- Now, THAT'S what the No. 1 team in the nation might look like, only the Wildcats answered that bell about two weeks late. Nevertheless, ACU took care of business, beating Texas A&M-Kingsville in a game that was not as close as the 47-35 score indicated. The fourth quarter was a flag-fest, with several foolish penalties that gave the Javelinas life and momentum.
- ACU's run defense, ranked No. 1 in the nation entering this game, held the LSC's top rushing team to 50 yards on the ground. TAMK's junior RB, Fred Wilborn, is a real talent who ran for 263 yards last week, but could only manage 47 today. The Wildcats are a menace to their opponents' running game, and they put heavy pressure on QBs, as well.
- Four times in the red zone for the Wildcats, and four times they scored.
- Mitchell Gale played his best game of the season, stepping up when his team really needed a calm and steady presence in the pocket. The offensive line yielded no sacks, and Gale did a fine job of stepping up in the pocket when pressure came from the Javelina defensive ends.
- WR Edmund Gates showed his speed on a fine play in the third quarter, catching a Gale pass on the sideline, shucking a tackler and sprinting for a 72-yard TD, ACU's longest of the season.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Daryl Richardson runs for a first down to the TAMK 20. Mitchell Gale's pass for WR Edmund Gates at the right sideline is short and incomplete. Reggie Brown runs off left tackle for his customary 5 yards, to the Javs' 14. Gale passes complete over the middle to WR Austin Kessler, good for a first down at the Kingsville 3. Brown runs up the middle, losing 1 to the 4. Brown runs up the middle, diving into the end zone for another Wildcat TD. Lineberry's PAT kick is good, and ACU leads 46-14. Did anyone see this one coming? The Wildcats are back, creating turnovers, moving the ball, scoring TDs, and dominating again. 0:56 left in Q3.
Following the safety, TAMK's free-kick is fielded by Dennis Campbell and returned to the ACU 39. Gale's pass to Edmund Gates is complete and out of bounds at the ACU 47, a gain of 8. Gates now has caught four passes for 101 yards in the game. RB Reggie Brown loses 1 yard on a carry up the middle. Gale passes complete to Gates at the Javs' 44, good for a first down. Gale's pass deep down the middle is too far for WR Raymond Radway. Gates takes the end-around handoff but is run out of bounds after losing 2 to the 46. Gale's pass to Terrell Woodall is nearly intercepted, bringing up fourth down and 12. Mark Sprague's punt is blocked, caught in the air by ACU LB Arthur Johnson, and run for a first down to the Javs' 25, one of the weirdest and most heads-up plays you'll see. A potential crusher in momentum for the Javs; we'll see. Gale passes complete to FB Justin Andrews, who shucks a tackler and runs to the TAMK 10 for a first down. Reggie Brown runs hard off right tackle, bounces off a Javelina, and gains 5 to the 5. TAMK calls its first timeout of the second half. Gale passes complete to Andrews in the end zone for a Wildcat TD of the 5-yard variety. Lineberry's PAT kick is good, and ACU leads 40-14 with 3:51 left in Q3.
This drive starts at the Wildcat 17. RB Daryl Richardson is met by a pack of Javelinas, losing 2. Gale's pass is complete in the right flat to WR Dennis Campbell, who runs out of bounds at the 21. On 3rd and 6, Gale passes complete to Campbell, who is tackled after gaining a first down at the Wildcat 28, a gain of 7. Timeout for an injured Javelina. Gale passes complete to Edmund Gates, who shakes two tacklers and runs the length of the field for a 72-yard TD, ACU's longest pass play of the 2009 season. Morgan Lineberry's PAT kick is good, and ACU's lead is now 31-14 with 11:21 left in Q3.
RB Daryl Richardson runs up the middle for 3 to the 13 of TAMK. QB Mitchell Gale's pass to TE Trey Simone is complete to the 8. On 3rd and 2, Gale passes complete to Simeone for a first down at the 2. Richardson runs off right tackle to the 1. Richardson dives over the line for a 1-yard TD. Morgan Lineberry's PAT kick is good, and ACU stretches its lead to 23-14 with 3:54 left in Q2.
TAMK kickoff is fielded by V.J. McElroy and returned to the ACU 31. The Wildcats are flagged for a personal foul on the return, which moves the ball back to their 16. RB Reggie Brown gains 5 up the middle to the 21. Prior to that last drive, the Javs had 10 yards of total offense in the first quarter. Brown catches Mitchell Gale's pass and runs for a first down at the 32. Gale passes complete to a wide-open Edmund Gates on the right sideline, good for another first down at midfield. Gale passes complete to WR Chris Fowler for a gain of 8 to the Javs' 42. Brown finds rough going on a run behind right tackle, gaining only 1 to the 41. On third and 1, Brown makes the first down up the middle, gaining 2 to the 39. Gale passes complete to FB Emery Dudensing, who is stopped for no gain. TAMK calls timeout. Brown runs hard around right end, gaining ground to the 33. On third and 4, Gale's pass in complete, bringing up fourth down. The Wildcats are going for it. Gale passes complete to Dennis Campbell over the middle, good for a first down at the Javs' 8, a gain of 25. Brown runs up the middle to the 3, a gain of 5. Brown carries into the end zone on 2nd down, good for a 5-yard TD run. PAT kick by Morgan Lineberry is good, and ACU retakes the lead, 17-14, with 6:10 left in Q2.
TAMK kickoff is fielded by Dennis Campbell in the end zone and returned to the ACU 24. Gale's pass to WR Edmund Gates in the left flat is caught and advanced to the 27. Gale's pass to FB Justin Andrews finds first-down yardage to the 36, a gain of 9. Reggie Brown finds no room to run up the middle, reverses his field, gets an awesome block from Gale, and rumbles to the Kingsville 24. Gates takes the end-around handoff and gains 4 to the 20. Gale's pass to Gates is knocked down at the line of scrimmage, bringing up third and 6. Brown runs up the middle for a first down at the 11, a gain of 9. Brown pinballs up the middle, gaining 6 to the 5. Gale hands off to Brown, who loses 1 yard to the 6. Gale's pass to TE Ben Gibbs in the corner of the end zone is too tall for him. On fourth down, Morgan Lineberry's 23-yard field goal attempt is good, giving ACU the lead, 10-7, with 0:10 left in Q1.
ACU kickoff is fumbled, recovered and returned to the Kingsville 10. RB Fred Winborn gains 7 yards on first down, at the 17. Billy Garza is the QB. He fakes a handoff and scrambles for a first down at the 25, a gain of 8. Garza passes complete to RB Jonathan Woodson for no gain. Winborn runs around right end, gaining 5 to the TAMK 33. Garza is sacked by Aston Whiteside and fumbles at the 18, recovered by OL Jorge Guerra. Kingsville's punt on fourth down is downed at the ACU 21 with 5:47 left in Q1.
TAMK kickoff is fielded by Dennis Campbell and returned to the ACU 22. Daryl Richardson runs up the middle for a gain of 6 to the 28. Mitchell Gale is the QB. Richardson runs up the middle again, to the 31, bringing up third and 1. Richardson finds first-down yardage, and Kingsville is flagged for being offside. First down at the 36. Gale throws a swing pass in the right flat to FB Justin Andrews, gaining ground to the 38. Richardson runs for first-down yardage at the TAMK 44. Gale passes again in the right flat to Andrews and a first down at the 33 of the Javelinas. Gale throws a pretty screen pass to Richardson, who rumbles for another first down at the 19. Richardson is tripped up for no gain at the 19. Gale passes complete to Raymond Radway, who gains 14 to the TAMK 5 for another first down. Richardson runs off left tackle on first down, down to the 1-yard-line. Richardson finds no room to run, bringing up third and goal. ACU calls a time out, its first of the half. Richardson finds paydirt on third and goal, via big RT Trevis Turner. PAT kick by Morgan Lineberry is good, and ACU takes the early lead, 7-0. An impressive drive for the Wildcats, who needed one after last week's first TD-less performance since 2001. 9:16 left in Q1.
With Game No. 10 on tap for both the Wildcats and their opponent today, the math and the plot for two teams with national playoff ambitions are pretty simple: win.
- ACU sports the top rushing defense in the nation (32.6 yards per game), coming off a suffocating smack-down of a good Tarleton State rush offense last week, which netted only -16 yards for the Texans. The Javelinas are the top rushing offense in the LSC at 191.7 per game. Last week, Kingsville junior RB Fred Winborn set a school rushing record with 263 yards, bettering the mark of the Javs' three-time Harlon Hill Trophy winner, Johnny Bailey. The run game and its defense are the keys to each team's strength; which one will prevail?
- Can the Wildcat defense put behind it the two big plays that were the difference in last week's 13-6 loss to Tarleton? TSU's offense was dead except for a 57-yard punt return and and a 75-yard TD pass, both of which turned the game in the Texans' favor. Will ACU turn the screws down even tighter on this week's opponent?
- Can the ACU offensive line return to form and keep Mitchell Gale on his feet and away from an alarming number of sacks the past two weeks?
- If Gale can't keep the offense moving, will Chris Thomsen call again on Zach Stewart, who was 7-0 in his starts before Gale took over earlier this season?
- Can ACU resurrect its dropback passing game, which has lately morphed into more of a sprint-out, Veer-look offense while Gale runs for his life to escape seemingly constant blitzes? The Javelinas are reportedly susceptible to downfield passing attacks.
- Can the ACU pass defense befuddle Kingsville's strong-armed senior QB, Billy Garza? He rose to No. 2 on the depth chart at the University of Illinois before transferring to play for the Javs last year.
- Is this the final home game for a long list of seniors, including arguably NCAA Division II's top NFL draft prospect, OL Tony Washington, and defensive back Tony Harp? If the Wildcats win their final two regular-season games, their strength-of-schedule rating (and record against a large handful of regionally and nationally ranked teams) could help them snag an early-round home game.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Both Bernard Scott and Danieal Manning were dinged up during the game and were in treatment post-game. However, we were able to get Johnny, Bernard and Danieal all together just before the Bears pulled out of the stadium.
Heard some great things from Chicago head coach Lovie Smith about both Johnny and Danieal being not only great football players, but also first-class men. Marvin Lewis told us much the same about Bernard before the game started.
Before we left, the three had a few moments alone in the west end zone where they shared a few laughs and stories as well as updated cell phone numbers. Danieal had a couple of chances to drill Bernard, but Bernard showed the moves that won him the Harlon Hill Award last year to avoid the tackles. They shared a pretty good laugh over both of those plays.
All in all, an unbelievable day for Abilene Christian University and its football program.
Grant Boone and I were talking earlier in the game about how proud ACU president Dr. Royce Money must be to see three players from ACU on the field in an NFL game. When he took over as president in 1991 no one ever had a thought about three players from ACU ever playing together in an NFL game.
That onetime longshot dream became a reality, and even though Danieal, Johnny and Coach Smith apologized for the Bears' performance in a 45-10 loss it was a great day to be a Wildcat.
He went for four yards on his first carry, but then lost three on a third-down carry after a poor toss from backup quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan. You might remember O'Sullivan's name after he quarterbacked Cal-Davis against the Wildcats in both 2001 and 2002.
Cutler's QB performance today has inspired companion show, "So You Think You Can Throw It to Someone Wearing the Same Jersey?"
Two plays later, Palmer threw a 13-yard strike to Chad Ochocinco to make it 38-3 with 4:48 left in the third quarter.
Now we need a heavy dose of Bernard in the final 19 minutes.
If the Bengals can make it 38-3, we might see Marvin Lewis take his starting back, Cedric Benson, out of the game and give us a chance to see Bernard run the ball. Benson had 98 yards on 20 carries in the first half.
The weight of the assembled press corps is roughly the equivalent of Mars.
Johnny has one catch for 12 yards and five kickoff returns, while Bernard has one carry for 11 yards. Danieal has two tackles for the Bears' defense, which the Bengals moved through like a hot knife through butter.
Still .... a great thrill to see all three guys thriving and doing so well and contributing to their teams.
We're at halftime; we'll be back with the second half after this timeout.
On the next play, Cutler threw a pick that was tipped by Chris Crocker and intercepted by Leon Hall. He returned the ball to the Bears' 17-yard line. Johnny Knox made the tackle after a 23-yard return by Hall.
Bengals can make it 35-0 at half with another touchdown. The Wildcat Reunion Tour isn't go so well for two-thirds of the group.
He just Laveranues Coles with an 8-yard scoring strike and the Bengals lead the Bears 28-0 with 2:49 left in the first half. Bernard was lined up in the backfield to Palmer's right on the play, but went in motion and set up split wide right. Palmer took the shotgun snap, hit Coles in the left flat and the 10-year veteran from Florida State got into the end zone.
Palmer is now 14 of 16 for 176 yards and four touchdowns.
Doesn't Palmer know we're here to see the former Wildcats do good things today? He's stealing the spotlight today.
Chicago head coach Lovie Smith would probably prefer that he only return the ball one more time today, which would be the opening kickoff of the second half.
Jay Cutler sacked on the Bears' first play from scrimmage as the Bengals' offense and defense are making it look really easy so far.
Just remembered the only bad thing about covering an NFL game: too many stoppages in the game. We've already 3 media timeous and we're only 4:31 into the first quarter.
Knox not on field for Bears' first play from scrimmage.
We've already seen Bernard Scott and Danieal Manning on the field today; now we're about to see Johnny Knox on the field on the Bears' kickoff return team.
Jared said it reminded him of his playing days at West Texas A&M or Central Oklahoma.
Game just about to kick off with Bernard deep to return the kick for the Bengals.
I think this could become his new pregame ritual.
The people here at Paul Brown Stadium have been more than accomodating, and the stadium is beautiful. A lot of things going on inside and around the stadium, which has a little bit of a big-time college atmosphere.
The trees around northern Kentucky and southern Ohio are in full fall bloom, there's a bit of a chill in the air and we've got three former Wildcats on the field today as the Bears and Bengals are kicking it off in about 90 minutes. It's all setting up to be a great day.
We visited with Bernard first, who had a lot of good things to say about the Bengals and the organizations. He hasn't touched the ball as much as he would like, but did say that he would be back deep on kickoffs today and that he might get more touches in the offense after working more with the offense this week in practice.
Johnny has already apparently made an impression on one of the league's best receivers as Chad Ochocinco came over during pre-game warmups to share a hug and a few words. Johnny's the same as always: big smile and a humble attitude.
The last guy out on the field was Danieal, and let me tell you, the guy is an absolute brick. Gave him a hug and it was like hugging a tree trunk. Not that he was a softie at ACU, but he looks like he's put on about 15 pounds of pure muscle. He talked glowingly of ACU, head coach Chris Thomsen and his time in Abilene. Mentioned how he needs to get back and finish that degree.
All three players seemed genuinely touched that ACU president Dr. Royce Money and director of athletics Jared Mosley would be in attendance. Pictures on the field with all of us together.
Again, should be a great, great day. More later as the game goes on.
We're washing the disappointment of last night away in bagels, cream cheese and NFL anticipation. Kickoff at Paul Brown Stadium is at 4:15 p.m. local time (EDT). Chamber of Commerce weather. High in low 60s, dipping into the 40s by the time the game ends (in the dark) around 7:30.
Dr. Money - who'll be sitting with AD Jared Mosley in Sec. 148, 8 rows up from the field - is mulling over his wardrobe options. He's prohibited me from disclosing a particular article of clothing he's considering.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
- Two big plays won this ball game, which was dominated by ACU's defense: a 57-yard punt return for a TD by Devin Guinn, who otherwise had problems all night hanging onto kicks, and a 75-yard TD pass from Scott Grantham to Jahmeel Hobson with 04:32 left in the game. The TD play nearly doubled the Texans' passing yardage for the entire night.
- Two of the top defenses in the nation made life miserable for both teams. ACU moved the ball reasonably well (especially in the first half), but could only generate two field goals on the night, both 20-yarders, the first time since 2001 the Wildcats did not score a TD in a game. Tarleton sacked ACU QB Mitchell Gale 7 times. ACU limited the Texans (the LSC's No. 2-ranked rushing offense) to -11 net yards rushing and success on only 1 of its 12 third-down conversions.
- After finding itself the No. 1-ranked team in the nation two weeks ago, ACU's road to the national playoffs now looks to be considerably uphill, needing to beat two nationally ranked teams the next two weeks: Texas A&M-Kingsville in Abilene and Midwestern State in Wichita Falls.
- Both teams are 7-1 overall, 5-1 in the LSC and 2-1 in the LSC South. Neither can afford another loss and have much hope of a possible NCAA playoff bid. Tarleton's situation is more desperate, as its strength of schedule is poor (the teams they've beat this year are 4-24 overall), and its ranking not as high in the region and nation. Both teams have three games remaining in the regular season. ACU hosts Texas A&M-Kingsville next week, then hits the road to play Midwestern State. TSU plays at Angelo State next week, then hosts WT.
- Both teams are nationally ranked – ACU No. 9 and TSU No. 11. ACU is fourth in the regional rankings, and TSU is 10th, that SOS thing again holding the Texans back. Both have stout defenses. In the LSC, ACU is No. 1 in total defense and TSU is No. 2. Ditto for rushing offense for both teams. The Texans lead the LSC in a category they'd rather not – penalties – 103.2 yards per game of them, in fact. ACU ranks second-lowest in the league in that department.
- Can the Wildcats find an answer to defending the screen pass that did so much damage last week? TSU has a solid running back, Roderick Smith, who is comparable to WT's Keithon Fleming.
- Will ACU need a downfield passing game if it gets behind? It has relied on a strong rushing attack thus far, giving redshirt freshman QB Mitchell Gale time to steady himself. Gale has a strong arm; is it accurate when under pressure, too?
Friday, October 23, 2009
For more than 25 years, ACU alumnus Garner Roberts was the sports information director (also known as SID) at his alma mater, and he still can be found volunteering in the press box at football games and at track and field meets in Abilene. He is a member of the CoSIDA (College Sports Information Directors of America) Hall of Fame, with a well-worn passport reflecting the years he traveled the globe with the Wildcats, and his work in press relations at the Olympics and myriad other international athletics competitions.
His cousin, Joey Roberts, worked as a student employee in the ACU SID office, and now is the SID for Tarleton State University, today’s opponent for the Wildcats.
To a sports fan, the life of a SID looks pretty glamorous from afar: travel, rubbing shoulders with coaches, athletes and media; knowing the inside scoop; and a ringside seat to exciting events. It can be a rewarding career for a journalist with a love for sports, a saintly spouse and an extraordinarily understanding family.
It also requires an enormous amount of elbow grease; long, late and early hours; driving to and home from games in the middle of the night; fast-but-not-always-fabulous-food and not-so-hot coffee; and deadlines that loom like turkey buzzards eyeing road kill, complicated by quirky wireless signals, weather delays, overtime games and pole vault competitions that drag into the next day. And that’s not counting record-keeping responsibilities to challenge any Rain Man’s savant skills.
It's not for the faint of heart nor for those who tend to juke hard work. There's no cheering in a professional SID's pressbox; they're too busy taking care of business for the working media, professional scouts, league/NCAA officials and fans. Summers are spent catching up with the previous school year and getting ready for the next, when an SID such as Tarleton’s or ACU’s must juggle media relations and promotional and statistical sorties for up to – in ACU's case – 16 sports teams at a time. And while the Wildcats are notable exceptions, most SIDs rarely get to experience promoting their programs in a playoff or championship environment. For every SID’s moment in the spotlight with a successful team, there can be dozens of .500 seasons (and worse), lopsided losses and time spent sweltering or freezing in the great outdoors.
ACU’s SID is Lance Fleming, who is not related to a Roberts as best as I can tell, but knows to keep one handy nearby. Garner’s uncle, Bill Roberts, is a longtime volunteer statistician in the football pressbox at Shotwell Stadium. The public address announcer for Wildcat home games is Jason West of Snyder, Texas, who is married to Bill’s daughter (and Garner's cousin), Jami (Roberts) West, and whose two handsome young boys often sit next to their dad in the press box at Shotwell. In this photo, you can see Jaden (left) and Jaxon (middle) “helping” Jason at a recent game. The two boys are wearing toy headsets and sharing toy binoculars – little chips off the old Roberts’ block. Their mom, Jami, is a longtime graphic designer for ACU who produces, among other things, athletics-related publications for her alma mater.
Following Wildcat sports is frequently all in the family, you might say.
There can be benefits. Lance leaves tomorrow morning with ACU president Dr. Royce Money, athletics director Jared Mosley, broadcaster Grant Boone and longtime freelance photographer Gerald Ewing to watch the Cincinnati Bengals host the Chicago Bears on Sunday afternoon on the north bank of the Ohio River.
And it’s not because of the pregame tailgate fare at Paul Brown Stadium, however tasty that might be. Its an opportunity to watch former ACU stars Danieal Manning and Johnny Knox of the Bears line up against the Bengals’ Bernard Scott in a rare meeting of former Wildcats who are making headlines and turning heads in the sports world this autumn.
The hectic travel itinerary aside, it’s a welcome trip for someone whose promotional savvy as SID helped document – and launch – the promising professional careers of Manning, Knox and Scott. Sitting in a stadium or press box without any chores to do will be a rare treat in October. It’s also a well-deserved opportunity for Lance, who is one of the hardest-working and successful SIDs in the business.
ACU has 55 NCAA national championships (only USC, Stanford and UCLA have won more) and a decades-long reputation for producing first-string SIDs, a noteworthy family tradition all its own.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
- For the second straight week, Homecoming proves an inhospitable occasion for a nationally ranked LSC team playing at, well, home. Last week it was Angelo State, whose party was spoiled by the Wildcats. This week, West Texas A&M played the boorish guest, deflating ACU here in Shotwell before a crowd of 12,875. What's more, to Wildcat fans, the Buffs have become October's version of Jason Voorhees, the fictional hockey goalie mask-wearing bad guy from the Friday the 13th slasher film series who stalks folks around Halloween time. WT has now spoiled ACU's Homecoming on its last three regular-season trips to Abilene. Can the LSC please schedule someone else for a change?
- For the second straight week, the nation's No. 1-ranked team tumbles. Last week, it was Grand Valley State, which hadn't lost a conference game in five years. This week, it was ACU. The University of North Alabama probably moves to No. 1 this week, and if head coach Terry Bowden's team is paying attention, it will play its opponent next week with a wary eye.
- WT found a way for its passing game to become a ball-control offense, which is a good thing because the Buffs couldn't solve ACU's rush defense. WT ran 19 times for 25 yards.
- Mitchell Gale struggled at QB for ACU (14 of 25 for 112 yards), but several dropped passes by his receivers didn't help matters. For all its speed at the WR position, the Wildcat had no downfield passing game, a credit to WT's defense.
- If ACU wins out in its final three regular-season games, it should have a place in the national playoffs. But it has to take care of business during the two road games (Tarleton and Midwestern State) and one home game (Texas A&M-Kingsville) remaining.
- The LSC South Division champion could have 1 or even 2 losses by the time November ends; the top teams are that close.
- How far ACU tumbles in the regional rankings is the big question right now. Grand Valley State did a free-fall to No. 9 in its region after losing last week to an unranked opponent. ACU plays in the nation's toughest region; eight of the top 10 teams in Super Regional 4 entered this weekend in the nation's top 20 … 4 of them in the top 10.
WT kickoff is fielded by Justin Johnson at the goal line and run out of bounds at the ACU 26. RB Reggie Brown tries the middle but is stopped for no gain. WT is flagged for being offsides, so the ball moves to the 31. RB Daryl Richardson runs up the middle to the 35. On third and 1, Richardson clears the left end and runs for a big gainer to the WT 42 and a first down. WT cannot stop runs around that side of the line. Richardson finds no room to run off left tackle, losing 1 to the 43. Gale scrambles up the middle to the WT 34, bringing up third and 1. Richardson runs off left tackle, gaining enough for a first down at the 32. Injury timeout for a WT player. Gale passes complete over the middle to Richardson at the WT 29. Gale passes complete to Kendrick Johnson in the left flat, and he makes it to the 25. On third down and 3, Gale passes over the head of his intended receiver in the end zone. WT is flagged for defensive holding, moving the ball to the 15 and giving ACU a first down. Richardson is tackled at the 15 for no gain as the third quarter comes to an end with WT leading, 18-14. Richardson explodes up the middle for 10 yards to the WT 5 and a first down. Richardson follows up that run with another, finishing in the end zone and giving ACU the lead once more. Morgan Lineberry's PAT is good, and the new score is ACU 21, WT 18 with 14:26 left in Q3.
WT's kickoff is fielded at the goal line by Justin Johnson and returned to the ACU 33. RB Daryl Richardson finds little room up the middle, gaining 2 to the 35. Gale passes complete to Edmund Gates in the right flat, and he runs for a first down at the ACU 49. Gale escapes heavy pressure from the WT defense, scrambling up the middle for 1 to midfield. Gale passes complete to WR Dennis Campbell up the right sideline, good for a first down at the WT 35. Gale passes over the middle to Gates, who juggles the ball before it falls incomplete. Gale scrambles around left end to the WT 27. On third down, Gale runs a QB draw that is short of a first down at the WT 26. ACU calls a timeout with 1:22 left in the first half. On fourth down, Richardson darts through a hole in the middle of the line and gains the first down at the WT 21. Gale's pass is just off the fingertips of WR Kendrick Johnson in the left flat. Richardson runs around left end and down to the WT 4 for a first down. Richardson runs up the middle to the WT 2. ACU calls its third and final timeout of the first half at 0:24. On second and goal, Gale's pass to FB Justin Andrews is too far for his reach in the end zone. On third and goal, Richardson runs up the middle for 2 yards and ACU's second TD of the game. Morgan Linebery's PAT is good and ACU regains the lead, 14-12 with 0:14 left in Q2.
ACU's kickoff is fielded at the 5 and returned to the WT 25. Harris passes complete at the right sideline to WR Stephen Burton at the WT 31. Harris's screen pass in the right flat is complete to Keithon Fleming, who nearly breaks a run for a TD before stepping out of bounds deep in ACU territory. WT, however, is flagged for holding, which brings the ball back to the ACU 42. On first down, Harris passes complete to WR Josephius Martin over the middle, and he is tackled at the ACU 33. End of Q1. Harris hands off to Flemming, who escapes trouble in the backfield and is tackled at the ACU 30. ACU calls timeout. Harris pass is complete to Flemming, who runs the ball for no gain on second down. Harris is nearly sacked by Aston Whiteside, and his pass is broken up on third down. On fourth down, James Changler's 47-yard field goal attempt is wide right with 13:54 left in Q2 and ACU leading, 7-3.
On first down, QB Mitchell Gale scrambles and trips at the WT 49. RB Reggie Brown runs up the middle for a gain of 2 to the 47. On third down, Gale passes complete to WR Chris Fowler at the WT 43, good for a first down. Brown runs up the middle through a big hole, gaining ground to the 39. Brown carries again for a first down at the 31. Brown again tries the middle, gaining 3 to the 28. Gale passes complete in the right flat to FB Emery Dudensing, good for a first down at the WT 17. Brown barrels off right tackle to the WT 9. WT flagged for being offside, penalty declined. On second and 2, Brown runs up the middle to the WT 5 and another first down. Brown runs again off right tackle to the 3. On second down. Brown runs behind left tackle to the 2. On third and goal, Brown runs off right tackle for a Wildcat TD. Morgan Lineberry's PAT try is good and ACU leads 7-3 with 0:45 left in Q1.
- The ACU Alumni Association served bison burgers at its pre-game party in the campus mall at noon, but it remains to be seen if the Wildcats will be sporting an 8-0 record at game's end, or eating humble pie for dessert.
- Abilene Christian enters this game wearing the mantle of the top-ranked team in NCAA Division II, and we'll see how well it fits. The Buffs have plenty of motivation to pull the upset. At 2-5, a win would make their season. This is one of the Lone Star Conference's best rivalries in recent years, with two teams who respect but don't like either very much. And WT is still stinging from an entertaining and record-setting but embarrassing 93-68 loss here in Shotwell last fall in the NCAA playoffs.
- Stars from last year's two games between ACU and WT are earning paychecks in the NFL this weekend: former Wildcats Bernard Scott (running back, Cincinnati Bengals) and Johnny Knox (wide receiver and kick returner, Chicago Bears) and former WT QB Keith Null (St. Louis Rams). They leave quite a legacy on their respective campuses.
- Redshirt freshman Mitchell Gale starts his third college game as QB of the Wildcats. Can he continue to impress with his strong arm and calm decision-making ability?
- Will the frantic pace of WT's offense be the undoing again of its defense, which is sure to spend a lot of time on the field, thanks to ACU's strong running game and ball-control offense?
- Can ACU's large and talented offensive line continue to power its running game, and slow down the WT rush, which has registered 16 sacks the past four contests?
- How much animosity lingers from last year's 93-68 win for ACU that ended WT's season? Against their coaches' directions, a couple of Wildcats tried to run back the final play of the game – a kickoff return – for a TD, with some in the crowd urging them to try to score 100 points. ACU head coach Chris Thomsen apologized for it afterward. WR Edmund Gates was one of the players who participated in the final play laterals; will the Buffs find a way to remind him of it today?
- Will Homecoming for ACU have an effect on the Wildcats' play, positively or negatively? Last week in San Angelo, nationally ranked Angelo State laid an egg of sorts before a big alumni crowd. ACU has not always played well at this big event in recent years. This is a big crowd today Shotwell, energized by the new No. 1 national ranking. Will the Wildcats be as well?
Built like a 55-gallon drum, Dudensing – 5-9 and 240 pounds – was a blocker extraordinare for teammate Bernard Scott, who auditioned in 2007 and 2008 for his current job as a future NFL player, much of it thanks to his fullback. This fall, Scott is a rookie running back for the Cincinnati Bengals, while Dudensing is back on campus to help pave the way for a new backfield of ACU runners.
Dudensing was a multi-sport star and the valedictorian of the Rule High School graduating class, earning first-team all-state in football as a senior before enrolling at ACU. Few college coaches give six-man football players a chance because it’s hard to project their skills from the shorter (80-yard-long field) and smaller (some schools have fewer than 20 players on the roster) game with wide-open offenses and high-scoring final scores.
But as many fans from diminutive towns and communities across Texas will tell you, football is football, no matter the size of the field nor players on it. They know six-man games are dominated by fleet-footed, fearless athletes who master one-on-one blocking techniques and make fierce open-field tackles while covering more ground each play than a free-safety in an 11-man game.
Few 11-man football fans realize the career rushing and scoring leader for today’s opponent, West Texas A&M, is running back Dewayne Miles, who starred in six-man football at Amherst High School in the mid-1990s. He led the Bulldogs to state titles in 1994 and 1995, rushing for an other-worldly (even for the six-man game) 3,545 yards and 89 touchdowns his senior year of high school.
Remember University of Nebraska tackle Dean Steinkuhler, who won the 1983 Outland Trophy (awarded to the nation’s top offensive lineman) and Lombardi Trophy for the Cornhuskers? He played eight-man football in Burr, Neb., at the time, the smallest U.S. community (population 110) to ever produce a consensus first-team all-America major college football player. Steinkuhler was the second overall pick in the 1984 NFL Draft and played eight years for the Houston Oilers.
Dudensing’s high school lost in the Texas state finals in 2006 (78-58) and 2007 (98-54), both to Richland Springs, another six-man juggernaut, proof that when two offensively gifted teams are on top of their game, even the best defenses can become mere spectators. When ACU beat West Texas A&M, 93-68, in the second round of the NCAA playoffs last November, you have to think Dudensing looked at the Shotwell Stadium scoreboard and felt right at home.
He missed the first few games of this season due to a leg injury, but he’s back on the field, sharing time with Justin Andrews, and flattening defenders again. Wildcat running backs are mighty thankful, and six-man football players across Texas once again have a first-rate college player to emulate in their own unique Friday Night Lights experience.