Sunday, November 8, 2009

We're No. 6!!!

Number 6 never sounded so good.

Sunday, the ACU Wildcats learned they had made the Division II playoffs for the fourth consecutive year. In the final regional rankings announced on ESPNews a little after 2 p.m. CST, ACU was 6th, meaning the 'Cats earned the final playoff spot in Super Region IV.

The reward? A return trip to Wichita Falls to take on Midwestern State for the second time in eight days. The Mustangs beat ACU, 15-13, Saturday in the regular season finale despite being held scoreless for the final three quarters.

Here is how the final Super Region IV rankings shook out:

1. Central Washington
2. Northwest Missouri State
3. Midwestern State
4. Texas A&M-Kingsville
5. Tarleton State
6. ACU

The top two get Saturday off. Kingsville will host Tarleton in a rematch of a game the Javs won, 34-20, with two late TD to break a 20-20 tie. The LSC is guaranteed of having two teams in the second round. The MIAA and its schools' fans will no doubt be unhappy about four LSC teams making the postseason, but I believe one could make a compelling case that the LSC South Division alone is stronger than many D2 conferences. For evidence, look no further than Canyon, Texas. West Texas A&M went 1-5 without star RB Keithon Flemming and 5-0 after he returned from a dislocated elbow, including road victories over ACU and Tarleton State. (WT lost to Kingsville and Midwestern before Flemming came back.)

Unlike the NFL, which reseeds its playoffs after each round to guarantee the best team plays the lowest seed, the D2 brackets are locked in. So the winner of the ACU-Midwestern game will play at Northwest Missouri State on Nov. 21. (ACU handed Northwest its last home loss in August 2008, 44-27.)

Beating Midwestern anywhere won't be easy for ACU. The Mustangs are solid in every phase, though their kicking game abandoned them yesterday (two missed PATs and a missed FG with the wind at the kicker's back). But I can't believe coach Bill Maskill is thrilled about having to beat ACU twice in as many Saturdays. Midwestern was terrific in the first quarter with the wind at its back, scoring two TD and a FG. But the Mustangs barely mustered 100 yards in offense and zero points in the final 45 minutes and four seconds.

After the game, my son, Nick, and I applauded the Wildcats as the buses drove out of the parking lot and back to Abilene. This has been a great team to cover and get to know, on and off the field. With 37 wins (and counting), these seniors are the winningest class in ACU's 90 years of football.

They're not done yet.

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