Sunday, August 30, 2009

ACU Ex Factor

On the same night his younger brother, Daryl Richardson, debuted for ACU with 9 carries for 31 yards in the big win over Northwest Missouri State, Bernard Scott led all RBs in the Bengals 24-21 loss to St. Louis with 8 rushes for 54 yards, an average of 6.8 yards per carry.

Bernard, who fumbled twice in 600+ touches during two seasons at ACU, lost the ball Thursday night thanks in part to Rams DE Victor Adeyanju, who - judging by this picture - has a bright future as a chiropractor if he doesn't make the team out of training camp.

The Cincinnati Enquirer beat writer says Bernard has moved to No. 2 on the Bengals' depth chart at RB behind Cedric Benson.

Sunday night, Johnny Knox made his lone catch in Chicago's win over the Denver Broncos a big one, hauling in a 43-yard pass on 3rd down to lead the Bears' to a game-clinching touchdown in a 27-17 win at Invesco Field at Mile High (which, by the by, remains the worst massacre of a formerly great stadium name). The game was shown on NBC, and Cris Collinsworth gushed over Johnny's speed and potential. Nice nugget from Al Michaels, too, about the Bears taking Knox with the draft pick they got from Denver in the Jay Cutler trade.

The Bears' other former Wildcat, Danieal Manning, has yet to see the field in the preseason as he continues to nurse an injured hamstring. Coach Thomsen loves to talk about Danieal's character even more than his ability. Here's a good article highlighting both.

Friday, August 28, 2009

They Ain't Heavy, They're My Bleachers

By now you've heard how 80+ students went onto the field Thursday night to help move a large section of bleachers that blew into the end zone from the north end of Shotwell Stadium. Minutes before, 60-mph winds and heavy rain raked the stadium about the time ACU was scheduled to host Northwest Missouri State in a nationally televised game, causing about an hour's delay in the start time and a premature end to a big tailgate party in the parking lot. No one was injured but there were some frantic moments as a fast-moving thunderstorm and heavy lightning caused officials to clear the stands and advise spectators to seek shelter in their vehicles or under the stands. Kudos to the great fans who pitched in to move the bleachers onto the grassy embankment above the field so the game could start without further delay. No. 5-ranked ACU beat No. 2-ranked NWMo, 19-14, in the season opener.

Eye of the Beholder

I've recently introduced my 13-year-old son to The Twilight Zone. (Hopefully he won't need therapy until he's old enough to pay for it himself.) The other night, we watched what to me is the quintessential episode in that classic series, Eye of the Beholder. Or, as I've always called it, The Pig People.

I think a lot of ACU fans - spoiled rotten in recent years by No. 1-in-the-nation offensive juggernauts - were like the Pig nurses recoiling in horror at the sight of the "ugly" woman as the bandages were removed from the new-look ACU offense Thursday night to reveal a unit that mustered just 174 total yards of offense against Northwest Missouri State. (As a frame of reference, consider that Johnny Knox caught 9 balls for 189 yards in the first half against West Texas A&M last October.)

But as little as ACU mustered, Northwest could never catch up. And every Wildcat fan should relish the 19-14 win over a very good Bearcats team, no matter how it may have looked to some. Keep in mind, it's doubtful the 'Cats will face a defense as good as Northwest's the rest of the season.

And besides, this isn't figure skating. There are no style points or national voters to impress. Remember in Division II, the national polls are only eye candy. It's the regional rankings, the first of which will be released in early October, that determine which of the six teams from each of the four super regions make the playoffs.

It's a huge victory over a team from ACU's region. And it could well be the win that pushes the Wildcats into the playoffs come November. Though I'll grant you what with the weather delay and the points on punts and the fans carrying the storm-blown bleachers out of the end zone, it was a night Rod Serling would've loved.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Final stats: ACU 19, NWMo 14

First downs:  ACU 9, NW 14
Rushing yards:  ACU 85, NW 57
Passing:  ACU 89, NW 173
Total yards:  ACU 174, NW 230
Leading rusher:  ACU Reggie Brown 17 for 59, NW LaRon Council 20 for 71
Leading passer:  ACU Zach Stewart 10-14-65-0, NW Blake Bolles 19-33-173-1
Leading receiver:  ACU Ben Gibbs 3-47-1, Abe Qaoud 5-46-0
Penalties: ACU 5-41, NW 10-98
Time of possession:  ACU 30:44, NW 29:16
Third-down conversions:  ACU 1 of 14, NW 5 of 15

ACU Scoring
10:28 1st Q, Team safety
04:25 1st Q, Arthur Johnson 42 yd fumble recovery (Ricardo Navarro kick)
05:59 2nd Q, Ben Gibbs 24 yd pass from Clark Harrell (Navarro kick)
13:21 4th Q, Navarro 23 yd field goal

NW Scoring
08:26 3rd Q, Jake Soy 5 yd pass from Blake Bolles (Joe Schroeder kick)
01:34 3rd Q, Aldwin Rettig-Foster 0 yd blocked punt and return for TD (Schroeder kick)

ACU's 4th Series of Q4

Ball on 43.  Rush up middle for 3 to 46 of ACU.  Richardson off tackle to right to NW 49.  Time out, ACU, with 2:15 left in Q4.  Can they keep the ball moving and run out the clock?  NW does that better than just about everybody.  We'll see if ACU has been paying attention.  3rd and 2 at the NW 49.  Reggie Brown stopped for no gain; 4th and 2 with 2:07 left.  Time out again.  ACU lines up in punt formation, punts to NW 8. Return to NW 15, but flag on late hit to ACU punter, who is down while trainers attend to him.  He's OK. First down for ACU at NW 34.  Huge turn of events, and uncharacteristic penalty for NW.  1:56 left in Q4.  Reggie Brown up the middle to NW 32.  Brown loses 2 on run off tackle to right.  Clock is running and NW can't stop it.  Tight formation, Stewart takes a knee and the seconds wind down as players congratulate each other.  Final score: ACU 19, NWMo 14.  

NWMo's 3rd Series of Q4

Council rushes to right for 9 to mid-field.  Bolles QB draw down to ACU 35, first down for NW.  Post route is incomplete as Bolles overthrows his receiver.  Council stopped for no gain.  3rd down and 10.  Bolles pass to no one in particular at goal line.  4th and 10, NW has to go for it with 3:15 left in Q4.  Big play of the game so far. Bolles' arm hit, pass incomplete on sack by ACU on 43.  

ACU's 3rd Series of Q4

Ball on NW 38.  Rush up middle to NW 33.  Richardson rushes to right for 3 to NW 30.  Richardson rush is short of 1st down.  Going or it on 4th and 1 with 5:15 left in Q4.  QB Stewart rushes to beat clock, passes out of bounds and is flagged for grounding.  First and 10 for NW at their 40.

NWMo's 2nd Series of Q4

Ball on NW 10.  Council rushes 9 to NW 19.  Bolles pass over middle is incomplete.  Third down.  Council is stuffed for a loss of 1.  NW punts to ACU 42.  Return to NW 33.   

ACU's 2nd Series of Q4

Ball on ACU 45.  Harrell sacked at the ACU 35, loss of 10 yards.  Harrell pass over the middle to Dennis Campbell is dropped.  Pass complete over middle to ACU 45, short of 1st down.  ACU punts to NW 10, fair catch called.  8:45 left in Q4. 

NWMo's 1st Series of Q4

ACU kicks off sails OB at NW 14.  Penalty makes ball moves to NW 40.  First down for NW.  Rush for 3 to NW 43.  Council rushes to NW 46 for gain of 3.  Bolles scrambles for his life out of bounds at 46 for no gain, flag on the play.  ACU is offsides, ball advances to ACU 49, first down for NW.  Penalty on NW; false start, ball moves back to 44.  Pass complete to 47.  Deep pass incomplete to right. Third and 8 to go at NW 47.  Pass complete to Council, but he is stopped at the ACU 45.  NW going for it on 4th down.  Pass dropped over the middle; ACU takes over on downs.

ACU's Series

NW kicks off to ACU 5, return to 37 by Kendrick Johnson.  ACU first down.  Reggie Brown rushes to NW 49 for first down again.  Brown again to NW 42. Penalty on NW, personal foul, 15 yards to NW 28.  Brown rushes 3 to NW 25.  ACU takes a time out, :15 left in Q3.  Wind is dead calm.  Brown up the middle to 22.  End of Q3.  ACU 16, NW 14.  ACU driving to south end zone.  Harrell pass incomplete out of bounds near the goal line.  Penalty on NW, ball now on NW 11, ACU first down.  NW takes another time out.  Justin Johnson runs through big hole to NW 4.  Johnson tackled for loss back to 6 of NW.  Harrell calls time out.  Advertisers are loving all these time outs, I bet.  Pass to Richardson broken up.  4th down and FG attempt.  FG of 22 yards by Navarro is good.  ACU 19, NW 14 with 13:21 left in 4Q.

We're back!

Technical difficulties; sorry to leave you high and dry.  3:29 left in Q3.  NW recovered a fumble by a scrambling ACU QB Stewart, drove about 25 yards and scored on a 5-yard pass to move the score to ACU 16, NW 7.  Timeout on the field.  Loss of 7 on running play.  Rush to ACU 14.  Clark Harrell is the new QB for ACU.  Harrell sacked at ACU 10.  ACU punts from end zone, punt is blocked and recovered in end zone for TD.  PAT good, ACU 16, NW 14, 1:34 left in Q3.

First-half Stats

First downs:  NW 9, ACU 5
Rushing:  NW 18 for -3 yards, ACU 17 for 57 yards
Passing:  NW 12 for 20 with 1 INT, 135 yards; ACU 8 of 9 for 66 yards
Total yards:  NW 132, ACU 123
Penalties:  NW 5 for 45, ACU 3 for 24
Third-down conversions:  NW 3 of 8, ACU 1 of 6
Punts:  NW 2 for 34, ACU 3 for 45.3
Leading rusher:  NW LaRon Council 18 yards, ACU Reggie Brown 22 yards
Leading receiver:  NW Nick Rhodes 3 for 39, ACU Ben Gibbs 3 for 47
Leading passer:  NW Blake Bolles 12 of 20 for 135 and 1 INT, ACU Zach Stewart 7 of 8 for 42, Clark Harrell 1 of 1 for 24 and 1 TD

NWMo's 7th Series

NW takes a knee at its 36 as time expires.  Halftime score still ACU 16, NWMo 0.  Here comes the Big Purple Band!

ACU's 6th Series

Ball on ACU 18.  Justin Jones up the middle to ACU 19.  NW takes time out, 1:11 left in Q2.  Richardson rushes to ACU 25.  Richardson up the middle for no gain.  Time out for measurement.  Fourth down and 1.  NW takes another time out with 14 seconds left.  Mark Sprague punts to NW 37, where the ball is downed with :05 left in Q2.

NWMo's 6th Series

ACU kickoff sails past end zone.  NW 1st down at their 20.   Council pushed out of bounds at NW 22.  Good pursuit by ACU defense.  QB scrambles to NW 28.  Third down and 2.  QB scrambles to NW 30 for a first down.  Pass over the middle to NW 34.  Pass complete over middle to NW 43, first down.  Nickel and dime pass plays.  Council rushes up middle to NW 49.  2nd and 4.  Pass complete in right flat to ACU 36, first down.  Pass incomplete out of bounds at ACU bench.  Pass complete in left flat to ACU 33.  ACU calls time out.  1:54 left in Q2.  ACU sacks QB Bolles for loss to ACU 40.  ACU calls time out again.  4th down and 14, 1:27 left in Q2.  NW punt downed at ACU 16, 1:16 left in Q2.

ACU's 5th Series

ACU rush for 1st down to NW 24.  Rush for no gain.  Pass complete to Ben Gibbs for 24-yard TD.  PAT by Navarro is good, ACU 16, NW Mo 0, 5:58 in Q2.

NWMo's 5th Series

Ball on NW 15, first down.  TV timeout.  Council rushes to right for no gain.  Pass complete for gain of 1 to TE Chris Owens.  Pass complete at sideline for first down, ball on NW 28.  Pass complete over middle for gain to NW 31.  Pass complete in right flat for 1st down to NW 46.  Pass complete to ACU 36.  Council tackled for loss to NW 40.  Pass complete to ACU 18.  Crowd does not like the call.  Council rushes up middle to ACU 15.  Pass complete in end zone, but flag at line of scrimmage for chop block, 15 yard penalty to ACU 30.  2nd down.  Pass incomplete and nearly intercepted over the middle.  3rd down and 22 to go.  NW takes a time out.  7:26 left in Q2.  Both teams under 100 yards in total offense in first half; this is not so much a defensive struggle as an offensive deep freeze.  Both teams have lots of new players still trying to mesh.  Pass intercepted by ACU's Casey Carr, 37-yard return to NW 35.

ACU's 4th Series, 1st Quarter

Stewart deep pass incomplete on first down.  ACU penalized for holding, ball now on 21 of ACU, first and 20.  Pass complete to Ben Gibbs for first down to ACU 32.  End of Q1, still 9-0, ACU leads.  Total yards after Q1: ACU 71, NW 31. Both teams have 2 first downs. Stewart 5 of 6 for 34 yards. Richardson runs for first down to ACU 40.  Stewart sacked at ACU 32, 2nd down.  Screen pass complete to Richardson, ball on ACU 34.  Delay of game on ACU; penalty of 5 yards.  Pass complete to WR Chris Fowler, short of first down.  4th down on the 35 of ACU.  Punt to NW 15, fair catch.  NW ball, 11:31 of Q2.

NWMo's 4th series

Pass incomplete; receiver drops it.  2nd down on the ACU 34.  Rush to the ACU 25, 3rd down and 1.  False start on NW lineman; ball moves back to 30.  Pass in left flat incomplete to Council, 4th down.  FG attempt wide left, ACU 9, NW with 2 seconds left in 1st Q.

ACU's 3rd Series, 1st Quarter

Stewart scrambles to the 23, gain of 2. Daryl Richardson, Bernard Scott's little brother, runs to the 30.  Third down and 1.  Stewart scrambles for first-down yardage, but fumbles, recovered by NWMo on the ACU 34.

NWMo's 3rd series

ACU kicks off; touchback.  NWMo takes over at their 20.  Pass complete to WR Jake Soy for a first down to the 38.  Rush on 2nd down for 2 yards. Flag on the attempted pass play, false start, 5 yard penalty. Rush play stopped for no gain by Fred Thompson.  QB run out of bounds at the 36, and NW will have to punt.  Kendrick Johnson fields the punt and is tackled immediately at the ACU 21.  ACU first down, 2:12 left.

Abilene Radio Broadcast Resumes

The game is now on KWKC 1340 AM in Abilene.

NWMo's 2nd series

NWMo's top back is LaRon Council, likely a strong candidate for the 2009 Harlon Hill Award given to NCAA Division II's best player.  Penalty on NWMo, false start, penalty of 5 yards.  Pass incomplete on first down in the right flat.  Pass complete for gain of 9; NWMo QB Blake Bolles takes a heavy hit as he releases the ball.  Rush results in a first down, barely.  Ball on NW 46.  Incomplete pass to the right.  NWMo fumbles, ball returned 42 yards by MLB Arthur Johnson.  PAT good by Ricardo Navarro.  ACU leads 9-0 with 4:25 left in first quarter.

ACU's 2nd Series, 1st Quarter

Ball on the ACU 48.  Justin Johnson runs up the middle for 4 yards.  Johnson around left end for 2 more yards. Stewart pass complete to TE Ben Gibbs to the NW 33. Screen pass to Reggie Brown for 3 yards. Brown rushes for no gain.  Rush again for no gain, penalty on ACU for holding, repeat third down, ball on 39. Pass complete to Chris Fowler to the 35. ACU goes for it on 4th and 11, Stewart misses Gates near the goal line, pass just over his outstretched hands.  NWMo takes over on its 35.  I'm determining these yard lines and gains/losses on my own, and learning uniform numbers on a bunch of new offensive skill people, so bear with me.  First quarter, 5:39 left, ACU 2, NWMo 0.

Bearcats' first series

ACU defense stuffs NWMo in 3 plays.  Attempted kick sails past the punter into the end zone, resulting in a safety and 2-0 ACU lead at 10:28 of the first inning, er, quarter.  NWMo gets free kick from its 20-yard line, returned to the ACU 48 yard line. ACU first down.

Radio Broadcast Moves to 1340 AM

In about 15 minutes, the game's radio broadcast will be moved to 1340 AM.

First series for the Wildcats

Edmund Gates returns the kickoff but is greetly rudely.  First down via rush for ACU.  QB is Zach Stewart and running back is Justin Johnson.  Drive ends on the ACU 34.  Punt to the NWMo 20, fair catch by the Bearcats.  First down, NWMo.

No-Go on Radio Broadcast

Local fans listening on the radio are out of luck; the storm blew down the tower for KYYW 1470 AM.  CBS College Sports telecast is about to begin.  The crowd can see the video from the telecast on the Jumbotron here at Shotwell.  A cool site to behold!

Coin Toss at Mid-field

Captains have met at mid-field; ACU will receive the kickoff in the north end zone.  

Photos From the Pre-Game Tailgate

New Kickoff Time Announced

Kickoff will be at 8:06 p.m., just a little over an hour behind the original start.

They Did It

The crowd cheers as the nearly 100 students lift and move the more-portable-than-designed bleachers from the end zone.  ESPN, are you watching?  Now that's school spirit!  A rainbow in the east sky promises we'll be playing before long.

On Jordan's Stormy Banks

Rain has pretty much ended but lightning is still in the area. A section of portable aluminum bleachers in the north end zone was picked up by the wind and blown down the embankment and onto the field, in the end zone.  A large number of students have ran onto the field to help move them - ACU's version of Texas A&M's 12th man.  The three large tents in the west parking lot are no more; fans tried to keep them from going airborne but eventally gave up the fight as rain arrived.  A real frog-floater, as say around these parts.  No report of any injuries; in fact, the pumped-up student crowd is having a great time, all things considered.  Photographer Gerald Ewing has some photos of the stormy scene shot from the safety of the press box, and we'll pass them along shortly, as well as images from the tailgate, in drier times.  Stay tuned for football sometime tonight.

Purple Rain


The start of the game has been postponed because of a massive storm that blew through about 6:40 p.m. CDT, maybe 15 minutes ago. It's now raining sideways and hailing. ACU's first nationally televised home game will have to wait. Kind of fitting. CBS College Sports gets to show the rest of the country what those of us in the Big Country have grown accustomed to.

For now, the goalposts are still standing. ACU fans hoped to tear them down after the game.

New Media Connects Fans Around the U.S.

ACU's reputation as the higher-education world leader in innovative mobile learning has moved to Shotwell Stadium for tonight's game.  Scott Kilmer (’01), ACU's director of new media, says the university has three features planned to bring fans together.  First is a live look-in from alumni watch parties that fans here can see when the CBS College Sports telecast – also seen on the Jumbotron scoreboard here – goes to commercial breaks.  Scott is following alumni meeting in places such as Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Boerne, Houston, Sacramento (Calif.) and Washington (D.C.).  Second, photos and video taken in the stands by some of the more than 2,000 students at ACU who have iPhones, will be uploaded to Flickr, and seen later tonight on the Jumbotron during game breaks.  Finally, fans will be able to vote on tonight's "Wildest Cat" by texting to choose their favorite.

The Pre-game Scene, Plus Rain

Hundreds of purple-shirted Wildcat fans are tailgating in the parking lot west of Shotwell Stadium, with kids of all ages enjoying inflatable games and face-painting.  The aroma of grilled hamburgers and hotdogs is wafting to the open windows of the pressbox atop the stadium, which has begun to fill with the Big Purple Band and the makings of a great crowd.  ACU is honoring Dyess Air Force base personnel and their families tonight as its special guests, and Southern Hills Church of Christ is feeding them, also at the tailgate meal.  Unfortunately, everybody is about to get soaking wet, with a strong and fast-moving thunderstorm bearing down on the stadium from the northwest.  It's fast-moving, so it won't last long, but it looks like there's a good chance it's going to bring some much-needed rain as well as delay the start of this game.  The NCAA has rules about how long to wait before starting or resuming play after a storm passes and lightning stops, and we'll pass the word when we get it.  Teams have completed their warm-ups and returned to the locker rooms, and tailgaters are still having a great time eating and socializing. The stands are being cleared as winds pick up, dust blows in, and the lightning begins.  

A Shotwell Bucket List, in Hindsight

It remains to be seen if this season-opener with Northwest Missouri State will be memorable, but here’s the top games I'm grateful to have witnessed in Shotwell through the years:

      ACU 93, West Texas A&M 68 (2008) – Lost in the otherworldly stats is the fact that the losing quarterback (WTA&M’s Keith Null) threw for 598 yards and 7 touchdowns, just one of 45 school, LSC and national records set in this pinball game. I was texting scores to a friend in Dallas, who thought I was making some of it up.  Bad defense?  No, more like two of the best offenses in the nation at any level beating up on each other.  They wore each other out, with ACU running back Bernard Scott the headliner with 7 TDs and 292 yards rushing.

     ACU 26, East Texas State 0 (1976) – Fans expected to see ACU running back Wilbert Montgomery break Walter Payton’s career TD mark in the Homecoming game, which he did. Bonus highlight: teammate Ove Johansson’s 69-yard field goal, which would have been good from 73 yards and is still a world record at any level of football. I was on the ACU sideline as an Optimist sports reporter for ACU's student newspaper.

    ACU 36, Southwest Texas State 30 (1977) – On the way to ACU’s last national championship was this memorable nail-biter, which featured sophomore quarterback John Mayes come off the bench in the third quarter to ignore a broken thumb and pass the Wildcats to a thrilling win over SWT, coached by Jim Wacker.

    ACU 35, Wisconsin-Stevens Point 7 (1977) – ACU’s NAIA semifinal win came over a team led by one of the nation’s most prolific passers, Reid Giordana, who hardly looked like it that day. The game’s offensive MVP was ACU sophomore fullback Kelly Kent, who had to make an unscheduled trip to the locker room for some new equipment when a would-be tackler was left with only a handful of his athletic supporter while Kent rambled downfield for a touchdown, his garment unraveling in a long string behind him.  ACU's next win was a 24-7 victory over Southwest Oklahoma at the Apple Bowl in the now-demolished Kingdome in Seattle, Wash., which made them national champions.  As editor of the Optimist, I accompanied the team to cover the game, and got to play touch football one afternoon in the Kingdome, something nobody else can say they'll ever do again.

    ACU 27, Angelo State 0 (1976) – ACU quarterback Jim Reese throws for a then-LSC record 564 yards on a field muddied by a week of rain.

    ACU 46, Western New Mexico 13 (1977) – ACU tailback Alex Davis was steaming down the west sideline on what looked to be a 52-yard TD romp, when an opposing player – helmet off and holding a drink cup – stepped off the sideline to trip him. Officials awarded him the TD anyway. Boring game, but once-in-a-lifetime play, at least from a fan’s and reporter’s perspective.   

    ACU 56, Mesa State 12 (2007) – The Wildcats' junior QB, Billy Malone, was intercepted on the first play from scrimmage in ACU's first NCAA playoff home game ever, and the Mavericks return for a TD gave them a surprising lead.  The home team scored the next 56 points, one of the best answers ever to an early challenge from its opponent, and the Purple and White fans loved it.

Hot Side, Cold Side

A few Northwest Missouri State fans have wondered on blogs this week if their team is ready for a game in fiery West Texas in late August, as the Show Me State has enjoyed one of its coolest summers on record.  Some Bearcat fans say their team’s conditioning is not always ideal early in the season, and worry aloud about a contest like tonight where the air temp is in the mid 90s and the number probably reads more like 120 down on the artificial turf field.  A 30 percent chance of rain has the humidity extra high, at least for Abilene.  Lest Wildcat fans doubt their opponents’ early-season physical preparation, it should be pointed out that NWMo seasons have proven to be a marathon, not a sprint.  Bearcat teams have played in four consecutive NCAA Division II championship games in mid-December, at times in blowing snow and frigid temperatures some warm-weather teams would find un-nerving.  The Wildcats got a taste of that weather in late November in Nebraska during the NCAA playoffs (a 70-63 loss to Chadron State), and would gladly exchange one of their broiler games for one a lot closer to Christmas than Labor Day.  Don’t be fooled; weather does not deter championship-quality football teams.

Welcome to Game Day 2009

Welcome to Shotwell Stadium and the first of hopefully many Game Days for the 2009 ACU Wildcats.  Lance Fleming asked me to blog news and updates to you while he's busy running the pressbox for the ACU vs. Northwest Missouri State game tonight.  It's one of the very few games on tap this Thursday night in August for college football junkies and fans of both of these NCAA Division II powerhouses, many of whom will be following the matchup on national and regional TV, thanks to CBS College Sports.  The game also is being telecast regionally by Fox Sports Southwest and a couple of its affiliates in Texas and the Midwest, plus Abilene's KRBC-TV (NBC).  Bottom line: This is the early-season showcase game for NCAA Division II.  It's also a rematch of two teams that battled last Deceember in the 2008 national quarterfinals, when Northwest spoiled ACU's season with a 45-36 win, sending the Wildcats home with an 11-1 record and a bad taste in their mouths for what might have been.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ennis-London still running well

In case you missed – and you likely did because the IAAF World Track and Field Championships have generated zero media coverage in the United States – former ACU standout Delloreen Ennis-London (left in photo above) finished third in the final of the 100-meter hurdles Wednesday at Olympic Stadium in Berlin.

Ennis-London – who won eight NCAA Division II national championships in the hurdles for the Wildcats from 1996-99 – won the bronze with a time of 12.55 seconds, finished just .04 of a second behind new world champion Brigitte Foster-Hylton (12.51; right in above photo), Ennis-London's Jamaican teammate.

Ennis-London's time is her best of the season and the fifth-best performance of her career.  The 33-year-old Ennis-London is still running well on the European circuit, and two months ago won the 100 meters at the Ostrava Golden Spike in Ostrava, Czechoslovakia, with a time of 12.79 seconds.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ex Factors

Here are some weekend numbers from former Wildcats now playing professionally:

Cincinnati Bengals RB Bernard Scott (in a 17-7 preseason loss to New Orleans Friday)
6 carries for a team-high 30 yards
1 reception for 12 yards

(Read the Bengals' beat writer, Geoff Hobson's, glowing review of Bernard here. After clicking on that link, scroll down to No. 4 in Hobson's column.)

Chicago Bears WR Johnny Knox (in a 27-20 preseason loss to Buffalo Saturday)
2 receptions for 22 yards
1 kickoff return for 39 yards
1 tackle (on a defender who intercepted a pass Knox bobbled)

Chicago Bears DB/KR Danieal Manning
Did not play because of a hamstring injury

Jeev Singh
Finished tied for 67th at the PGA Championship. In the par 3 coverage I anchored for CBS and DIRECTV here in Minnesota, we were able to feature Jeev prominently and talk a lot about ACU, former ACU golf coach Vince Jarrett, current coach Mike Campbell whose brother Chad played in the tournament (T43), and the fact that so many ACU alumni are involved with golf.

Friday, August 14, 2009

W.W.J.W.D. - PGA Day One

Tiger Woods slept on the first round lead at the 91st PGA Championship here at Hazeltine after a bogey-free 67 (-5).


The more pressing question was W.W.J.W.D. - When Would John WithDraw? John Daly, in a painter's hat and purple paisley pants (I'm pricing what it would cost for Coach Thomsen to put his team in a football version of that pattern), started playing hockey on the 8th hole, his 17th of the day. He'd just eagled the 7th to get to +2, but hit his tee shot on the par 3 8th over the green and into a horrible lie. Missed a long par putt, then walked up and nonchalantly blew his short bogey putt past the hole. Kind of like I would when playing with Lance. Except I don't count those. JD doesn't have that luxury. He did the same thing on 9, his last hole, and signed for a 78.

That's the last we'll see of him this week. He withdrew shortly thereafter. There's a lot of good in John Daly, but more often than not it seems he can't get out of his own way.

ACU's own Jeev Singh shot 74 but was featured prominently in the par 3 coverage I hosted on DIRECTV and ACU golf coach Mike Campbell's brother, Chad, also shot 74.

I'll be back on today (Friday) at 1 pm (CDT) on DIRECTV and Click on the par 3 coverage. We'll have Tiger Woods in our broadcast window.

Prediction: He won't be wearing purple paisley pants. Mark it down.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

ACU at the PGA

The PGA Championship, one of professional golf's four major tournaments, begins Thursday in shades of Purple and White. I'll be one of three ACU alumni among the national media covering the championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota near Minneapolis.

2009 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year Lance Barrow ('77, left) will produce the television broadcast for CBS Sports. I'll anchor the Par 3 Coverage for CBS and DIRECTV. And if you follow the championship in print or online, chances are you'll be reading the work of Associated Press Golf Writer Doug Ferguson ('83).

ACU is well represented on the course, as well, with Jeev Singh (right), who redefined Abilene Christian as "The Singh-ing College" when he won an individual national championship and led the Wildcats to a team title in 1993. And Chad Campbell, who lost a playoff at The Masters in April, is the brother of current ACU golf coach Mike Campbell.

How about this for a perfect purple storm? The championship comes down to a playoff between Jeev and Chad which ends on a par 3 hole. Lance produces the telecast for CBS Sports, Grant anchors it on DIRECTV, and Doug Ferguson writes the recap.

Who would be the winner? That's easy: ACU.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Saturday Update: Dropped Jaws, Popped Shoulders, and Returned Kicks

In case the story Lance posted below didn't convince you that Bernard Scott is making an impact at Bengals Training Camp, here's another nugget from Cincinnati QB Carson Palmer:

"I like him a lot. I think he's going to be really good. I think he's a really good change of pace for us, especially with a big bruiser like Cedric who stays in between the tackles. But Bernard's got a lot of speed. I don't know if he's as fast as Cedric, but he's explosive and quick. I'd say he's been the star so far of all the rookies. He's made the most plays. He's dropped the most jaws."

It wasn't others' jaws but Bernard's shoulder that kept him out of Friday's team scrimmage. Late Thursday, he had to have his shoulder popped back in after getting hit in practice. But his cousin, WR Clyde Gates, said at ACU's team lunch today that he'd spoken to Bernard and that it isn't serious.

Meanwhile, the team from the City of Big Shoulders will have a very purple-tinted kick return team this season. News out of Chicago Bears' Training Camp is that Devin Hester, who returned the opening kickoff in Super Bowl 41 for a touchdown against the Colts but gradually relinquished those responsibilities to Danieal Manning last season, will still return punts but will not return kickoffs at all in 2009.

That means Danieal's the Man, and that's good news for Bears fans. Manning leads all active NFL players who have a minimum of 40 returns with a 28.2 yard average on kickoff returns. Last season, despite taking over for Hester midway through the season, Manning led the NFL in number of 30+ yard returns, including an 83-yarder for a touchdown on the opening kickoff against New Orleans on Dec. 11.

Have fun with both of these videos:

First, the call from the NFL Network guys.

Then this one from someone in the stands. (I think this guy is a Bears fan. Could be wrong.)

Turns out Manning could be joined by fellow former Wildcat Johnny Knox, who's also taking reps on kickoff returns. Coach Thomsen today said the scribes covering the Bears disagreed over the order of the team's fastest players. One group ranked them Hester, Knox, Manning. The dissenting opinion had the order as Manning, Knox, Hester.

Is this any fun or what?

Back on The Hill, the team practiced this morning for 2 hours, their only on-field session today. They'll spend the rest of their Saturday in the weight room and watching film. They're back on the field Sunday afternoon.

Not to be outdone by the guy he handed the ball off to a bunch last year, QB Zach Stewart had his own jaw-dropper this morning. Some of the coaches were still buzzing about one particular 12-yard out route. Zach absorbed the heat of an on-coming pass rush and zinged a bullet that hit Rutgers transfer WR Dennis Campbell in the hands. It wasn't just the speed and accuracy of the throw but the fact that Zach has only worked with Campbell a couple of days.

This isn't these coaches' first rodeo. And some, like new RB coach Keith Wagner, who came in like Chris Thomsen to play one year under Bob Strader back in 1993, have NFL and other professional experience. I didn't see the pass, but I did see some of them actually high five each other when talking about it two hours later at lunch. That's about all I needed to know.

Zach's coming off surgery to repair the labrum on his throwing (right) shoulder the week after the playoff loss to Northwest Missouri State and couldn't throw 'til June. Coaches love his arm strength - enough obviously to high five each other - but also his ability to improv and make plays.

The key concern is how he'll respond to getting popped a few times. That's a concern he now shares in common with his old backfield teammate.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Palmer likes what he sees in B. Scott

Fans in Cincinnati are about to find out what those of use who watched Bernard Scott have known for the last two years: this guy can play at the NFL level.

Apparently his quarterback, Carson Palmer, has already figured it out, anointing the former Wildcat the best Bengals' rookie of the first week of training camp.

Here's the story from the Bengals' Web site on Friday:


Fans will come into the gates talking about rookie defensive end Michael Johnson and they'll leave buzzing about rookie running back Bernard Scott.

Scott has already been anointed the best rookie of the first week of camp by none other than quarterback Carson Palmer. The kid has jets and a knack for getting outside. He's 5-10, 200 pounds and has already been compared to Titans running back Chris Johnson by at least one teammate after Johnson's Rookie of the Year season last year.

But Scott's not worried about showing his balls skills Friday. "That's pretty natural," he said.

"I just need to show them in a game situation I know what I'm doing," Scott said. "That I can pick up a blitz and I can adapt to the speed of the game. I've been holding my own (in blitz pickup) but I think I can get in better position."

Scott says he's going to concentrate on his hand placement and making sure the blitzers don't get their hands inside his.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

#3, Part 2

ACU SID Lance Fleming reports from Day 2 of Training Camp that Bernard Scott's other brother Daryl - RB Daryl Richardson - is the spittin' image of his big bro. No pressure there.

Should be worth a touchdown or two as a decoy alone. Run Daryl out there wearing #3 and send opposing coaches scrambling for their game programs.

Even better, Lance says, is that he looks like Bernard when he runs, too. At least in practice. Justin Johnson, the transfer from Oklahoma, also looks the part of a D1 back.

Meanwhile, Bernard continues his first full week of camp with the Bengals. Here are some cool pics from the Associated Press. While you're on that page, enter "Johnny Knox" in the search bar at the top of the page and see ACU's other NFL rookie at Bears camp.

Other news and notes:
* Former ACU quarterback Billy Malone is back with the Wildcats, this time in a coaching capacity. After a tryout with Buffalo earlier this summer, Malone returned to Abilene where he will coach tight ends as he works toward finishing his degree (he's six hours short of graduating).
* Several players on this year's roster have close relatives who have played for the Wildcats, including Richardson, whose brother, Scott, is the Wildcats' all-time leading rusher and is in camp with the Bengals.

Others with ACU connections:
*Walk-ons Jackson Richburg and Case Wilson are the sons of Monte Richburg and Mark Wilson, respectively. Mark Wilson was an all-America defensive back in the early 1980s and is back in coaching having joined the staff of former Wildcat Bob Shipley at Brownwood.

*Offensive assistant Brock Sherwood's younger brother, Austin, is also on the roster.

*There's OL Brock Niederhofer, son of Ol' Dan.

*And WR Kolby Freytag, son of Kirk. (That's Kolby with a K.)

*WR Chance McCoy's father is former Wildcat Brad McCoy, who is currently the head coach at Graham. His older brother is currently penciled in as the starting quarterback at Texas: Colt McCoy. You may have heard of him.

Other names you might recognize:

*Baylor transfer V.J. McElroy is the son of former Oakland Raider defensive back Vann McElroy.

*Clark Harrell is the brother of former Texas Tech quarterback and current Saskatchewan Roughrider (CFL) Graham Harrell.

Let's hope all of these guys make names for themselves this season.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

'Twas the Night Before Camp...

Sophomore DB Drew Cuffee just popped into my office for a visit. I can report with some certainty that he has NOT been sitting on his couch in Arlington eating Cheetos all summer.


There's no way to prove what I'm about to say - short of doing real research - but I'd venture to guess Cuffee - did I mention he's a defensive back? and did I really just utilize a second dash in the same sentence? - is bigger than anyone who played for ACU up until about 1970. I picked that date because I think I can probably outrun the pre-1970 players who might take offense at my suggestion.

You know what they say, "Never criticize a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes...after that you can do whatever you want because you're a mile away from him and you've got his shoes." (Just to be safe, I hope I'm at least a mile away from any former players who are reading this.)

Seriously, it's amazing how much bigger, stronger, and faster the average player is today - at all levels and in nearly every sport. Doesn't mean they're better, but they are, by and extra extra large, bigger. When they're bigger and better, they're Tony Washington.

Coach T and his staff have a lot of work to do between now and the season opener against Northwest Missouri State three weeks from Thursday. But then so does every other coach, including Mel Tjeerdsma at Northwest.

The great Bum Phillips was always quoted as saying what made Don Shula such a good coach was that "He could take his'n and beat your'n or take your'n and beat his'n." Every coach would say he could get better in his Xs and Os, but Coach T is already among the best in the business at the other stuff it takes to be a good football coach, like convincing young men of every imaginable profile and background that the next few years of their lives would be best spent on a Hill far away from where many of them live. And then doing everything in his power to see that it happens, on and more importantly (to him) off the field.

As much as the 'Cats lost from last year's 11-1 team, there is a ton of talent still here - and that's just the O line. The 7 guys who'll see the bulk of the playing time in the trenches probably total 2000 lbs, bookended by tackles Trevis Turner (right) and Tony Washington (left), the human stimulus package who's sparking the local economy by drawing drooling NFL scouts to Abilene in droves. (Bet you weren't expecting to see "Washington" and "stimulus package" used positively in the same sentence.)

There ought to be plenty of room to run for whichever 'Cat carries the rock. Identifying exactly who should do that most often is among the major issues the coaching staff will deal with over the next couple of weeks. Since last season ended, a lot of promising names have been bandied about as potential ball carriers. But those guys have to make their grades and get to camp before they can take the field. Count on two things from whoever's in the backfield:

1. He'll be good.
2. He won't make us forget about Bernard Scott anytime soon.

But remember, two years ago this week, few of us had ever heard of Bernard. Now, he's camping with the Cincinnati Bengals, hoping to make a name for himself in the NFL.

There's also the small matter of determining who'll be handing it off to the mystery back or chucking it downfield. You'd figure Zach Stewart, by virtue of his 2-0 record as a starter last season when Billy Malone went down with a busted thumb toward the end of the WT game, would be the odds-on favorite. But there's no gambling at Bushwood, sir, or ACU. And Clark Harrell - who's older brother, Graham, only threw for about 4 zillion yards at Tech the last few years - had a terrific spring and will compete with Stewart to start under center.

Whoever's in the game will likely be called upon at least a couple of times per quarter to throw it as far as he can downfield where Edmund "Clyde" Gates will be slowing down to catch it. ACU players don't have their names on the back of their jerseys. With Gates it wouldn't matter anyway. There's not a d-back in the Lone Star Conference who could read it from that far back.

The defense will be big, fast, and - most importantly - deep. Aston Whiteside's just a sophomore but already the reigning LSC South Lineman of the Year and Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Tony Harp from his safety post will quarterback the defense.

Couple of questions for you with Training Camp upon us:

1. What's your prediction for ACU this season? Give me a record and whether or not they make the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year.

2. How much Training Camp coverage do you want to see? Weekly, daily, multiple times a day? Video, too?

3. Should I agree to the challenge from Coach T and Tony Harp to suit up with the Wildcats during a day of Training Camp to see what it's like? They thought it would make a great package for our first episode of The Chris Thomsen Show, which debuts Aug. 22 on KRBC Channel 9 here in Abilene and will be available for viewing online, too. And by "great," of course, they mean abject misery for me.

4. How much would you be willing to shell out to go see all three former ACU players currently on NFL rosters play on the same field? It's happening Oct. 25 when Danieal Manning and Johnny Knox of the Chicago Bears visit Bernard Scott in Cincinnati. I can tell you an interested group is already forming.

Answer these questions here in the comment area or find me on campus.

The Cheetos are on me. Or at least they will be when we're done.