Saturday, September 25, 2010

ACU-Tarleton State Highlights

   Passing: Mitchell Gale, 25 of 38 for 344 yards and 2 TDs; Clark Harrell, 2 of 3 for 13 yards
   Rushing: Darrell Cantu-Harkless, 8 for 66 yards and 2 TDs; Charcandrick West, 7 for 55 yards and 1 TD; Josh Morgan, 9 for 44 yards and 1 TD; and Kendrick Johnson, 1 for 5 yards
   Receiving: Kendrick Johnson, 6 for 80 yards; Edmund Gates, 5 for 91 yards; Raymond Radway, 4 for 63 yards;  Ben Gibbs, 3 for 43 yards and 2 TDs;Darrell Cantu-Harkless, 3 for 26 yards;  Taylor Gabriel, 2 for 33 yards; Emerery Dudensing, 2 for 8 yards; Darian Hogg, 1 for 7 yards; and Harold Jackson, 1 for 6 yards
    Defense: Kevin Washington, 12 tackles (5 for a loss) and 1 sack; Darien Williams, 6 tackles and 1 interception; Donald Moore, 2 sacks, Aston Whiteside, 3 tackles, 1 interception returned for a TD; L.B. Suggs, 5 tackles and 2 forced fumbles
    Score: ACU 65, Tarleton 3
    First Downs: ACU 27; Tarleton 15
    Rushing: ACU 27 for 169 yards; Tarleton 31 for 60 yards
    Passing: ACU 27 of 41, 0 INT, 2 TDs, 357 yards; Tarleton 14 of 29, 2 INT, 136 yards
    Total Yards: ACU 526, Tarleton 196
    Third Down Conversions: ACU 4 of 11; Tarleton 3 of 13
    Time of Possession: ACU 30:53, Tarleton 29:07
    Notes:  Placekicker Morgan Lineberry tied an ACU record (held by Matt Adams) with 17 kicking points in the game (three field goals and 8 PATs). ACU vaunted run defense was at it again: the Wildcats gave up 44 rushing yards in the first half and 16 in the second. QB Mitchell Gale has thrown 189 straight passes without an interception, including 125 to begin the 2010 season.

Final: ACU 65, Tarleton State 3

A methodical, clock-eating 53-yard drive by ACU, most of it on the ground, concluded with a 6-yard TD run by junior RB Josh Morgan, growing the Wildcat lead to 58-3 (with a Lineberry PAT) with 7:11 left in the game.

Speedy redshirt freshman WR Taylor Gabriel returned a TSU punt 80 yards for yet another TD, and the Lineberry PAT (his seventh of the game) made the lead 65-3 with 4:40 remaining.

End of Q3: ACU 51, Tarleton 3

Four plays into the third quarter, ACU RB Cantu-Harkless sprinted 42 yards up the middle for a TD, with another Lineberry PAT making the ACU lead 34-3, just 30 seconds after halftime.

Lineberry added his third field goal of the game – a 27-yarder – at 10:07 of the third quarter, upping ACU's lead to 37-3.

ACU QB Mitchell Gale found TE Ben Gibbs in the back of the north end zone with 2:55 left, and a Lineberry PAT made the score 44-3. It was the second time the two combined for a TD pass play on the evening.  

An interception by Wildcat safety Darien Williams stopped the Texans' next drive, and his 26-yard return gave ACU the ball on the TSU 14. Charcandrick West ran around left end for a TD on the ensuing play, and Lineberry's PAT gave the Wildcats a 51-3 lead with 1:49 left in the third quarter. The scoring play marked the first appearance in the game of ACU backup QB Clark Harrell.

End of Q2: ACU 27, Tarleton State 3

Freshman RB Darrell Cantu-Harkless, starting in place of Daryl Richardson( who is healing from an injury), scored on a 2-yard run at 7:27 of the second quarter. Morgan Lineberry’s PAT made the score 17-3.

With 2:21 left before the half, QB Mitchell Gale found TE Ben Gibbs over the middle, and the sophomore from Abilene rumbled 36 yards for a TD. Lineberry's PAT increased ACU's lead to 24-3.

A 31-yard field goal from Lineberry made the score 27-3 with 40 seconds left in the half.

Defensively, junior DT Donald Moore had two sacks, and senior LB Kevin Washington led the Wildcats with 10 tackles and one sack. Junior DB Darien Williams had six tackles. DE Aston Whiteside was making offensive life miserable for the Texans, and although he only had two tackles, his big interception return for a TD in the first quarter was a game-changer for ACU.

Gale was 13 of 23 for 212 yards in the half, and one TD. Senior WR Edmund Gates caught four passes for a team-leading 78 yards, 52 of them on a sterling play in the second quarter that helped set up ACU's second TD. Cantu-Harkless led ACU's rushers with six carries for 22 yards.

ACU led TSU in total yards, 239-148, but the Texans had the edge in first downs, 12-11. TSU allowed 27 yards on the ground to ACU (on seven rushing attempts), while ACU limited the Texans to 44. Time of possession went to TSU (20:10) over the Wildcats (9:50).

End of Q1: ACU 10, Tarleton State 3

Freshman LB Chris Jones recovered a fumble by Tarleton on the opening kickoff return, giving the Wildcats the ball on the Texan 18-yard line. Four plays later, sophomore PK Morgan Lineberry kicked a 38-yard field goal at 13:20 to give ACU the opening lead, 3-0.

On TSU's next possession, the Texans moved the ball down the field with uncharacteristic ease on the Wildcats, advancing as far as the ACU 2-yard line on a pass interference penalty, but the Wildcat defense held, forcing fourth down. Kevin Washington made two critical stops on the defensive stand, including a sack. Tarleton PK Jerry Owens kicked a 29-yard field goal to knot the score at 3-3 with 7:17 left.

ACU junior DE Aston Whiteside tipped a pass from TSU QB Nick Stephens in the Texan backfield, and returned the interception 58 yards for a TD. Lineberry's PAT made the score 10-3 with 1:52 left.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bernard: 0 to 60 in 8 seconds

Bernard Scott's 60-yard kickoff return in the 4th quarter Sunday against the Ravens that set up the Bengals' game-winning field goal. Watch here and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Come Home, Play Golf

Here's the scoop on the ACU Homecoming Golf Classic:
  • Friday, Oct. 8
  • 9:30 a.m. shotgun start
  • Diamondback Golf Club
ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert and some of the Wildcat coaches, including Chris Thomsen, will be there. As will a brand new Chevy truck (courtesy of Hanner Chevrolet), which we'll award to the first player to make a hole-in-one!
Click on the above postcard to see more details and register online. Space is limited, so sign up today!

Special thanks to corporate sponsor Domino's Pizza and Hanner Chevrolet!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Turn out the lights ...

... the party's over.  In the immortal words of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Don Meredith, this one is probably over after a 3-yard touchdown pass from Jay Cutler to Matt Forte gave Chicago a 27-17 lead over the Cowboys with 5:16 left in the game.

The Cowboys had several chances in the second half to tie or take the lead, but couldn't get out of their own way on offense with penalties, turnovers and poor execution.  Defensively, they played a horrific game in the secondary.

Both ACU exes in the game for the Bears – Danieal Manning and Johnny Knox – had nice afternoons.  Before the Cowboys' drive that started with 5:15 left in the game, Manning had five tackles (four solo) and Knox had a team-high four catches for 86 yards.

Maybe I spoke too soon, however.  The Cowboys are marching inside the Chicago 40 with 4:40 to play.

At the half...

... the Bears lead 20-14.  A late first-half interception thrown by Tony Romo resulted in a 40-yard field goal by Robbie Gould and the Bears carry a 20-14 lead into halftime with Dallas set to receive the second-half kickoff.

A few observations:

* Danieal Manning is much more involved in what the Bears are trying to do in stopping the run, and so far his presence seems to have helped as the Bears limited the Cowboys to just 32 yards on the ground in the first half.

* If Mike Martz is trying to build the second coming of the "Greatest Show on Turf" in Chicago, he's got the weapons for the most part, including a pass-catching tight end in Greg Olsen that he didn't really have in St. Louis.  Johnny Knox seems to be filling the Isaac Bruce role because he runs a ton of deep routes, just like Bruce used to do in that offense.

* The best player on the field is DeMarcus Ware.  Unblockable most of the first half.

Knox finally involved

Johnny Knox finally made his first catch of the day, a 2-yard grab on a crossing pattern on 2-and-17, and then followed it with a huge gain of 59-yard on 3rd-and-15.  Knox beat Mike Jenkins on a post pattern and Cutler laid it in perfectly, hitting Knox in stride.  Ball at the Cowboys 20.

Manning active early

Danieal Manning has been active early in the game from his strong safety position with four tackles already in the game.

One of his stated desires to the Bears during his contract negotiations with the team last spring was to be more involved in the action instead of playing deep at free safety.  The Bears have moved him over to strong safety, and you can already tell he's more involved in what's going on near the line of scrimmage than he has been at almost any time during his pro career.

The Bears even have Manning lining up as a standup outside linebacker on some short-yardage plays.  On one of those plays just before the Cowboys scored, he dropped Marion Barber for a 1-yard gain as he slid down from that linebacker spot and made the tackle.  Then on first-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Manning met Marion Barber head on to keep him out of the end zone as Barber tried to go up and over the Chicago defense.

But Manning -- this time playing back deep at strong safety -- met him in mid-air and dropped him for no gain.

Bears score

Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Martz finally figured out that his offensive line can't hold off the Cowboys' rush on 5- and-7-step drops.  Bears just scored on a 58-yard drive with Jay Cutler using quick drops and short passes to move the Bears down the field.  The 39-yard touchdown pass to Greg Olsen was a short route that the Bears' tight end turned into a score.

Cowboys give Manning the ultimate compliment

With Danieal lined up deep to take the kickoff after Dez Bryant's 62-yard punt return for a TD, the Cowboys elected not to kick deep to Manning.  Instead, kicker David Buehler pooched it to the right where Tim Jennings fielded it at the 42-yard-line.

Cowboys' special teams coach Joe DeCamillis said that the Bears' return men could play a pivotal role today, and he just showed that he doesn't want to give them a chance be those kind of players today.

First big play by Bryant

Well, we were waiting for a big special teams play and we got one, but it wasn't from one of our ACU guys.  Instead, Cowboys' first-round draft pick made his first big play as a pro, taking a punt 62 yards to the house to give the Cowboys a 7-3 lead with 2:44 left in the first quarter.

Johnny Knox or Danieal Manning will likely be deep for the Bears on the ensuing kickoff.  By the way, I'm sitting next to a couple of guys from the Bears' front office, and they had a stunned expression on their faces, most likely from the fact that they're realizing that their offensive line is about the most inept unit the league will send on the field this season.  Quarterback Jay Cutler has absolutely no time to throw against the Cowboys' so-far relentless pass rush.

Cutler in for a long day

The Bears are out to a 3-0 lead, but it's clear that it's going to be a long day for Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler, who has been under constant harassment from the Dallas defense through two series.  The Chicago offensive line has been pretty poor through two series, and we've just learned that starting left tackle Chris Williams is out for the rest of the game with a hamstring injury.

That means backup Kevin Shaffer will have to block all-pro outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware.  Good luck, Kevin.

Several DII players on the field today

Today's game at Cowboys Stadium is a showcase for the kind of talent that is on display at the NCAA Division II level as no less than six players from universities at that level are on the field today.

Of course, ACU fans know about Chicago's Johnny Knox and Danieal Manning, but also on the field from the Lone Star Conference are Chicago starting center Robert Garza (10th year out of Texas A&M-Kingsville) and backup offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb (first year out of West Texas A&M).

For the Cowboys, reserve safety Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (first year out of Indiana, Pa.) and backup quarterback Jon Kitna (14th year out of Central Washington) are on the roster.  When Kitna was at UCW the Wildcats were in NCAA Division III, and in fact, were in Abilene his senior season and beat Hardin-Simmons in a playoff game at Shelton Stadium.

Knox returns the opening kickoff

Former Wildcat Johnny Knox returned the opening kickoff from about 5 yards deep out to the Bears' 37-yard line.  Nice return for Johnny ... already a bigger play than he made the entire game when we saw the Bears and Bengals last year in Cincinnati.

And we're off.  Can't blog about every play because it's against NFL rules, but I'll be back every so often with updates about how our guys are doing.

Here we go.

The Bears call tails and will receive.  We might get a quick look at Knox or Manning right off the bat.

Kickoff closing in

We're just a few minutes away from kickoff at Cowboys Stadium and an expected crowd of close to 100,00 is filling the stadium for the Cowboys' 2010 home opener.

The Bears' return trio of Johnny Knox, Danieal Manning and Devin Hester could play a pivotal role in today's game, and if you don't believe me when I say that, listen to the words of Cowboys' special teams coach Joe DeCamillis when talking about them.

"He's a violent, tough returner," DeCamillis told when talking about Manning.  "He's done a great job.  And then they've got a great guy in Knox who was in the Pro Bowl (last year).  It's going to be a heck of a challenge for us."

We'll see shortly; kickoff is coming up.

Wildcats crash the party at Jerry World

The view from my seat in the press box at Cowboys Stadium .
Well, the ACU contingent of director of athletics Jared Mosley, head football coach Chris Thomsen, alumni relations officer and radio play-by-play man Grant Boone and myself have made it to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington for today's game between the Cowboys and the Chicago Bears.

I'm in the press box for the game, Jared is in the stands with an ACU donor and Thomsen and Boone have made their way to a luxury suite – along with ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert and his wife, Jamie – to watch the game with another ACU donor.

If you haven't yet been to Cowboys Stadium, let me just say this ... WOW!  No matter what you think of Jerry Jones and his ownership of the Cowboys over the last 21 years, he has built an unbelievable stadium. It's part stadium, part spaceship and part circus attraction, but 100 percent impressive.

Unfortunately we won't have the same field access as we had last year in Cincinnati when the Bears took on the Bengals and Bernard Scott, but the Cowboys have been extremely accommodating to us, and for that we thank them.

On the way, I ran into Midwestern State graduate and former Wichita Falls Times Record-News writer Nick Eatman, who now writes for  You might remember Nick from the work he does for the Lone Star Conference at the LSC Post-Season Basketball Tournament and the season previews he writes for each school for the league's Web site.

One thing I've heard from people who have been to games is they believe the Cowboys have lost touch with their past in the new stadium.  But I can tell you that I saw plenty of reminders of the franchise's past success, starting with a statue of former head coach Tom Landry near the main entrance.  Also spotted quite a few large photos of greats like Bob Lilly, Roger Staubach, Drew Pearson, Harvey Martin, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Randy White, Don Meredith, Don Perkins, Chuck Howley, Tony Hill, Tony Dorsett, Landry, and Tex Schramm lining the walls leading to the press box and luxury suites, as well as those of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Jay Novacek, Charles Haley, Larry Allen, Darren Woodson, and many others.

Should be a fun one this afternoon, and despite the fact that I'm a Cowboys fan, today a large part of me is rooting for the Bears just so that we might see Danieal Manning and Johnny Knox have the chance to shine in their home state.

Back with more later.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

ACU-ECU Highlights

Passing: Mitchell Gale, 23 of 32 for 263 yards and 5 TDs; Clark Harrell, 4 of 8 for 43 yards; and John David Baker, 1 of 2 for 2 yards
Rushing: Charcandrick West, 9 for 110 yards; Josh Morgan, 10 for 56 yards; and Darrell Cantu-Harkless, 6 for 55 yards
Receiving: Darrell Cantu-Harkless, 4 for 90 yards and 2 TDs; Edmund Gates, 5 for 55 yards; Charcandrick West, 2 for 43 yards; Kendrick Johnson, 3 for 30 yards; Ben Gibbs, 2 for 17 yards; Emery Dudensing, 3 for 16 yards and 2 TDs; Chris Fowler, 2 for 14 yards; Raymond Radway, 2 for 12 yards; and Josh Morgan, 2 for 9 yards
Defense: Nathan Baggs and Courtney Lane, 4 tackles each; Austin January, Kevin Washington, L.B. Suggs and Ryan Smith, 3 tackles each
Score: ACU 47, ECU 7
First Downs: ACU 27; ECU 6
Rushing: ACU 36 for 251 yards; ECU 29 for -12 yards
Passing: ACU 28 of 42, 0 INT, 5 TDs, 308 yards; ECU 8 of 277, 2 INT, 1 TD, 131 yards
Total Yards: ACU 559, ECU 119
Third Down Conversions: ACU 6 of 14; ECU 2 of 15
Time of Possession: ACU 34:48, ECU 25:12

Final: ACU 47, East Central 7

What looked like another scoring drive for the Wildcats ended when Charcandrick West fumbled and ECU recovered at the 1-yard line with 9:40 left in the fourth quarter.

Freshman QB John David Baker took over for Clark Harrell with 6:29 left in the quarter.

ACU moved to 3-0 and ECU to 0-3 with the 47-7 win for the Wildcats.

End of Q3: ACU 47, East Central 7

ACU took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove steadily down the field. The trip was capped by a 19-yard field goal by Morgan Lineberry with 11:18 left in the third quarter, stretching the Wildcat lead to 47-7. The big play on the drive was a 27-yard pass to RB Charcandrick West from QB Mitchell Gale, whose night ended after an impressive performance: 23 of 32 for 263 yards and 5 TDs.

Backup QB Clark Harrell – the younger brother of former rec0rd-setting QB Graham Harrell of Texas Tech University – took over for Gale on ACU's second possession. He and freshman RB Josh Morgan moved the Wildcat offense down the field smoothly, but Lineberry's 36-yard field goal attempt at 4:51 was off the mark.

The third quarter ended with ACU up, 47-7, and the Wildcats holding a 24-5 advantage in first downs. For the game, the Tigers had -8 yards on 20 rushing attempts and 131 yards of total offense, thanks to a dominating Wildcat defense.

End of Q2: ACU 44, East Central 7

With the Tigers pinned inside their 5-yard line by the Wildcat defense, ACU senior DE Fred Thompson intercepted a Vandererzee pass at the 16 and returned it to the 11. Three players later, Gale found the Wildcats' new scoring machine, Dudensing, for a 1-yard TD pass at 8:56. Lineberry's PAT attempt bounced off the upright, making ACU's new lead 30-7.

Freshmen were the stars of ACU's next scoring drive. A 46-yard run by RB Charcandrick West helped set up Gale's fifth TD pass of the half, a 34-yarder to speedy Cantu-Harkless. Lineberry's PAT upped the Wildcat advantage to 37-7 with 6:12 remaining.

ACU's scoring parade continued when senior DE Bryson Lewis recovered an ECU fumble in the end zone at 2:17, and another Lineberry PAT made the score 44-7.

ACU's offensive leaders at the half included QB Gale (19 of 27 for 216 yards and 5 TDs), RB Charcandrick West (2 rushes for 51 yards), RB Cantu-Harkless (4 catches for 90 yards and 2 TDs). The Wildcats have held ECU to zero rushing yards on the evening, and have 14 first downs to the Tigers' 5. Senior LB Courtney Lane leads the ACU defense with four tackles.

End of Q1: ACU 24, East Central 7

East Central opened a 7-0 lead on its fifth play from scrimmage with a 70-yard TD pass from QB Tyler Vanderzee to WR Tyra Waits at 13:52 of the first quarter. ACU moved the ball smartly down the field, with senior WR Edmund Gates making a leaping grab at the back of the end zone of a 9-yard Mitchell Gale pass for a TD at 10:50. Morgan Lineberry's PAT tied the score at 7-7.

Less than a minute later, ACU junior DB David Lamour intercepted a Vanderzee pass at the ECU 44-yard line, and the Wildcats were in business again. Three plays later, Gale escaped a sack attempt to find RB Darrell Cantu-Harkless over the middle. The freshman from Austin outraced defenders to the end zone on a 35-yard scoring play. Lineberry's PAT put ACU on top, 14-7 with 8:40 remaining.

Lineberry's 48-yard field goal at 5:39 extended the ACU lead to 17-7.

After a penalty-filled drive, Wildcat senior FB Emery Dudensing scored the third TD of the season – and his career – when Gale found him for a pass completion in the right flat and the former six-man football star rumbled into the corner of the end zone for a score with 2:17 left. Lineberry's third PAT of the game made the score 24-7.

Gale, ACU's sophomore QB, ended the quarter having completed 10 of 15 passes for 115 yards and three TDs. The ACU defense held ECU to 3 yards of rushing.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

ACU-Northeastern State Highlights

    Passing: Mitchell Gale, 18 of 25 for 161 yards and 1 TD
    Rushing: Darrell Cantu-Harkless, 4 for 95 yards and 1 TD; Daryl Richardson, 7 for 38 yards; Kendrick Johnson, 2 for 24 yards; and Charcandrick West, 5 for 15 yards
    Receiving: Edmund Gates, 4 for 43 yards; Raymond Radway, 4 for 39 yards; Daryl Richardson, 3 for 30 yards; Ben Gibbs, 2 for 15 yards; Chris Fowler, 2 for 5 yards; Taylor Gabriel, 1 for 15 yards; Kendrick Johnson, 1 for 11 yards; and Emery Dudensing, 1 for 3 yards and 1 TD
    Defense: Fred Thompson, 5 tackles; Astin Whiteside, 2 tackles, 2 sacks; and Obinna Ononobi, Eric Edwards and Richard Havins, 4 tackles each
    Score: ACU 34, NSU 13
    First Downs: ACU 14; NSU 12
    Rushing: ACU 23 for 171 yards; NSU 34 for 92 yards
    Passing: ACU 18 of 27, 0 INT, 1 TD, 161 yards; NSU 8 of 26, 0 INT, 2 TDs, 112 yards
    Total Yards: ACU 332, NSU 204 (35 in the second half)
    Punt Returns: ACU 6 for 204, NSU 2 for 31
    Third Down Conversions: ACU 4 of 12; NSU 5 of 16
    Time of Possession: NSU 31:07, ACU 28:53

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Final: ACU 43, Northeastern State 13

The only scoring of the fourth quarter came on PK Morgan Lineberry's fifth field goal of the year – a 40-yarder – that give ACU a 43-13 lead early in the fourth quarter. He barely missed a 48-yarder (hit the crossbar) a few minutes later.

ACU moved to 2-0 on the season – the second of two big road wins for the nationally ranked Wildcats – while Northeastern State's record was evened at 1-1.

Head coach Chris Thomsen's team plays its home opener next Saturday night (Sept. 18) against another team from Oklahoma (East Central University). The Tigers' coaches will not sleep well this week after watching film of the Wildcats blocking three punts and returning another for a TD, and playing some more stifling defense in this weird and wacky win for ACU.

End of Q3: ACU 40, Northeastern State 13

ACU blocked its third NSU punt of the game with 8:20 left in the third quarter; LB Chris Jones did the deed (his second of the night) and DB Nate Bailey recovered the ball (his second, too), as the Wildcat special teams continued to haunt the home team at a record pace. Two plays later, QB Mitchell Gale threw a 3-yard TD pass to FB Emery Dudensing, and Morgan Lineberry's PAT gave the Wildcats a 33-13 lead with 7:42 remaining.

Inspired by its first offensive TD of the game, ACU didn't take long to record another on its next possession when redshirt RB Darrell Cantu-Harkless set sail on an 83-yard TD run with 4:05 left. Lineberry's PAT made the score 40-13.

End of Q2: ACU 26, Northeastern State 13

The Riverhawks got on the scoreboard when QB Kenny Davis threw a 26-yard TD pass to WR Trey McVay. The PAT failed, leaving NSU down, 20-6.

With NSU's punt team nightmare show seemingly on rerun, freshman LB Thor Woerner blocked yet another Riverhawk kick and freshman DB Caleb Withrow recovered in the end zone for ACU's third TD of the game – all by its special teams. Lineberry missed the PAT, leaving the Wildcats up 26-6 with 3:48 left in the first half.

NSU gained some revenge on the last play of the half – a 37-yard pass from Davis to WR Kendall McKellum. A successful PAT that brought the Riverhawks to within a baker's dozen: 26-13.

An electrical storm in Talequah, Okla., before game time has rendered the NSU scoreboard dark and the stats silent, so we'll catch up with the numbers as soon as possible.

End of Q1: ACU 20, Northeastern State 0

ACU drove crisply down the field on the first possession of the game, with the big play a 27-yard run by senior WR Kendrick Johnson. But the Wildcats' movement bogged down at the Northeast State 12-yard line. Sophomore Morgan Lineberry kicked a 29-yard field goal at 10:59 to give ACU a 3-0 lead.

On the Riverhawks' first play from scrimmage, WR Daryn Alves fumbled and ACU CB Drew Cuffee recovered at the NESU 45. ACU's short drive stalled again at the NESU 12, but Lineberry came to the rescue once more with his second field goal of the game, this time a 28-yarder with 8:04 left in the first quarter, extending the Wildcats' lead to 6-0.

Kendrick Johnson, ACU's senior WR and kick returner extraordinare, ended NESU's 2nd drive with an 80-yard punt return for a TD. Lineberry's PAT put the Wildcats up 13-0 with 5:33 left. The Riverhawks' special team woes continued on their next drive when ACU DB Nathan Baggs blocked their punt, and DB Nate Bailey returned the loose ball 20 yards for a TD. Lineberry's PAT gave ACU a 20-0 lead with 2:51 remaining.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Grant Me This: Capital Offense

ACU QB Mitchell Gale
TOPEKA, Kan. - Chris Thomsen answered the question exactly how a coach is supposed to. In the Clear Wireless Postgame Show last night, I suggested that for all the times last year that the ACU defense caulked a leaky offense, it was the latter unit that was most responsible for his fifth-ranked Wildcats' 34-26 road victory over No. 9 Washburn Saturday night in the Kansas state capital.

He disagreed, noting North Texas transfer Darien Williams' second quarter, momentum-changing interception deep in ACU territory and Kevin Washington's slobber-knocking sack and forced fumble. Coach T called it a great team victory.

Which, of course, it was. As all victories ultimately are. Special teams pitched in, too, most notably Darrell Cantu-Harkless and his blocking brigade on kickoff returns, who repeatedly put ACU in plus field position all night.

Still, with all due respect to Thomsen's diplomacy, no defense can get gashed for four touchdowns and 442 total yards - even against a good offense like Washburn's - and believe that's good enough to win many games, especially on the road against a top ten team.

But what ACU did when it possessed the ball may have made some new believers Saturday night. Despite being outgained in total yards by an even hundy, the Wildcats' offense impressed equally in what it did and didn't do.

What it did produce?
  • 4 touchdowns and a pair of shortish Morgan Lineberry field goals
  • 342 total yards
  • A 50% 3rd down conversion rate (8-16)
  • Clock-munching drives of 7, 8, 9, 11 and 13 plays that helped ACU lead in time of possession by 7 minutes
  • A bona fide passing attack, thanks chiefly to sophomore QB Mitchell Gale and senior WR Clyde Gates: the former completed a ridiculous 80% of his passes - most of which were long, hard throws into small spaces - for 247 yards and 3 TD; the latter snagged 5 balls for 138 yards, 92 of which came on a pair of deep scoring catches
What it didn't?
  • Turnovers: in its last 11 games, ACU is 4-0 when it doesn't give the ball away; 3-4 when it does
  • Drops: Gale only threw 6 incompletions, 5 of which were either broken up by the Washburn defense or intentionally thrown away; only an attempted dump-off pass to Cantu-Harkless was mishandled
More than anything, the offense was efficient. I know that doesn't do it in the way of adjectives for some ACU fans spoiled by recent teams who rewrote NCAA history. But efficiency - especially when sprinkled with occasional fireworks, like the two Gale-to-Gates biggies Saturday - keeps the opponent's defense on the field and yours off. That wins games.

You may have heard Coach Thomsen and me on the postgame show recalling our offseason conversation in which he said he felt considerably better about where Gale was after his freshman year than he did about Billy Malone at the same point. The context, if not the crunched numbers, backs Thomsen up.

Compare the freshman season stats of each:
  • Malone - 126-230 (54%) for 1749 yards, 14 TD, 11 INT, 4 fumbles, 4-4 as starter
  • Gale - 151-250 (60%) for 1709 yards, 10 TD, 7 INT, 4 fumbles, 4-4 as starter
Remarkably similar until you consider this: Gale took over an undefeated team midway through his freshman season, won a pair of road games to help ACU achieve its first-ever No. 1 national ranking, faced four top 25 teams (three of them away from home) and won a postseason game on the road. Maybe Gale had better players around him than Billy did as a freshman. Maybe. (Danieal Manning and Clayton Farrell might have something to say about that.)

But the degree of difficulty each experienced gives the edge to Gale. It's like judging one guy's cannonball against another attempting this.

Each guy emerged as the starter going into his sophomore season because he worked hard in the spring, summer and August camp.

Now compare Malone's first game of his second season with Gale's Saturday night:
  • Malone - 21-32 for 220 yards and a TD
  • Gale - 24-30 for 247 yards and 3 TD
Neither threw an interception or fumbled, and each was sacked twice. Most important, each led his team to a season-opening victory. (Gale's performance earned him the LSC South Division's co-offensive player of the week honor.)

I'm not suggesting Gale is the second coming of the great Billy Don, who only went on to become the most decorated passer in Lone Star Conference history. The good news is Gale doesn't have to be. What he was Saturday night in beating a top ten team on the Ichabods' home turf was more than enough to make Wildcat fans wonder if another legend is in the making.

Mitchie the Kid rides again Saturday night.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

ACU-Washburn Highlights

Passing: Mitchell Gale, 24 of 30 for 247 yards and 3 TDs

Daryl Richardson, 21 for 77 yards and 1 TD

Receiving: Edmund Gates, 5 for 138 yards and 2 TDs; Daryl Richardson, 5 for 27 yards; and Emery Dudensing, 5 for 26 yards and 1 TD

Defense: Kevin Washington, 10 solo tackles, 1 sack, 1 fumble forced; Richard Havins and Drew Cuffee, 7 tackles each

Score: ACU 34, Washburn 26
Total Yards: Washburn 442, ACU 342
Passing: Washburn 19 of 25, 1 INT, 316 yards; ACU 24 of 30, 0 INT, 247 yards
Rushing: Washburn 40 for 126 yards, ACU 34 for 95 yards
First Downs: Washburn 22, ACU 18
Third Down Conversions: Washburn 4 of 11, ACU 8 of 16
Turnovers: Washburn 3 (2 fumbles, 1 INT), ACU 0
Time of Possession: Washburn 26:28, ACU 33:32

Final: ACU 34, Washburn 26

Scoring in the fourth quarter opened with a 33-yard field goal by Morgan Lineberry, giving ACU a 27-19 lead. Washburn threatened on its next drive, but ACU preseason all-America defensive end Aston Whiteside partially blocked a 32-yard field goal attempt by Stev Ivanisevic with 7:22 left in the game.

Edmund Gates’ second long TD pass reception of the game – 41 yards from Mitchell Gale with 4:23 left – and a PAT by Lineberry, padded ACU's lead to 34-19.

Undeterred, Washburn moved sharply back down the field, powered by big pass completions from Dane Simoneau to Travis Mosby (31 yards) and Joe Hastings (28 yards). Vershon Moore dashed around end for a 1-yard TD with 2:41 left, and the successful PAT closed the ACU lead to 34-26.

ACU's Austin Kessler recovered WU's onside kick at the Wildcat 48-yard line. With :07 remaining, WU fumbled a punt from ACU's Mark Sprague at its own 24-yard line. The Wildcats ran out the clock and again began a season – for the third straight year – with a big win over a nationally ranked team from the MIAA conference.

End of Q3: ACU 24, Washburn 19

An 81-yard drive for ACU concluded in a 4-yard scoring pass from Gale to fullback Emery Dudensing – the first career TD for the former six-man football wrecking ball from Rule, Texas – and Morgan Lineberry's PAT, stretched the Wildcat lead to 24-12 at 3:57. A big third-down play in the drive was converted by Mitchell Gale's 12-yard pass to Dudensing, good for one of ACU's four first downs on its first drive of the half.

Washburn quickly answered with an 80-yard drive, punctuated by a 44-yard TD pass from Dane Simoneau to Joe Hastings at 2:03, cutting ACU's lead to 24-19, the score as the third-quarter ends.

End of Q2: ACU 17, Washburn 12

Now that's more like it. Daryl Richardson, who ran for 961 yards and 16 TDs last season for the Wildcats, scored his first of 2010 when he dashed 27 yards to the end zone with 3:44 left in the first half.

Down 10-6, the Ichabods moved the ball to the ACU 43 before a big hit by ACU linebacker Kevin Washington caused WU quarterback Dane Simoneau to fumble. Wildcat defensive tackle Mike Jones recovered, and on ACU's first play after the turnover, quarterback Mitchell Gale hit wide receiver Edmund Gates on a 51-yard TD pass with 1:18 left in the quarter.

The Ichabods answered when Simoneau threw a 6-yard TD pass to Joe Hastings with 11 seconds remaining. WU missed the two-point conversion but had cut the ACU lead to 17-12 as the first half ended.

WU leads in total yards, 228-166, with 166 yards of passing to ACU's 94 (more than half of which came on a scoring pass to Gates), although Gale has completed eight of 10 attempts throwing the ball. Richardson has rushed 14 times for 57 yards and a TD. DBs Drew Cuffee and James Williams, and Washington lead the Wildcats with five tackles each.

End of Q1: Washburn 6, ACU 3

Washburn University (1-0) has a game under its belt in this season opener for the ACU Wildcats, and it shows. Playing in the Ichabods’ home stadium in Topeka, Kan., ACU is off to a slow start, having problems shaking its offseason rustiness and feeling the inside power game loss of runningback Reggie Brown, who is gone for the season with a knee injury.

Placekicker Morgan Lineberry missed a 40-yard field goal on ACU’s first drive but connected on a 21-yarder with 3:31 left in the quarter. The score was set up by a 93-yard kickoff return by speedy freshman wide receiver Darryl Cantu-Harkless.

Washburn scored on its first drive of the game when Vershon Moore rushed for a 1-yard TD, but the Ichabods botched the PAT, taking a 6-0 lead with 5:33 left in the quarter.

ACU’s vaunted rush defense, which gave up an average of only 55 yards per game last season, gave up 50 on the ground in the first quarter, which ended with the Ichabods ahead, 6-3.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Kickoff getting closer

The kickoff to the 2010 ACU football season is now less than 48 hours away, and if Thursday's play around the league is any indication, we could all be in for a crazy ride.

Let's get to the biggest upset of the night ... and no, I'm not talking about the one in Maryville, Mo., although that was huge.  No, I'm talking about Northeastern State going on the road to Stephenville and beating Tarleton State, 31-23.  The win for the RiverHawks was their first season-opening win since 2002, and it got the Cary Fowler Era off to a sour start in Texan-land.

Now on to Maryville, Mo., where No. 14 Texas A&M-Kingsville announced to the Division II world that it was back as a major player on the scene with a 16-7 win over No. 1-ranked Northwest Missouri State, the defending national champion.  The Javelina defense was awesome, sacking Bearcat quarterback Blake Bolles seven times and limiting Northwest to just 160 yards of offense while the game was in the balance.  New starting quarterback Nate Poppell was 26 for 38 for 258 yards and one touchdown for the Javelinas.

Now, a season-opening loss is nothing new for the Bearcats (see the last two years against ACU), but Northwest is searching for a running game and receivers outside of Jake Soy.  Here's betting they find them before November rolls around.

And in Allendale, Mich., No. 8 West Texas A&M put up a great effort in a 34-31 loss to No. 2 Grand Valley State, which ran its home field winning streak at Lubbers Stadium to 43 games.  Taylor Harris threw four interceptions and WT turned the ball over five times total, something the Buffs were able to avoid in their late-season surge in 2009.  However, Tyler Williams is a beast at wide receiver (14 catches for 182 yards) and Brittan Golden had 103 yards on seven catches and a couple of bone-crushing blocks.  It's way too early to be looking ahead ... but go ahead and circle Nov. 6 on your calendar.

* Running back Brandon Williams, who transferred in to ACU earlier this week from Laney College, has already left the team.  Perhaps he saw the depth chart that lists Daryl Richardson as the starter, followed by Josh Morgan, Darrell Cantu-Harkless and Charcandrick West with Reggie Brown waiting until next year and thought better of his decision.  Who knows?  Brandon, we barely knew you ... literally.

* With Williams out of the picture, West will now wear No. 26, while David Pillen -- who could have to play some fullback Saturday against the Ichabods -- will switch to No. 27 for this game with Justin Andrews out with his injury.  Also, freshman defensive tackle T.R. Varnado will wear No. 56, while redshirt freshman linebacker Thor Woerner will wear No. 45.

* For the fifth straight year, the Wildcats' deep-snapper will be a local product as Abilene High freshman Brent Schroeder has won the job after a summer-long battle with Pillen.  Cooper graduate Cody Brown was the Wildcats' snapper from 2006-09.

* Don't forget, if you're in the Abilene area, ACU's games are now broadcast on KULL Mix 92.5 FM.  Online audio and video of Saturday's game will also be available at