from the West Coast.
"We're excited," WT second-year coach Hunter Hughes said. "We're excited to go open their new stadium they just got completed. We're excited to go face one of the top 15 teams in the country. We just want to see what we can do."
The Buffs (2-2 overall) defense has been solid through the first four games of the season, especially when it comes to creating takeaways.
WT's defense has produced the sixth-most interceptions in Division II football this season. The Buffs are one of eight teams with eight interceptions in 2018.
True freshman cornerback Tobias Harris has taken back two interceptions for a touchdown while Keith Blank has recorded the other.
"Our defense has played extremely well," Hughes said. "We gave up just a couple of big plays against Western New Mexico last week, but for the most part we did what we wanted them to.
"It was nice to see how our defensive line played. That was probably their best game all season. We just have to shore up some other things."
CWU enters the game at 3-1, with the lone loss coming to FCS power Eastern Washington. WT will need another big defensive effort against a Wildcats offense that can flat out score.
The Wildcats are averaging 43.8 points a game and 466.3 yards per game. Quarterback Reilly Hennessey has been superb, throwing for 814 yards and six TDs. CWU has four receivers with over 100 yards receiving, with Samuel Sanchez leading the stats with 219 yards.
"They are very good up front," Hughes said. "CWU can run behind a big offensive line. They have a tight end that splits out, and is dangerous. Their run-pass option is dangerous.
"It's always about discipline for us. We have to maintain our gaps. All 11 guys have to do their job. That's how approach all three phases of each game. Let the play come to us."
The series: Today's game will be the fourth all-time meeting between the schools and first since Oct. 29, 2011. The Buffs won the first-ever meeting 49-42 on Nov. 15, 2008 in an NCAA Division II playoff game at Kimbrough Memorial Stadium where Charly Martin had 172 yards receiving and a touchdown to break the program record for most receiving touchdowns in a season.
Lone Star Conference Standings
Texas A&M-Commerce 2-0;3-1
West Texas A&M 1-1 2-2
Eastern New Mexico;1-1;1-3
UT Permian Basin;0-2;0-4
Western New Mexico;0-1;0-3
Western New Mexico at UT Permian Basin, 6 p.m.
Tarleton at Angelo State, 6 p.m.
Lock Haven at Texas A&M-Commerce, 6 p.m.
New Mexico Highlands at Texas A&M-Kingsville, 7 p.m
MSU Texas at Eastern New Mexico, 8 p.m.
West Texas A&M at Central Washington, 8 p.m.