Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Danieal at it again

Former ACU all-America defensive back Danieal Manning played a huge role Monday night in Chicago's 20-17 overtime win over Green Bay that helped the Bears stay alive in the NFC playoff race.

Manning -- the NFL's leader in kick return average at 29.5 yards per return -- had four kick returns for an average of 29.3 yards per return. It was his 70-yard return early in the second quarter that led to a Chicago field goal, putting the Bears on the board for the first time on the night.

He had another big return in the fourth quarter that helped set up Chicago in good field position. He also had two tackles in the game, and tipped an Aaron Rodgers pass that was intercepted by Chicago defensive end Alex Brown.

All in all, a pretty good night for the former Wildcat, whose 83-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on Dec. 11 against the Saints helped the Bears win that game, 27-24, in overtime.

Manning and ACU also got some pretty good national airtime from Monday Night Football play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico, who mentioned "Abilene Christian" at least twice and also talked about how Manning's number (38) is representative of how many hours he is short of graduating from ACU.

Surprised, though, that MNF analyst Ron Jaworski didn't mention that Manning is from the same school as Wilbert Montgomery, who played with Jaworski in Philadelphia. Jaworski and Montgomery led the Eagles to the 1980 NFC title and an appearance in Super Bowl XV.

Back to Manning, he has returned 26 kickoffs this season for 763 yards (29.3 yards per return) and one touchdown, the 83-yarder against New Orleans. Defensively he has 19 tackles (15 solo) and one interception.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thomsen staying at ACU and other notes

Those of you who have been waiting anxiously the last few days to find out whether or not the Wildcats would lose their head football coach to Northwestern State (La.) can breathe easier today. Chris Thomsen -- and the other four finalists for the job -- found out late Thursday evening that former NSU defensive coordinator and current LSU co-defensive coordinator Bradley Peveto has been named the new head coach at the school, which is a member of the Southland Conference.

Thosmen was a finalist for the job after leading ACU to an 11-1 record, Lone Star Conference championship and an appearance in the NCAA Division II quarterfinals in 2008. Coach Thomsen said late Thursday night that he's glad to be staying in Abilene and that he is looking forward to continuing the recruiting process.

* Former ACU running back Bernard Scott has signed with agent Scott Casterline of Dallas and has moved to the Metroplex to begin training and preparing for his shot at the NFL. Bernard said on Wednesday before he left for the DFW area that his agent was trying to get him into the Under Armour Senior Bowl, which will be played Jan. 24, 2009, in Mobile, Ala. The week leading up to the game is full of practices in front of owners, general managers, coaches and scouts from every team in the NFL, and leads into the NFL Combine, which is scheduled for Feb. 18-24, in Indianapolis.

Bernard will play in the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game, which will be played Jan. 31, at the Sun Bowl in El Paso. He was invited to play in the Cactus Bowl, but turned down the invitation.

* Former ACU wide receiver Johnny Knox will also play in the Texas vs. the Nation game. Former Texas A&M and Alabama head coach Gene Stallings -- also a former member of the ACU Board of Trustees -- will be the head coach of the Texas team, while former Miami and Oklahoma head coach and current Florida Atlantic head coach Howard Schnellenberger will coach the Nation team. The Texas vs. the Nation game will be broadcast at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 31, on CBS College Sports.

* Former Wildcat offensive lineman Joseph Thompson and former receiver Jonathan Ferguson will each play for the West team in the Valero Cactus Bowl, which is set to be played Jan. 9, in Kingsville. Former Texas A&M-Kingsville and Angelo State assistant coach Freddy Jonas will be the head coach of the West team. One of his assistants will be Larry Pullin, the former head coach at Cuero, Abilene and San Antonio John Jay high schools. Pullin is a former Kingsville standout from the 1960s.

Other Lone Star Conference standouts who will be in the game on the West team will be quarterback Keith Null (West Texas A&M), running back Daniel Thomas (Angelo State), wide receiver Charly Martin (West Texas A&M), wide receiver Jareko Taylor (Texas A&M-Kingsville), offensive lineman Devin Livingston (Tarleton State), offensive lineman Dustin Finn (Central Oklahoma), offensive lineman Darron Deroyce Sheppard (Texas A&M-Commerce), linebacker Jared Brock (West Texas A&M), linebacker K.C. Asiodu (Central Oklahoma), defensive back Tremaine Wright (Tarleton State), defensive back Gerrett Burl (East Central), defensive tackle Ronald Green (Eastern New Mexico), and safety Jabir Perkins (Texas A&M-Kingsville).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Basketball Notes and web galleries

Both basketball teams are playing well with the women taking the latest victory Wednesday night over Cameron. After a tough shooting start, Shawna Lavender's team is shooting 47 percent from the floor in the last two wins and the Wildcats have won three straight heading into Friday's game with Southwestern.

The men are on a 3-game win streak of their own under head coach Jason Copeland. The Wildcats defeated UTPB 88-83 Monday and will face Southwestern Oklahoma State Friday in Weatherford, Okla. at 8 p.m.

As always, Gerald Ewing, one of ACU's main photographers for all events, does a great job shooting photos for athletics. I compile a select few photos from his games and turn them into galleries. Check out the two latest basketball galleries below:

Men vs. Southeastern Oklahoma 12/06/08
Women vs. Incarnate Word 12/15/08

The men return home to bring in the New Year on Jan. 1 at 3 p.m. against NCAA III opponent Howard Payne.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Scott wins D2 Player of the Year with Harlon Hill Trophy

FLORENCE, Ala. – ACU running back Bernard Scott’s goal before the 2008 season was to be in northern Alabama in mid-December to pick up two trophies: a Harlon Hill as the nation’s top player and the NCAA Division II national championship trophy.

And while his and the Wildcats’ goal of winning the national championship was put to an end in the quarterfinal round by Northwest Missouri State, Scott’s goal of winning the Harlon Hill Trophy was realized Friday night when he was named the 19th winner of the award at the 23rd annual awards dinner at the Florence Convention Center.

Scott beat out a pair of record-setting quarterbacks in Central Washington’s Mike Reilly and North Alabama’s A.J. Milwee. The three finalists in 2008 made up one of the most-decorated and most talented trios of finalists in the award’s history. Scott had a 168 point margin of victory in the voting with 253 points. Reilly and Milwee tied for second with 85 apiece. The 253 points is the third-highest point total in the history of the award.

Scott is the fifth player in the award’s history to win the trophy the year after finishing as the runner-up. Former Texas A&M-Kingsville great Johnny Bailey finished as the runner-up for the first trophy in 1986 and then won the award three straight years. Emporia State running back Brian Shay finished second in 1997 before winning the award in 1998. Northern Colorado quarterback Corte McGuffey finished second to Shay in 1998 before taking home the trophy in 1999, and Grand Valley State quarterback Curt Anes finished second in 2001 before he won the award in 2002.

Scott – last year’s runner-up to two-time winner Danny Woodhead of Chadron State (Neb.) – became the first ACU player to win the award, which is the NCAA Division II version of the Heisman Trophy. Scott is only the second Lone Star Conference player to ever win the award, joining Bailey (winner from 1987-89) on the short list.

“None of the things I’ve been able to accomplish would have happened without the play of great teammates,” Scott said. “I’ve been blessed to run behind the best offensive line in Division II football the last two seasons, and I want to thank them for the job they’ve done. Our offense has been blessed to be led by a great quarterback, and we’ve had great receivers. All of those guys have done their job, and that’s allowed me to do my job.
“When I was here last year I said that my goal this year was to get back here for this ceremony and to play in the national championship game,” he continued. “Our team put together a great 2008 season, but we fell just short of our goal of playing for the national championship. Still, the things we accomplished together this season will provide lifelong memories for all of us, and a piece of this award goes to each one of my teammates.”

In just two seasons as a Wildcat, Scott rushed for 4,321 to become the school’s all-time career rushing leader. He topped the 2,000-yard mark twice, becoming the only player in LSC history to put together multiple 2,000-yard rushing seasons. His 63 rushing touchdowns are second in ACU history, and his 73 total touchdowns are second in both ACU and LSC history.

This season he rushed for 2,156 yards (second in LSC and ACU single-season history behind his 2,165 yards in 2007) and 28 touchdowns and caught 47 passes for 826 yards and another six touchdowns. He led NCAA Division II in points per game (17.0) and all-purpose yards (256.8 yards per game) and was second in rushing, averaging 179.7 yards per game.

He led ACU to an 11-1 record, the program’s first outright Lone Star Conference championship since 1973, the program’s highest-ever NCAA Division II national ranking (No. 2) and to the quarterfinal round of the playoffs. Scott averaged 8.4 yards per carry and rushed for more than 200 yards in four of the Wildcats’ final six games of the 2008 season. Scott ran for at least 100 yards in his last 17 games dating back to the 2007 season.

Scott was at his best in the big games as he helped ACU to an 8-3 record against top-25 opponents over the last two seasons. In those 11 games he rushed for 2,277 yards (207.0 per game), scored 38 rushing touchdowns and caught four touchdown passes while posting 631 receiving yards (57.4 per game).

He made his case for this year’s Harlon Hill Trophy in two games against West Texas A&M when he shredded the Buffaloes’ defense in leading the Wildcats to a pair of wins. In a 52-35 win over the Buffs in Canyon on Oct. 18, Scott rushed for 268 yards and two touchdowns and caught seven passes for 141 yards and one touchdown to set an LSC and ACU single-game record with 409 all-purpose yards.

In the Wildcats’ wild 93-68 NCAA Division II second-round playoff win over the Buffs on Nov. 22, Scott rushed for 292 yards and six touchdowns and caught three passes for 61 yards and one touchdown. His six rushing touchdowns, seven total touchdowns and 42 total points were all NCAA Division II Playoff, NCAA Division II, LSC and ACU single-game records.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Former ACU standout scores first NFL touchdown!

Danieal Manning was two yards from his first NFL touchdown on Sunday. He returned an interception against Jacksonville on the third play of the game 53 yards, but was tripped up by lineman in a cluster near the goal line. Manning beat his fists into the grass after the play was over knowing he was just a few feet from his first NFL touchdown.

Four days later, he returned the opening kickoff (pictured celebrating courtesy of CBS Sportsline.com) in a crucial game against the Saints with playoff implications. He returned the kick 83 yards for the Bears who are fighting to stay atop the NFC North Division. Manning, who had significant playing time in his first two years with the Bears at free safety, has had to adjust to a different role as the nickel back. The move gave him less playing time on the defensive end. However, with return phenom Devin Hester struggling this season in kickoff returns, Manning has stepped in and was averaging 28.0 yards per kick return this season entering Thursday night, which is good for 3rd in the NFL.

Before Thursday, the last time Manning saw the endzone in a football game was Sept. 17, 2005 at our own Shotwell Stadium when he returned a punt 57 yards for a score against Texas A&M-Commerce. The Wildcats went on to win that game 27-18. Manning played three seasons (foregoing his senior season) for ACU before the Bears drafted him as the 42nd overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft

Monday, December 8, 2008

Time for a little round ball

Wildcat fans put your football handkerchiefs away and get out your high-tops. Maybe watch Hoosiers to get you back in the mood. Possibly overshadowed by ACU's football playoff run, the men's and women's basketball teams are in full swing and will have several games over the holidays including three apiece at Moody Coliseum.

See the Women's Basketball Photo Gallery vs. Southeastern on 12/6

The women fell to Southeastern Oklahoma State 68-58 Saturday afternoon and shot just 32 percent in the loss. Monday, the first half against East Central began much like the first. However, key play from Kat Kudmueller, Kristee Davidson (pictured) and Courtney Laing sparked a second-half comeback after ACU trailed by 10 at half time. The win evened the women's record at 3-3. Head coach Shawna Lavender and the Wildcats are off until Monday at 6 p.m. when ACU plays host to Incarnate Word. Then, the women take to a 3-game road trip (12/17 at Cameron, 12/19 at SW Okla. State, 12/31 at Incarnate Word). Then, Wildcat fans will get a chance to bring in the new year by watching the Wildcats play host to Texas A&M-Commerce Jan. 3 at 2 p.m. and Texas Woman's Jan. 5 at 6 p.m.

I'm currently watching the Wildcats play an up-tempo game with East Central and Jason Copeland's Wildcats are up 44-28 as the first half winds down. The Wildcats had an impressive 86-69 win over Southeastern Oklahoma State Saturday and are looking to improve to 4-3 if ACU can keep up the score against East Central. A week from today (12/15) the Wildcats will play host to UTPB before facing Southwestern Oklahoma State Dec. 19 on the road.

On New Year's Day, Wildcat fans can see ACU renew an old rivalry against Howard Payne University at Moody Coliseum at 3 p.m. The Yellow Jackets are an NCAA Division III school from Brownwood. Then, Jan. 3 the Wildcats play host to Texas A&M-Commerce at 4 p.m.

For those of you who don't remember, each team went to the LSC semi-finals last year and are looking to make a deeper run in 2008-09