Saturday, November 19, 2011

Final: Washburn 52, ACU 49

Daryl Richardson scored for ACU on a 34-yard TD pass from Mitchell Gale with 11:51 left. Justin Andrews caught the 2-point conversion pass from Gale to draw ACU to within 3 points, 45-42.

Simoneau rallied his team with a 61-yard scoring pass to Ronnell Garner with 4:10 remaining. Linn's PAT gave his team a 10-point lead, 52-42.

With 37 seconds to play, Charcandrick West ran 28 yards for another TD. Lineberry's PAT drew the Wildcats to within a field goal, 52-49.

Washburn recovered ACU's onside kick and ran out the clock.

End of Q3: Washburn 45, ACU 34

Justin Cooper went 5 yards for his fourth TD of the afternoon, running untouched around the left end. Linn's PAT made the new score 45-21 with 9:54 left in the third quarter. The drive was started when ACU quarterback Mitchell Gale was intercepted at the WU 33-yard line and the ball returned to the 49-yard-line.

Gale was intercepted again on ACU's next possession, with Adebayo OLadapo picking off the errant pass and returning it to midfield. The Wildcat defense forced the Icabods' first punt of the day at the 6:47 mark.

Four plays later, Gale connected on his second TD pass of the afternoon, completing a pass to Taylor Gabriel on the right sideline that the fleet wide receiver converted into a 71-yard scoring play. Lineberry's PAT was good, cutting the WU lead to 45-28 with 5:31 left.

Darrell Cantu-Harkless caught a 58-yard pass from Gale to put his team in scoring possession. Gabriel caught his second TD pass of the third quarter on the next play – a 10-yarder that drew the Wildcats to within 11 points with 2:18 remaining. Lineberry's PAT missed. The drive took four plays and covered 82 yards.

As the quarter ended, ACU had the ball 70 yards away from a score that would draw them back into a game that looked essentially over at one point.

Halftime Stats for ACU-Washburn

  • Score: WU 38, ACU 21
  • First Downs: WU 19, ACU 10
  • Rushing: ACU 14 for 63 yards, WU 21 for 98 yards
  • Passing: ACU 10 of 20 for 190 yards and 1 TD, WU 14 of 21 for 252 yards and 1 TD
  • Total Offense: ACU 253 yards, WU 350 yards
  • Time of Possession: ACU 13:22, WU 16:38
  • Third-Down Conversions: ACU 3 of 8, WU 5 of 6
  • Penalties: ACU 2 for 10 yards, 1 for 5 yards
  • Passing: Mitchell Gale, 10 of 20 for 190 yards and 1 INT
  • Rushing: Daryl Richardson, 8 for 46 yards and 1 TD; and Mitchell Gale, 6 for 17 yards
  • Receiving: Daryl Richardson, 5 for 48 yards; Taylor Gabriel, 1 for 15 yards; Justin Andrews, 2 for 13 yards; Darrell Cantu-Harkless, 1 for 41 yards; and Demarcus Thompson, 1 for 73 yards and 1 TD
  • Defense: Richard Havins and Nate Bailey, 4 tackles; Thor Woerner and Darien Williams, 3 tackles
  • End of Q2: Washburn 38, ACU 21

    On the second play from scrimmage in Washburn's ensuing drive, and the first play of the second quarter, Ichabod quarterback Dane Simoneau threw a 67-yard TD pass to Matt Kobbeman. The PAT by Linn put Washburn on top again, 21-14.

    Three plays into ACU's next drive, Mitchell Gale threw a 73-yard TD pass to freshman Demarcus Thompson. Morgan Lineberry's PAT evened the score at 21-21. There have been more than 400 yards of offense, combined, by these two teams with a little more than a quarter played in this game.

    With 9:04 left, a 35-yard field goal by Linn represented ACU's first stop on defense today. New score: 24-21.

    Washburn comes up with its first defensive stop on ACU's next drive. However, Morgan Lineberry's punt was blocked by the Ichabods and recovered by Willie Williams. Washburn took over on the Wildcat 41-yard line with 7:39 left.

    The Ichabods took advantage of the ACU mistake when Cooper scored his third touchdown of the day, a 9-yard run with 5:27 remaining. Linn's PAT gave his team a 31-21 lead.

    After ACU punted on its next possession, Washburn went on an 8-play 50-yard drive, capped by a 4-yard TD run by Sean McPherson. Linn's fifth PAT of the day was good, and the new score became 38-21 with 1:07 left in the first half.

    End of Q1: ACU 14, Washburn 14

    The Ichabods marched down the field on their first possession, with running back Justin Cooper dashing untouched around left end for 14 yards and a touchdown to open the scoring. Jeremy Linn's successful PAT gave Washburn a 7-0 lead with 11:24 left in the first quarter.

    ACU's first play from scrimmage was a huge one – a 41-yard pass from quarterback Mitchell Gale to wide receiver Darrell Cantu-Harkless. Four plays later, running back Daryl Richardson scored the Wildcats' first TD on a 12-yard run after a pitchout to the right side. Morgan Lineberry's successful PAT evened the score at 7-7 with 8:57 left.

    Washburn answered back with a 12-yard TD run of its own, this one another score from Cooper with 6:39 remaining. Linn's PAT made the new score 14-7.

    Neither team seems to have an answer for the other on defense.

    ACU responded with an 80-yard drive, with Gale's 2-yard quarterback sneak landing him in the end zone with 29 seconds left. Lineberry's PAT drew the Wildcats into another tie with the Ichabods, 14-14.

    Saturday, November 12, 2011

    Final Stats: ACU 61, Incarnate Word 16

  • Score: ACU 61, UIW 16
  • First Downs: ACU 27, UIW 11
  • Rushing: ACU 42 for 252 yards, UIW 43 for 164 yards
  • Passing: ACU 21 of 34 for 342 yards and 2 TDs, UIW 5 of 24 for 61 yards, 4 INT and 0 TDs
  • Total Offense: ACU 5947 yards, UIW 225 yards
  • Time of Possession: ACU 32:13, UIW 27;47
  • Third-Down Conversions: ACU 5 of 13, UIW 5 of 16
  • Red-Zone Scores-Chances: ACU 5 of 8, UIW 3 of 3
  • Penalties: UIW 4 for 38 yards, ACU 6 for 50 yards
  • Passing: Mitchell Gale, 16 of 29 for 327 yards and 2 TDs; and John David Baker, 2 of 5 for 15 yards and 1 INT
  • Rushing: Charcandrick West, 12 for 130 yards and 2 TDs; Reggie Brown, 15 for 94 yards; Daryl Richardson, 8 for 51 yards and 1 TD
  • Receiving: Taylor Gabriel, 5 for 111 yards and 1 TD; Darian Hogg, 5 for 92 yards; Reggie Brown, 5 for 32 yards; Charcandrick West, 2 for 51 yards; Andrew Richards, 1 for 35 years and 1 TD; Samuel Ewalefo, 1 for 13 yards; Demarcus Thompson, 1 for 12 yards; and Daryl Richardson, 1 for -4 yards
  • Defense: Thor Woerner, 8 tackles and 1 INT for a TD; Justin Stewart, 6 tackles, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery; Chris Summers, 6 tackles; Nick Richardson, 5 tackles; Nate Bailey, 5 tackles and 1 INT for for a TD; and Mike Wallace, 4 tackles and 1 INT
  • NOTES: ACU got four field goals from Morgan Lineberry (22, 25 and 54 yards) and Ryan Owens (29 yards). Lineberry kicked off 11 times, 10 of them signaled for touchbacks. Charcandrick West had 218 all-purpose yards (130 rushing, 51 receiving, 37 on kickoff returns). Morgan Lineberry only punted once. UIW leaders were Trent Rios (85 yards rushing on 27 carries), Eric Massoni (5 of 24 for 61 yards and 4 INTs passing) and Jacob Love (2 catches for 43 yards). Cardinal tackle leader was Juan Asencio, who had 10 and returned an interception 62 yards. Dakota Mawyer had 8 tackles and 1 fumble return. ACU scored 41 straight points after taking an early 7-3 lead, 31 of them in the third quarter. At one point, ACU scored on seven consecutive possessions. The Wildcats played keep-away in the the fourth quarter after building a 58-16 lead, holding the ball for nearly 12 of the final 15 minutes. ACU’s Aston Whiteside blocked a PAT on UIW’s final TD of the afternoon. ACU averaged 7.8 yards per play while limiting UIW to a 3.4-yard average.
  • Final: ACU 61, Incarnate Word 16

    Ryan Owen's 29-yard field goal accounted for the Wildcats' only scoring of the fourth quarter, putting ACU comfortably ahead, 61-16.

    End of Q3: ACU 58, Incarnate Word 16

    ACU recovered a fumble when Justin Stewart took the ball away from UIW's Tahje Canyon, giving the Wildcats the ball at the Cardinals' 35-yard line.

    Charcandrick West scored his first TD of the game with 12:42 left, running around left end for 3 yards. Morgan Lineberry's PAT gave the Wildcats a 34-3 lead.

    Lineberry kicked his third field goal of the game, a 54-yarder with 9:36 remaining to up ACU's lead to 37-3.

    Cornerback Nate Bailey intercepted UIW quarterback Eric Massoni's pass with 8:17 left and returned it 53 yards for a TD. Lineberry's PAT made the new score 44-3.

    Because ACU has scored 44 points, for the next 2 hours, fans with a ticket stub from today's game or an ACU I.D. can buy an extra-large pizza for $4.44 from the Little Caesar's on North 12th Street and Mockingbird.

    IWU scored on a 10-yard run by Trent Rios with 4:24 left in the quarter. A successful PAT by Tomas Rebold cut ACU's lead to 44-10. The TD was set up by a 62-yard interception return by Juan Asencio of a pass by new Wildcat quarterback John David Baker.

    On ACU's second play of the ensuring drive, a fumble by West gave the Cardinals the ball at the Wildcat 35-yard line. Four plays later, Rios ran in from 2 yards to give UIW another TD. With 2:23 left in the quarter, ACU's lead was cut to 44-16. Wildcat defensive end Aston Whiteside blocked the PAT.

    Thirteen seconds later, West accounted for his fumble on the first play after the ensuing kickoff, bouncing off a logjam of would-be tacklers and sprinting 71 yards for a TD. Lineberry's PAT gave ACU a new lead, 51-6.

    On UIW's second play of the next drive, linebacker Thor Woerner intercepted a pass by Massoni and returned it 26 yards for another ACU TD. A successful PAT by Ryan Owens gave the Wildcats a 58-16 lead with 1:22 left in the quarter.

    Halftime Stats for ACU-Incarnate Word

  • Score: ACU 27, UIW 3
  • First Downs: ACU 16, UIW 7
  • Rushing: ACU 16 for 44 yards, UIW 24 for 71 yards
  • Passing: ACU 16 of 23 for 293 yards and 2 TDs, UIW 2 of 101 for 11 yards, 1 INT and 0 TDs
  • Total Offense: ACU 337 yards, UIW 82 yards
  • Time of Possession: ACU 14:43, UIW 15:17
  • Third-Down Conversions: ACU 3 of 7, UIW 2 of 8
  • Red-Zone Scores-Chances: ACU 3 of 4, UIW 1 of 1
  • Penalties: UIW 1 for 13 yards, ACU 4 for 32 yards
  • Passing: Mitchell Gale, 16 of 23 for 293 yards and 2 TDs
  • Rushing: Daryl Richardson, 8 for 50 yards and 1 TD; and Charcandrick West, 4 for 11 yards
  • Receiving: Darian Hogg, 5 for 92 yards; Taylor Gabriel, 4 for 94 yards and 1 TD; Charcandrick West, 2 for 51 yards; and Reggie Brown, 2 for 13 yards
  • Defense: Thor Woerner, 6 tackles; Chris Summer, 5 tackles, Nathan Bags, 4 tackles; and L.B. Suggs, 1 interception
  • End of Q2: ACU 27, Incarnate Word 3

    ACU continued its drive from the end of the first quarter, but it stalled on the Cardinal 5-yard line. Morgan Lineberry preceded to kick a 22-yard field goal to give his team a 10-3 lead with 13:03 remaining in the quarter.

    Lineberry kicked his second field goal of the game, a 25-yarder with 6:07 remaining to grow ACU's lead to 13-3.

    Wildcat quarterback Mitchell Gale connected with wide-open wide receiver Andrew Richards on a 35-yard TD pass with 3:27 left. Lineberry's PAT made the new score 20-3 with 3:27 left.

    Gale threw a 31-yard pass over the middle to wide receiver Taylor Gabriel with 30 seconds remaining, and Lineberry's PAT gave ACU a 27-3 advantage on the scoreboard. The big play in the five-play, 65-yard drive took place when running back Charcandrick West caught a screen pass from Gale and ran 38 yards to put the Wildcats in scoring position once more.

    At the half, ACU is just as dominating in the stats as on the scoreboard, leading in first downs (16-7), passing yards (293-11), total yards (337-82), and average yards per play (8.6-2.4). Gale has completed 16 of 23 passes for 293 yards and two TDs; Daryl Richardson has 50 yards on 8 carries (6.3-yard average); and two wide receivers are having big days (Darian Hogg, 5 catches for 92 yards, and Tony Gabriel, 4 catches for 94 yards and 1 TD).

    End of Q1: ACU 7, Incarnate Word 3

    Daryl Richardson got the scoring started with a 12-yard run off right tackle with 11:54 left in the first quarter. The Wildcats' second drive of the game took 1:18 and only four plays, and consumed 80 yards. Morgan Lineberry's successful PAT put ACU on top, 7-0. Key play in the drive was a Mitchell Gale pass that Taylor Gabriel caught in the right flat and ran with for 42 yards.

    Tomas Rebold of Incarnate Word kicked a 20-yard field goal with 5:53 left in the quarter to pull the Cardinals within four points, 7-3.

    ACU's next drive advanced to the UIW 14-yard line. Gale's pass on fourth down and 4 was batted down, and the Cardinals took over. Three plays later, Wildcat linebacker L.B. Suggs intercepted Eric Massoni's pass at the UIW 24-yard line with just 34 seconds remaining in the quarter.

    Saturday, November 5, 2011

    Final: ACU 42, A&M-Kingsville 34

    Daryl Richardson ran 2 yards for a TD with 13:12 left, and Morgan Lineberry's PAT put ACU back on top, 35-34, ending a 14-play, 80-yard drive.

    ACU pushed further ahead on its next drive, a four-play, 68-yard drive topped off by a 39-yard TD pass from Mitchell Gale to Tony Gabriel at the 9:42 mark. New score: ACU 42-34.

    The Javelinas went on a 13-play, 89-yard march to the ACU 2-yard line, but a pass from Daniel Ramirez to Jack Willingham on fourth down and goal was dropped in the end zone, giving the ball back to the Wildcats on downs.

    Daryl Richardson came up with a clutch 9-yard run on third and 6 from the Wildcat 6-yard line, giving ACU the opportunity to keep A&M-Kingsville on defense. Gabriel ran for 12 yards on an end-around for another first down, and Charcandrick West picked up another on the subsequent play, allowing the Wildcats to watch the clock wind down for the win.

    End of Q2: ACU 21, A&M-Kingsville 14

    Charcandrick West ran 6 yards for a TD with 9:34 remaining on the second quarter. Morgan Lineberry’s PAT gave ACU the lead, 21-14.

    NOTES: The Wildcats lead the Javelinas in first downs (13-8), passing yards (230-111) and total offense (268-265). A&M-Kingsville’s three turnovers have led to ACU's 21 points. Mitchell Gale is 19 of 26 for 230 yards and 1 TD. Daryl Richardson has rushed 7 times for 40 yards and 1 TD. Darian Hogg has 5 catches for 71 yards, Taylor Gabriel has 45 for 52 yards and Ben Gibbs, 1 for 53 yards. For the Javelinas, Jonathan Woodson has rushed for 126 yards on 10 carries and 2 TDs, and Daniel Ramirez has completed 7 passes for 12 yards and 111 yards.

    End of Q1: ACU 14, A&M-Kingsville 14

    Texas A&M-Kingsville fumbled on its first drive of the game, turning the ball over to ACU on the Wildcat 46-yard line.

    After ACU’s first drive resulted in a punt, Kingsville’s Jonathan Woodson ran 86 yards almost untouched to score a touchdown. Matt Stoll's successful PAT give the Javelinas a 7-0 lead with 11:53 remaining.

    On the ensuing play, the Javelinas recovered an onside kick at their 43-yard line. ACU got the ball back when Wildcat defensive back Nathan Baggs intercepted a pass by Daniel Ramirez at the ACU 25-yard line and returned it 16 yards with 10:44 left.

    Two plays later, ACU’s Darrell Cantu-Harkless caught a 6-yard pass from Mitchell Gale for a TD. organ Lineberry's PAT evened the score at 7-7. The score was set up by a 53-yard pass from Gale to tight end Ben Gibbs.

    ACU's next drive began on its 49-yard line following a Javelina punt. Daryl Richardson scored 10 plays later on a 5-yard TD run, and Lineberry's PAT put the Wildcats on top, 14-7 with 6:04 remaining.

    Defensive end Aston Whiteside stripped Kingsville's Randal Toney of the ball and linebacker Derek Odelusi recovered at the Javelina 40-yard-line with 4:55 left.

    On a 49-yard Lineberry field goal attempt, the ball sailed through the holder's hands, and was recovered by A&M-Kingsville and returned to the ACU 26-yard line. Two plays later, Woodson ran 24 yards for a Javelina touchdown. Stoll's PAT evened the score at 14-14 with 2:27 remaining.

    Monday, October 31, 2011

    Booth Review: Little Brother, Big Numbers

    Abilene Christian and Texas A&M-Commerce each lived up to its name Saturday: the former demonstrating that it is indeed better to give than receive, and the latter exercising the kind of free trade that even NAFTA couldn't have conjured up.

    The two teams turned the ball over five times apiece in a bumbling, 40-28 ACU victory that at once moved the Wildcats (6-2) closer to becoming a playoff team while casting serious doubt as to whether or not they legitimately resemble one.

    But looks can sometimes deceive. Daryl Richardson is living proof. The senior running back bears in his physical appearance a striking similarity to his older brother, Bernard Scott and, as of Saturday, now has a resume that few others besides Scott can match.

    Saturday against Commerce, Richardson rushed for 170 yards and two touchdowns. The first, a 78-yard 1st quarter sprint down the visitors' sideline, tied him with Scott's and his first cousin, Edmond Gates, for the third most total TDs in ACU history. The second, a 46-yard burst up the middle, gave him sole possession of a very distant third behind Scott and Wilbert Montgomery.

    I don't know of anyone who thinks of Richardson as one of the best backs in ACU history, probably in part because he isn't even the best runner in his own family and at times since arriving in 2009 hasn't even been thought of as the best on his own team. But crunch the following numbers and then tell me what you think:
    • 32 games
    • 30 rushing TDs (Wilbert Montgomery, 66; and Scott, 63)
    • 33 total TDs (Montgomery, 76; and Scott, 73)
    • 2,012 rushing yards (9th all-time) on 406 carries (4.95 yards/rush)
    • 661 receiving yards on 74 catches
    • 2,673 all-purpose yards
    Those aren't empty stats either. Richardson scored the game-winning touchdown this year against Tarleton State and both Midwestern State and West Texas A&M last year - not to mention a boatload of big afternoons and nights, including 10 multiple-touchdown games.

    If Richardson's body of work sneaks up on you like it did me, perhaps it's because his physical body looks so much like Scott's and, therefore, we subconsciously compare the production of one to the other. Which, of course, is completely unfair. There likely will never be another Bernard Scott - at ACU or anywhere in Division II.

    Richardson came to ACU from Cisco Junior College in 2009. He arrived on campus rather incognito, in part because his cognito wasn't "Scott." Word began spreading prior to August training camp that Bernard's baby brother had joined the team, but there was nothing on the preseason depth chart to give Richardson away. There were no Scotts (the brothers have the same parents, but Bernard has his mother's maiden name). There were no running backs from Vernon (Richardson played high school ball in Jacksonville, Fla., where he lived with his father).

    And there was no guarantee how much playing time he'd get. Richardson was merely one of three running backs brought in for the 2009 season to try to fill the Grand Canyon of a hole left by Scott (now with the Cincinnati Bengals), who in two seasons became ACU's all-time leading rusher with 4,321 yards and scored 73 touchdowns - three fewer than Wilbert Montgomery's school record.

    Richardson wasn't even the most highly-touted of the three new backs in '09. The rage was over Justin Johnson, a transfer from the University of Oklahoma where he'd played in 10 games, including the one for the national championship that OU lost to Florida, 24-14. It was Johnson who got the start in the season opener against Northwest Missouri State on national television. Unfortunately, he was barely Sooner said than done. Played just seven games, had only one touchdown - albeit big, a 100-yard kickoff return to help ACU rally past Eastern New Mexico - and quit the team.

    Richardson would be the third running back to see playing time in that first game after Johnson and Reggie Brown. Only then was Richardson's cover blown. You could tell from his face and physique, if not his first few plays (9 rushes for 28 yards, 3 catches for 10 in that season opener), which one was Baby Bernard.

    It wasn't long before he showed a similarly uncanny knack for finding the end zone. Richardson scored his first two ACU touchdowns in the second game of 2009 and two more the next week against Commerce in a soggy Cotton Bowl en route to a 17 TD (16 rushing) season, which was the second most in the LSC that year.

    Perhaps most amazing about Richardson's productivity is that at no point in his nearly three seasons has he been the clear No. 1 starter - in part because of a variety of minor but nagging injuries. Whereas Scott carried the ball nearly five times as much as any other teammate, Richardson essentially split the workload with Reggie Brown 50-50 in 2009 and only accounted for one-third of the team's rushes last season. This year, even after starting the season with a sore hamstring, he's finally become the featured back, carrying 92 of the team's approximately 200 called run plays.

    The season opener against Tarleton might actually be a microcosm of his ACU career. Slowed by the bad hammy, Richardson didn't get a single carry that night and didn't even enter the game until the first play of the 4th quarter. That play was a 27-yard swing pass to Richardson from QB Mitchell Gale. ACU's last offensive play of the night? A desperation shot-put from a scrambling Gale to Richardson, who turned it into a 23-yard touchdown with 1:09 to go that proved to be the game winner. Two touches, two dynamic plays - yet not quite as healthy as a horse needs to be for an offense to really take off.

    I have a feeling history will be more flattering than our present perceptions, and record book ink may prove more indelible than any image Richardson leaves in our minds' eyes.

    Like I wrote after the Angelo State game about letting this offense become whatever it will become instead of comparing it to the juggernauts of past years, I hope we can appreciate what we're seeing in Daryl Richardson.

    The irony is this: the more he resembles his big brother the rest of this season, the more ACU will resemble a playoff team.

    Saturday, October 29, 2011

    Halftime Stats for ACU-Commerce

    • Score: ACU 30, A&M-C 7
    • First Downs: A&M-C 10, ACU 7
    • Rushing: ACU 16 for 144 yards, A&M-C 22 for 71 yards
    • Passing: ACU 9 of 15 for 118 yards, 1 INT and 1 TD, A&M-C 14 of 31 for 93 yards, 2 INTs and 0 TDs
    • Total Offense: ACU 262 yards, A&M-C 164 yards
    • Time of Possession: A&M-C 18:25, ACU 11:35
    • Third-Down Conversions: ACU 2 of 6, A&M-C 1 of 13
    • Red-Zone Scores-Chances: ACU 1 of 1, A&M-C 0 of 2
    • Penalties: A&M-C 3 for 10 yards, ACU 3 for 45 yards
    • Passing: Mitchell Gale, 19 of 15 for 118 yards, 1 INT and 1 TD
    • Rushing: Daryl Richardson, 8 for 147 yards and 2 TDs; Charcandrick West, 4 for 4 yards
    • Receiving: Daryl Richardson, 2 for 29 yards; Justin Andrews, 2 for 8 yards; Darian Hogg, 1 for 35 yards and 1 TD; and Ben Gibbs, 1 for 29 yards
    • Defense: Aston Whiteside, 6 tackles and .5 sacks; Thor Woerner, 5 tackles; L.B. Suggs, 4 tackles; Justin Stewart, 4 tackles, 1 fumble recovery and 1 INT; and Mike Wallace, 1 INT
    • NOTES: Lion junior quarterback J.J. Harp played his first two seasons at Eastern New Mexico. First time in memory that ACU had no passing yards in a first quarter, although Mitchell Gale was 9 of 15 in the second. Eight turnovers for the two teams in a messy first half: 4 for each team. Marcus Graham is the Lions' leading rusher with 8 carries for 37 yards. Tyler Rawlings leads his team in receiving with 4 catches for 46 yards and 1 TD. ACU scored 30 consecutive points to start the game, after twice allowing Midwestern State to score 35 unanswered points last week in a 70-28 loss to the Mustangs.

    End of Q2: ACU 30, A&M-Commerce 7

    Morgan Lineberry booted a 21-yard field goal with 10:10 remaining to up the ACU lead to 17-0.

    On the Lions' next drive, J.J. Harp was intercepted by ACU safety Matt Wallace, who returned it 46 yards for a Wildcat TD with 9:21 left. Lineberry's PAT increased ACU's led to 24-0.

    Taylor Fore, who intercepted a Wildcat pass in the first quarter, fumbled a Wildcat punt with 5 minutes left in the half. It only took one play for ACU to score again: a 35-yard pass from Mitchell Gale to wide receiver Darian Hogg. Lineberry's PAT hit the goal post, but the new score was 30-0.

    The Lions missed a 31-yard field goal when Jacob O'Neil's kick hit the left upright with 2:21 remaining. ACU took over, but turned the ball over on its second play when wide receiver DeMarcus Thompson caught a pass from Gale and fumbled, giving A&M-Commerce good field position at the Wildcat 24.

    Harp converted the turnover into 6 points when Harp completed a 20-yard TD pass to wide receiver Tyler Rawlings, and O'Neil's PAT cut the ACU lead to 30-7 with 1:16 left.

    The first half was messy: eight turnovers, four by each team. A&M-Commerce led in first downs (10-7) and total plays (53-31), but not in much else. ACU prevailed in total yards (262-164) and on the scorecard (30-7). Gale was 9 of 15 for 118 yards and a TD, overcoming a first quarter in which he had had no passing yards on two attempts. Richardson had 147 yards on eight carries, and two TDs. Each team had three penalties. The Lions converted only one of 13 third-down plays.

    End of Q1: ACU 14, A&M-Commerce 0

    ACU's first possession ended on the second play when quarterback Mitchell Gale's pass to tight end Ben Gibbs bounced off his hands and into those of Texas A&M-Commerce's Marcus Fore.

    One play after a Lion punt, running back Daryl Richardson got ACU on the scoreboard when he ran 78 yards around right end for a TD with 11:57 remaining. Morgan Lineberry's successful PAT put the Wildcats on top, 7-0.

    ACU's next possession ended on the second play when Gale was sacked and fumbled at the Wildcat 38. But six plays later, the Wildcats returned the favor, sacking Lion quarterback J.J. Harp and causing him to fumble at the ACU 30.

    Three plays later, Richardson set sail again on a long TD run, this one 46 yards. Lineberry's PAT made the score 14-0.

    With 2:19 remaining, Harp was intercepted by ACU's L.B. Suggs at the Wildcat 15, and the junior from Cedar Hill returned it to the Wildcat 40-yard line.

    At the end of the quarter, ACU had zero passing yards: Gale was 0 for 2 for 0 yards and 1 interception. However, Richardson had five carries for 146 yards and two TDs. The Lions had 6 first downs to ACU's 3, but trailed 14-0.

    Monday, October 24, 2011

    Booth Review: ACU've Got Mail

    The New Pony Express galloped into Wichita Falls Saturday night with a message. It was delivered personally to ACU but addressed to the entire Lone Star Conference and consisted of this solitary line:

    There's a new sheriff in town.

    The Midwestern State Mustangs, they of the nation's No. 1-ranked offense - not to mention that catchy, aforementioned nickname - rode over, around and through the ACU defense and didn't stop until they had laid a whoopin', the likes of which the Wildcat football program had never in 90+ years suffered.

    The 70-28 rout - it was every bit as dominant as that score would indicate - leaves Midwestern alone in first place in the Lone Star Conference. Barring a loss to West Texas A&M in two weeks, the Mustangs will unseat ACU as conference champs. They earned it Saturday night.

    70 points! The most ACU has ever surrendered in a non-overtime game.

    740 yards of total offense! The most an ACU team has ever allowed in any game - overtime, playoff, Xbox 360.

    And make no mistake: this wasn't about an emotional letdown or resting on the laurels from the big Homecoming win over West Texas A&M the previous Saturday. The Wildcat offense actually won the toss, elected to receive and marched 80 yards in six plays for a 7-0 lead. No, this was about a Midwestern State offense that none of its seven opponents have come close to even slowing down, much less stopping.

    That the Mustangs have now run roughshod over a playoff-caliber opponent - its previous opponents' record was 15-26 - drives the message home at an ear-splitting decibel level.

    After processing what happened Saturday night, it would seem to me that the only defense capable of slowing this team down is one that is excessively large (and, thus, less likely to get thrown to the curb like yesterday's trash) or exceptionally fast (and, thus, able to catch Mustang runners when they get to the edges). ACU's defense is neither small nor slow but neither are they really big and really fast.

    Five Midwestern runners gashed ACU for 436 rushing yards in every way imaginable. Senior Lester Bush is the bowling ball who steers clear of the gutters and runs straight for the head pin. Freshman Jimmy Pipkin, who at 6'0" looks even a foot taller, is the edge rusher who hurdled a Wildcat defender on an eye-popping 45-yard dash. Sophomore Keidrick Jackson isn't as picky: he can beat you north and south or around the corner.

    The offensive line, led by a projected early-round NFL draft pick in Amini Silatolu, is ginormous and quick, opening holes for the runners and providing plenty of protection in the passing game.

    But Brandon Kelsey is the trigger man. The junior QB rushed for 114 yards - including a 64-yard scamper on 2nd and 9 after ACU had cut the lead to 35-14 early in the 3rd quarter. He also threw for a very efficient 205 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

    I said on the play-by-play broadcast Saturday night that if there is a better team in the country, I'd like to see it. As of now at least, there isn't one better in Super Region 4. The first regional rankings of the 2011 season were released Monday and Midwestern is No. 1 at 7-0. ACU is currently No. 5 and, with the top six at season's end making the playoffs, still in position to reach the postseason for a sixth straight year.

    But a second straight conference title and third in four years was most likely marked "Return to Sender" after what the New Pony Express brought Saturday. The change of address in conference champions has nothing to do with character and effort. ACU exhibited those qualities even in that record-setting defeat.

    What Midwestern proved Saturday is that this year's Lone Star Conference is all about the horses.

    Sunday, October 23, 2011

    Final Stats: MSU 70, ACU 28

  • Score: MSU 70, ACU 28
  • Attendance: 9,821
  • First Downs: ACU 31, MS 29
  • Rushing: MSU 48 for 436 yards, ACU 24 for 134 yards
  • Passing: ACU 32 of 56 for 413 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT; MSU 17 of 25 for 304 yards and 4 TDs
  • Total Offense: MSU 740, ACU 547
  • Time of Possession: MSU 33:13, ACU 26:47
  • Third-Down Conversions: MSU 6 of 9, ACU 5 of 15
  • Red-Zone Scores-Chances: MSU 8 of 8, ACU 2 of 4
  • Penalties: MSU 13 for 129 yards, ACU 8 for 79 yards
  • Passing: Mitchell Gale, 32 of 56 for 413 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT
  • Rushing: Charcandrick West, 9 for 81 yards and 1 TD; Daryl Richardson, 9 for 45 yards; Reggie Brown, 2 for 6 yards; and Mitchell Gale, 3 for 3 yards
  • Receiving: Taylor Gabriel, 10 for 138 yards and 3 TDs; Demarcus Thompson, 4 for 48 yards; Daryl Richardson, 4 for 35 yards; and Darian Hogg, 4 for 19 yards
  • All-purpose: Charcandrick West, 253 yards; Taylor Gabriel, 161 yards
  • Punting: Spencer Covey, 4 for 139 yards and 34.8-yard average
  • Defense: L.B. Suggs and Darien Williams, 9 tackles; Derek Odelusi, 8 tackles; Ryan Smith, 6 tackles; and Aston Whiteside, 5 tackles and 1 blocked PAT
  • NOTES: ACU opened each half the same way: scoring a touchdown, then surrendering 35 points to the Mustangs. The two teams combined for 1,287 yards of offense. MSU averaged 10.1 yards per play. Mustang quarterback Brandon Kelsey ran for 114 yards, and completed 16 of 24 pases for 205 yards and 3 TDs. Three MSU players ran for 90 or more yards: Keidrick Jackson (129), Kelsey (114) and Jimmy Pipkin (94). Vernon Johnson caught 2 passes for 109 yards, one of them a 99-yarder to close his team's scoring. Entering the game, MSU was No. 2 in the nation in rushing offense, and ACU was No. 4 in the nation in run defense.
  • Saturday, October 22, 2011

    Final: MSU 70, ACU 28

    Mitchell Gale threw his third touchdown pass of the game to Taylor Gabriel with 13:03 remaining, and Morgan Lineberry's kick shortened the MSU lead to 49-21. The 8-play, 77-yard drive took 2:27 off the clock.

    ACU's onside kick was recovered by Chris Summers at its own 43-yard line, but the Wildcats not take advantage.

    MSU upped hits lead to 56-21 with 8:47 left when Keidrick Jackson ran 2 yards for another TD. Saladino's PAT was good.

    ACU answered back in a quick drive, helped by Charcandrick West's 43-yard run with 7:47 left – a one-minute, six-play, 80-yard drive. Lineberry's kick made it 56-28.

    MSU did not change gears, only players. Peter Smith ran 1 yard for another TD with 2:20 left, and Vernon Johnson caught a 99-yard scoring pass from backup quarterback Jake Glover with 56 seconds remaining.

    End of Q3: Midwestern 49, ACU 14

    MSU punted on its first drive, a good sign.

    After a 23-yard punt return by Taylor Gabriel, ACU began the second half the same way it began the first half, with a Mitchell Gale touchdown pass to Gabriel. This one was for 24 yards, ending a 5-play, 59-yard drive in only 1 minute. The PAT by Morgan Lineberry was good, making the new score 35-14.

    Not a good sign: MSU regained its advantage quickly, moving 80 yards in six plays, capped by a 1-yard run by Keidrick Jackson at the 9:18 mark. Saladino's kick was good, making the new score 42-14.

    ACU advanced to the MSU 9 on the ensuing drive, but Gale was sacked on fourth down, turning the ball over to the Mustangs.

    MSU's Jimmy Pipkins scored his second TD of the game on a 28-yard run with 38 seconds left in the quarter. The 91-yard drive consumed 5:33 and took 11 plays. Another Saladino kick put the Mustangs further ahead, 49-14.

    Halftime Stats for ACU-MSU

    • Score: MSU 35, ACU 7
    • First Downs: MSU 18, ACU 15
    • Rushing: MSU 22 for 206 yards, ACU 8 for 26 yards
    • Passing: MSU 12 of 17 for 156 yards and 3 TDs, ACU 18 of 31 for 230 yards and 1 TD
    • Total Offense: MSU 362 yards, ACU 256 yards
    • Time of Possession: MSU 16:11, ACU 13:49
    • Third Down Conversions: MSU 4 of 5, ACU 2 of 7
    • Penalties: MSU 5 for 40 yards, ACU 4 for 39 yards
    • Passing: Mitchell Gale, 18 of 31 or 230 yards and 1 TD
    • Rushing: Daryl Richardson, 5 for 16 yards; Reggie Brown, 2 for 6 yards; and Mitchell Gale, 1 for 4 yards
    • Receiving: Taylor Gabriel, 6 for 85 yards and 1 TD; Daryl Richardson, 4 for 35 yards; Reggie Brown, 2 for 14 yards; and Jamaine Sherman, 2 for 9 yards
    • Defense: L.B. Suggs, 5 tackles; Derek Odelusi, 4 tackles; and Nate Bailey, Mike Wallace, Ryan Smith and Derek Drummond, 3 tackles each.
    • NOTES: ACU has no answer for MSU's rushing attack, which has outgained it, 206 yards to 26. And it needs a ground game of its own, or at least a way to control the clock and score while keeping the Mustangs off the scoreboard. MSU gets to the end zone quickly. Keidrick Jackson (70 yards, 10 yards per carry), Jimmy Pipkin (52 yards, 17.3 yards per carry), Lester Bush (48 yards, 6 yards per carry) and Brandon Kelsey (36 yards, 9 yards per carry) are a four-man wrecking crew on the ground.

    End of Q2: Midwestern 35, ACU 7

    MSU finished another drive with a TD less than 2 minutes into the second quarter, with quarterback Brandon Kelsey scoring on an 11-yard run. The PAT was blocked by ACU's Aston Whiteside, but the Mustangs led 20-7.

    The Mustangs scored their 28th straight point of the game with 8:16 left when Kelsey threw a 5-yard TD pass to Edgard Theilar. MSU's 2-point conversion was successful: a Kelsey pass to wide receiver Sheldon Galloway. The 6-play, 75-yard drive was fueled by a 45-yard highlight-reel run by Jimmy Pipkin, and consumed 3:11.

    The MSU scoring parade continued on its next possession, a 6-play, 78-yard drive culminating with a 16-yard TD pass from Kelsey to Theliar with 2:45 remaining. The PAT by Saladino gave the Mustangs a 35-7 lead.

    MSU punted for the first time in the game with 1:04 remaining.

    End of Q1: Midwestern 14, ACU 7

    The opening drive was energized by a 49-yard pass play from quarterback Mitchell Gale to wide receiver Darrell Cantu-Harkless. Gale capped it with a 17-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Taylor Gabriel at 13:54. Morgan Lineberry's successful PAT put ACU on top, 7-0. The 6-play drive covered 80 yards in 1:06.

    Midwestern State is only allowing its opponents an average of 6.5 points per first half, so that's a good early sign.

    MSU moved crisply down the field on its first drive, scoring when quarterback Brandon Kelsey threw a 9-yard pass to wide receiver Edgard Theliar in the back of the end zone. Greg Saladino's successful PAT tied the score at 7-7 with 10:56 remaining.

    On ACU's next drive, Gale's pass on fourth and 2 at the MSU 26 was tipped and intercepted by Bernard Griffin at the Mustangs' 17-yard line.

    MSU then went on an 11-play, 83-yard drive, with Keidrick Johnson's 1-yard TD run and Saladino's PAT putting the Mustangs on top, 14-7 with 3:30 left.

    First-quarter stats showed the Mustangs outgaining ACU in total yards, 164-150. Gale was 10 of 17 for 150 yards, and MSU's Kelsey was 8 of 10 for 107 yards and one TD. The Wildcats were outgained on the ground, 57-9, with the Mustangs' Lester Bush leading the way with 42 yards.

    Saturday, October 15, 2011

    Final: ACU 28, Wes Texas A&M 18

    Morgan Lineberry's 52-yard field goal attempt fell short with 11:25 remaining in the game.

    ACU punter Spencer Covey fumbled a snap from center that was recovered by the Buffs at the Wildcat 9-yard line with 8:38 left.

    On the ensuing play, WT's Dustin Vaughan threw a TD pass to Brittan Golden. The Buffs faked the PAT and ran it in for 2 points, cutting the ACU lead to 21-18.

    After a 39-yard kickoff return by Charcandrick West, Mitchell Gale engineered his team's own 1-play drive, hitting fullback Justin Andrews over the middle with a pass, and the junior from Fort Worth raced 53 yards for a TD with 8:21 left. Morgan Lineberry's PAT gave ACU a new lead, 28-18.

    End of Q3: ACU 21, West Texas A&M 10

    ACU went on another long march – 97 yards – to up its lead to 21-10 over the Buffs. The 17-play drive consumed 6:06 off the clock and was capped by Jamaine Sherman's leaping catch in the left corner of the end zone of an 18-yard pass.

    The Wildcat defense came up with a big play late in the quarter when WT was trying to convert a 4th and 4 from the ACU 12-yard line. Sophomore linebacker Thor Woerner tipped a pass from Dustin Vaughan, causing it to fall incomplete, giving ACU the ball back and thwarting a potential scoring drive for the Buffs.

    Halftime Stats for ACU-WTA&M

    • Score: ACU 14, WT 10
    • First Downs: WT 14, ACU 5
    • Rushing: ACU 16 for 27 yards, WT 11 for 31 yards
    • Passing: ACU 6 of 10 for 169 yards; WT 18 of 32 for 225 yards and 1 TD
    • Total Offense: WT 256, ACU 196
    • Time of Possession: WT 16:29, ACU 13:31
    • Third Down Conversions: WT 3 of 9, ACU 1 of 6
    • Penalties: ACU 4 for 30 yards, WT 5 for 35 yards
    • Passing: Mitchell Gale, 6 of 10 for 169 yards
    • Rushing: Reggie Brown, 4 for 19 yards and 1 TD; Daryl Richardson, 5 for 16 yards and 1 TD; and Taylor Gabriel, 1 for 1 yard
    • Receiving: Ben Gibbs, 2 for 87 yards; Taylor Gabriel 1 for 40 yards; Reggie Brown 1 for 19 yards; and Justin Andrews, 1 for 18 yards
    • Defense: L.B. Suggs, 6 tackles; Darien Williams, 5 tackles; Derek Odelusi, 4 tackles; and Donald Moore, 3 tackles
    • NOTES: For the Buffs, Dustin Vaughan has completed 18 of 32 passes for 225 yards and 1 TD; Tommy Hampton has rushed 5 times fro 27 yards; and Jeremy Watson has three catches for 61 yards and 1 TD.

    End of Q2: ACU 14, West Texas A&M 10

    ACU scored when running back Daryl Richardson plowed up the middle for three yards and a touchdown with 10:22 left in the second quarter. Morgan Lineberry's successful PAT gave the Wildcats the lead, 7-3. The six-play, 99-yard drive's big moment was a 75-yard catch and run by tight end Ben Gibbs, who snared a Mitchell Gale throw over the middle and raced downfield on one of the longest pass plays you'll see from a tight end.

    The Wildcats forced a WT fumble on the ensuing drive, then took only four plays to move 75 yards downfield and score again. Running back Reggie Brown bulled his way up the middle for 4 yards and the TD. Lineberry's second PAT of the game was good, and ACU led 14-3 with 7:36 remaining.

    WT scored its first TD when quarterback Dustin Vaughan threw a 17-yard TD pass to Brittan Golden with 3:04 left. The PAT by Castillo cut the ACU lead to 14-10.

    SUMMARY: Although ACU leads 14-10, West Texas A&M is on top in several statistical categories. The Buffs lead in first downs (14 to 5), total yards (256 to 195), passing yards (225 to 169) and possession time (16:29 to 13:31). Both defenses have been hard on the running games; WT has rushed 11 times for 31 yards and ACU has 16 for 27 yards. Mitchell Gale has completed 6 of 10 passes for 169 yards. Ben Gibbs has caught 2 of them for 87 yards. The Wildcats have sacked WT quarterback Dustin Vaughan three times.

    End of Q1: West Texas A&M 3, ACU 0

    If this game is going to be another in a long line of offensive shootouts, it will need to get moving. The two teams, both with 4-1 overall and unblemished records in the Lone Star Conference, traded punts throughout the first quarter.

    ACU's defense seemed to find its sea legs last week in a 36-7 win over Eastern New Mexico, and West Texas A&M has been among the national leaders in scoring and team defense all season. They are both playing defense aggressively today, and have sacked each other's quarterback twice in the first quarter.

    West Texas A&M got on the scoreboard first with 3:29 left when Sergio Castillo Jr. kicked a 44-yard field goal.

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    Booth Review: Digging the Defense

    In Blackwater Draw, the same archaeological site in eastern New Mexico where scientists have unearthed evidence of ancient human civilization, another more recent artifact was discovered Saturday: the ACU defense.

    After being gouged for nearly 1,000 yards combined in home wins over Angelo State (503 yards gained) and Western Oregon (474), the Wildcat defensive unit neutered a Greyhound offense that entered the game as one of the most prolific in all of Division II.

    Eastern was held to 142 fewer passing yards, 129 fewer yards of total offense and seven fewer first downs than it had been averaging this season and 16 fewer points than its previously lowest point total. In fact, ENMU hadn't been held to as few as seven points since 2007.

    Like the last two weeks, ACU was missing two key defensive contributors - linebackers Jesse Harper (out for the year with a knee injury) and Cy Wilson (the coaches still hope he can return at some point); unlike the last two weeks, the ACU defense did most of its damage without any help from the opponent in the way of easy drops or stupid penalties.

    The linebackers who did play - Derek Odelusi, Derek Drummond, Thor Woerner, Chris Summers, Nick Richardson, Nate Baggs, Lynn Grady and Justin Stephens (first career interception) - were terrific, both in stuffing the run and clogging up passing lanes in the middle of the field. ENMU's Wesley Wood, the nation's third leading passer, averaged a piddling 4.4 yards for each of his 44 attempts.

    Even the linebacker who didn't play linebacker, reserve Chris Jones, was disruptive. Knowing how crazy fast Eastern likes to play - think of an a cappella worship leader starting the next verse of a song before the one you're on is over - defensive coordinator Jason Johns shifted Jones - all 5'11", 205 pounds of him - to defensive line because of his speed. Genius. Jones wound up with a sack, a QB hurry and five total tackles even though - as sideline reporter Nick Boone told us after the game on the broadcast - the coaches had to explain his assignments, sometimes between plays.

    Last season, ACU held two opponents to seven points or less, Tarleton State (3) and East Central (7). But Tarleton was missing its stud quarterback (Tennessee transfer Nick Stephens) because of injury and East Central was, well, East Central. Saturday's performance was the most dominant by an ACU defense against a good offense since 2009 when the 'Cats limited Midwestern State, which was led by D2's most efficient quarterback Zack Eskridge, to 15 and 21 points in consecutive weeks and suffocated a potent Tarleton State team into -27 yards rushing and only 172 yards of total offense, 75 of which came on a single go-for-broke play in the final five minutes that allowed the Texans to escape with a 13-6 victory.

    The offense continued to play well. Make it three straight games with no turnovers (a first in the Chris Thomsen era) and at least five offensive touchdowns. But it was the defense that served notice of its ability to stop a good team. Which is good because two more are on deck: this weekend against West Texas A&M at home and the following Saturday at Midwestern State. With those two teams and ACU unbeaten in the Lone Star Conference, nothing less than the conference championship is at stake.

    Blackwater Draw is in the rearview mirror. The Wildcat defense must continue to dig deep.

    Saturday, October 8, 2011

    Final: ACU 36, ENMU 7

    Reggie Brown capped a 62-yard, 10-play drive when he high-stepped 9 yards up the middle to give ACU a 36-7 lead with 11:04 left. Morgan Lineberry missed his second PAT of the afternoon.

    End of Q3: ACU 30, ENMU 7

    ACU freshman linebacker Justin Stephens intercepted a pass from Wesley Wood at the Greyhound 18-yard line and returned it to the 14. Three plays later, Mitchell hit a wide-open Darrell Cantu-Harkless over the middle with a 13-yard TD pass that gave the Wildcats a 27-7 lead with 12:19 left in the third quarter. The PAT by Morgan Lineberry was wide left.

    Reggie Brown was the workhorse on ACU's next scoring drive with his 43 yards of rushing. The offense stalled at the ENMU 7, but Lineberry kicked a 24-yard field goal to push ACU's lead to 30-7 with 1:34 remaining.

    Halftime Stats for ACU-ENMU

    • Score: ACU 21, ENMU 7
    • First Downs: ACU 14, ENMU 11
    • Rushing: ACU 9 for 40 yards, ENMU 12 for 44 yards
    • Passing: ACU 15 of 23 for 200 yards and 2 TDS; ENMU 18 of 26 for 156 yards and 1 TD
    • Total Offense: ACU 240, ENMU 200
    • Time of Possession: ACU 12:47, ENMU 17:13
    • Third Down Conversions: ACU 5 of 7, ENMU 3 of 8
    • Penalties: ACU 5 for 32 yards, ENMU 4 for 40 yards
    • Passing: Mitchell Gale, 15 of 23 for 200 yards and 2 TDs
    • Rushing: Reggie Brown, 5 for 26 yards; Mitchell Gale, 1 for 11 yards; and Daryl Richardson, 3 for 3 yards
    • Receiving: Darrell Cantu-Harkless, 6 for 79 yards; Taylor Gabriel, 4 for 74 yards and 1 TD; Ben Gibbs, 2 for 21 yards and 1 TD; Justin Andrews, 1 for 12 yards; Daryl Richardson, 1 for 11 yards; and Darian Hogg, 1 for 3 yards
    • Defense: Derek Odelusi, 5 tackles and 1 sack; Darien Williams, 5 tackles; Thor Woerner, 4 tackles; and Nick Richardson, 3 tackles
    • NOTES: For the Greyhounds, Wesley Wood has completed 18 of 26 yards for 156 yards and 1 TD, and is his team's leading rusher as well with 6 carries for 24 yards; and Chase Kyser ( 3 catches for 54 yards) and Drian Dale (4 catches for 28 yards) are the leading receivers.

    End of Q2: ACU 21, ENMU 7

    ACU tight end Ben Gibbs caught a 2-yard TD pass from Mitchell Gale with 12:16 remaining in the first half. Morgan Lineberry's PAT made the score 14-7. One of the penalties on the 12-play, 87-yard drive negated a TD run by Darrell Cantu-Harkless.

    ENMU used its short-range passing game to move deep into ACU territory, but the drive stalled and then ended when Taylor Cannon missed a 26-yard field goal with 7:30 remaining.

    ACU scored again when senior running back Daryl Richardson dove into the end zone from the 1-yard line at the 4:47 mark. The drive featured a 48-yard catch and run from Taylor Gabriel, who caught a pass over the middle from Gale and nearly scored before he was knocked out of bounds just short of the ENMU goal line. Lineberry's PAT gave the Wildcats a 21-7 lead.

    Both quarterbacks had a productive first half. Gale completed 15 of 23 passes for 200 yards and 2 TDs, and Wesley Wood completed 18 of 26 for 156 yards and 1 TD. ENMU is having a hard time covering Cantu-Harkless (six catches for 79 yards) and Taylor Gabriel (four receptions for 74 yards and a TD).

    End of Q1: ACU 7, ENMU 7

    Eastern New Mexico, which passes on nearly every down, scored on its second drive of the game when Wesley Wood hit Michael Matthews with an 8-yard TD pass with 8:38 left in the first quarter. A successful PAT by Taylor Cannon put the Greyhounds on top, 7-0. The four-play, 47-yard drive was set up after ENMU pinned ACU deep in its end of the field after a good defensive stand, and forced the Wildcats to punt.

    ACU responded on its ensuing possession with an almost identical five-play, 57-yard drive. It ended successfully when Wildcat quarterback Mitchell Gale tossed a 10-yard TD pass to wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, who caught the ball in the right flat and dove inside the goal-line pylon. Morgan Lineberry's PAT tied the game at 7-7 at the 5:54 mark.

    The Wildcats were driving at mid-field when the quarter ended.

    Sunday, October 2, 2011

    Booth Review: Good Night and Good Luck

    ACU 51 Western Oregon 35
    If you've ever played golf with someone who doinked a tee shot off a tree and had it roll back into the fairway - in other words, if you've NEVER played golf with me - you've probably heard it said, "Better to be lucky than good."

    Four games into the 2011 season, it would appear the ACU football team is both lucky AND good.

    They're certainly not a great team yet. Great teams don't surrender 1,000 yards of offense in two games, including 833 through the air.

    They're not bad either. Bad teams don't protect the football in two straight games, run and throw with equal success, hang half a hundred (+1) on an opponent, make huge stops in the red zone and have a 3-1 record.

    What they are is good. And lucky.

    I generally agree with those who say good teams make their own luck and those who suggest the better you are, the luckier you get. For example, if an opposing receiver gets alligator arms and doesn't make a catch because he knows he's about to get clobbered by Richard Havins, I'd suggest that's making your own luck.

    But consider the following breaks the 'Cats have caught in each of their three wins:

    ACU 27 Tarleton State 24. The Texans missed two makeable field goals (from 34 and 46 yards) in a game ACU rallied to win in the final minute.

    ACU 31 Angelo State 17. Sophomore QB Blake Hamblin threw for 446 yards and it could've easily been 500+ had Ram receivers not had more drops than a cell phone on Ranger Hill. One of those was in the end zone forcing ASU to settle for a field goal. ACU won by 14, but the game would've been very different had Angelo simply held on to the football.

    ACU 51 Western Oregon 35. Like Angelo, WOU had a severe case of dropsy. And in both cases, I'm talking about balls that real live rams and wolves could've caught with their hooves and paws. The zebras helped ACU, too. In the last two minutes of the first half Saturday, Taylor Gabriel went to a knee to field a WOU punt. He got up and began running, and the officials let him go, even though replays showed he should've been down at his own 27. The 35-yard return to the Wolves' 38-yard line gave the 'Cats a short field. Six plays later, Mitchell Gale rumbled up the middle for what the head linesman ruled a touchdown despite the fact that Gale's knee hit the turf at the 1. Replays weren't as conclusive as they were on the punt, but again it appeared ACU caught a break.

    Maybe ACU would've reached the end zone without the benefit of those two favorable rulings. Or maybe not. It's harder for anyone to go 73 yards in 90 seconds than 38.

    In the second half, ACU did what good teams do: they capitalized on their fortune, blowing open a tight game in the third quarter with 24 points en route to a runaway win.

    Good. Lucky. Don't misinterpret what I'm saying as a knock on who and what ACU is right now. Nearly every winning team in any sport is both. The New England Patriots are a very solid 3-1 after a comfortable 31-19 win in Oakland Sunday. But it wasn't so comfy in the closing seconds of the first half with the Raiders down 14-10 but threatening to take the lead when QB Jason Campbell lobbed a perfect spiral...into the hands of Pats' safety Patrick Chung. New England scored the next 10 points of the game and was never threatened.

    And don't forget, North Alabama's only touchdown of the second half against ACU two weeks ago - the one that ultimately proved to be the game-winner - began when a ball that was stripped from Darian Hogg's clutches bounced into the clear where superstar cornerback Janoris Jenkins scooped it up and took it into the end zone. A good play by UNA forced the turnover; a lucky bounce helped turn it into a score.

    In golf, it may be better to be lucky than good. In football, there's no shame in being both.

    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    Final: ACU 51, Western Oregon 35

    ACU widened its lead to 48-28 when Morgan Lineberry kicked his second field goal of the game, a 22-yarder with 8:55 remaining.

    Lineberry struck again with 2 minutes left with another field goal, this time of 33 yards, pushing the Wildcat lead to 51-28.

    With four seconds left, WOU's Evan Mozzochi tossed a 14-yard scoring pass to Tyrell Williams. Josh Morgan's PAT made the final score 51-35.

    End of Q3: ACU 45, Western Oregon 28

    Morgan Lineberry kicked a 45-yard field goal with 8:27 remaining in the quarter to open ACU's lead to 24-14.

    On the first play of the ensuing drive, WOU quarterback Evan Mozzochi threw a 73-yard TD pass to a wide-open Josh McFarland. Sixteen seconds after ACU's score, the Wolves closed the gap to 24-21.

    The Wildcats fired right back 75 seconds later, when Mitchell Gale completed a 47-yard TD pass to a leaping Darian Hogg in the right corner of the end zone. Lineberry's PAT made the new score 31-21, capping a 4-play, 59-yard drive.

    ACU wide receiver Taylor Gabriel turned in his second breathtaking punt return of the night with 5:56 left when he went 55 yards for a TD. Lineberry's PAT put ACU further ahead, 38-21.

    Western Oregon answered with a six-play, 69-yard drive. Running back Adryn Allen sprinted 20 yards for a TD with 3:37 left, and Kelly Morgan's PAT made it a 10-point game, 38-28.

    The track meet continued on ACU's next possession when Darrel Cantu-Harkless caught a pass over the middle from Gale and outraced the defense 61 yards for another Wildcat TD with 1:36 left in the quarter. Lineberry's PAT grew the ACU lead back to 45-28.

    Halftime Stats for ACU-Western Oregon

    • Score: ACU 21, WOU 14
    • First Downs: ACU 11, WOU 13
    • Rushing: ACU 16 for 72 yards, WOU 20 for 53 yards
    • Passing: ACU 14 of 23 for 140 yards; WOU 13 of 20 for 205 yards and 1 TD
    • Total Offense: ACU 212, WOU 258
    • Time of Possession: ACU 16:17, WOU 13:43
    • Third Down Conversions: ACU 3 of 8, WOU 4 of 8
    • Penalties: WOU 3 for 28 yards, ACU 2 for 30 yards
    • Passing: Mitchell Gale, 14 of 23 for 140 yards
    • Rushing: Daryl Richardson, 10 for 60 yards and 1 TD; Reggie Brown, 2 for 8 yards; and Mitchell Gale, 3 for 4 yards
    • Receiving: Taylor Gabriel, 4 for 64 yards; Jamaine Sherman, 4 for 31 yards; Darian Hogg, 2 for 22 yards; and Daryl Richardson, 2 for 7 yards
    • Defense: Derek Odelusi, 7 tackles and 1 sack; Richard Havins, 6 tackles; Mike Wallace, 5 tackles; and Nate Bailey, 4 tackles
    • NOTES: For the Wolves, Evan Mozzochi has completed 12 of 18 passes for 189 yards and 1 TD; Kenneth Haynes has 11 carries for 48 yards and 1 TD; and Trevor Gates is the leading receiver with 5 catches for 79 yards.

    End of Q2: ACU 21, Western Oregon 14

    Daryl Richardson showed some flashy moves in running untouched around left end for 22 yards and a touchdown with 8:16 left in the second quarter. Morgan Lineberry's PAT was good, giving ACU a 14-7 advantage at the end of a seven-play, 67-yard drive.

    Western Oregon drew even with 5:48 left in the half when quarterback Evan Mozzochi threw a 23-yard scoring pass to tight end Scott Buche. Kelly Morgan's PAT made the new score 14-14. It was another long drive (91 yards, 11 plays) for the Wolves.

    A scintillating 35-yard punt return by Taylor Gabriel put the Wildcats on the 38-yard line of the Wolves with 1:38 remaining. Six plays later, quarterback Mitchell Gale ran up the middle for seven yards and a TD that put his team back on top. Lineberry's PAT made the new score 21-14 with 25 seconds remaining.

    End of Q1: ACU 7, Western Oregon 7

    ACU linebacker Thor Woerner recovered a fumble by Western Oregon wide receiver Josh McFarland on the Wildcat 44 to give his team a turnover just three plays into the first quarter. Linebacker Richard Havins forced the fumble after McFarland had caught a pass from quarterback Evan Mozzochi, one of two signal-callers the Wolves rotate in their offensive scheme. Both are big ol' boys: Mozzochi is 6-4, 230 and Cory Bean is 6-5, 245.

    On fourth and one from the 1-yard line, running back Reggie Brown ran untouched into the end zone for ACU's opening score. Morgan Lineberry's successful PAT gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead with 9:19 left.

    After the teams traded punts, UWO went on a seven-play, 90-yard drive, capped by a 2-yard run by Kenneth Haynes with 1:19 left in the quarter. Kelly Morgan's PAT evened the score at 7-7.

    The Wolves' attempt at an onside kick on the next play went awry when the ball bounced out of bounds, giving ACU possession at the UWO 45-yard line. Penalties, however, pushed the Wildcats back into their own territory, ending the drive.

    Thus far, it's an evenly played game between two one-loss teams, as the scoreboard indicates.

    Thursday, September 29, 2011

    Booth Review: Let It Be

    ACU 31 Angelo State 17
    ACU beat Angelo last week as a fan base yawned.

    There are 10-year-old supporters of our Dear Christian College's football team who know nothing other than double-digit victories over our nearest neighbors in the Lone Star Conference. They don't realize there was a time not long ago in a galaxy not far away when any win over the Rams - for that matter, any win over anyone - was cherished. ACU went entire presidential administrations (America's, not the university's) without beating ASU.

    This is what happens when teams make winning habitual. Fans aren't satisfied with merely defeating an opponent. They begin awarding style points, as if they were all a bunch of Dick Buttons.

    Some in ACU Nation were pushing Dick's cousin, "Panic," after a six-point, non-conference, out-of-region loss to North Alabama, one that - while frustrating and unimpressive - had nonetheless zero impact on where the Wildcats want to be at season's end, namely the Division II playoffs.

    The Angelo win, though by two touchdowns, still didn't do it for some. Maybe you. But let's not minimize what ACU accomplished in its home opener, to wit:

    1. Handed ASU its first loss.
    2. Held the Rams to their fewest points of the season.
    3. Again allowed fewer points than in the previous game (24 vs. Tarleton; 23 vs. UNA; 17 vs. ASU).
    4. Held an opponent to 10 or fewer points in the second half for the third time this year (10 vs. TSU; 7 vs. UNA; 7 vs. ASU).
    5. Had its highest point total of the year offensively.
    6. Rushed 33 times for 184 yards.
    7. Despite being outgained in total yards 503-418, actually outgained ASU in yards per play (6.4 on 65 plays to 5.7 for 88 plays).
    8. Reduced its penalties from 14 in each of the first two games to only six for 55 yards.
    9. Improved to 19-0 in the Chris Thomsen Era (since 2005) when committing no turnovers.
    10. Defeated ASU for the sixth straight year.

    Pretty good top ten list. Even better when you consider the 'Cats are 2-0 in the LSC and tied for first place with two future opponents: West Texas A&M (Oct. 15) and Midwestern State (Oct. 22).

    Was the Angelo win a little herky jerky? Yes. Were Ram receivers open in the first half? More than an interstate truck stop. Is it of some concern that Mitchell Gale continues to struggle with the deep ball? Absolutely. Will I finish this column by phrasing every sentence in the form of a question? No.

    But whatever this team is right now and evolves into later, it's a victim of the success produced by previous incarnations. If you want to lament the fact that this bunch won't look exactly like the ones in the glory years of Billy Don, Bernie, J. Knox and Clyde, that's up to you. Just remember, it also won't resemble those teams from a little further back that never beat Angelo.

    I propose we let this team be what it's going to be. Hopefully, it's enough to extend the season past Thanksgiving. In the meantime, let's be thankful for what it is now: unbeaten in the conference, playing at home this weekend on what should be a beautiful night for football and a team littered with really good players and even better young men who are being trained by a coaching staff committed to making sure they're where they need to be - on the field and off.

    Enjoy this team and enjoy the ride. And remember, this isn't figure skating. Leave the judge's pencil at home. Don't be a Dick Button.

    Sunday, September 25, 2011

    Final stats: ACU 31, Angelo State 17

    • Score: ACU 31, ASU 17
    • Attendance: 6,837
    • First Downs: ASU 32, ACU 23
    • Rushing: ACU 33 for 184 yards, ASU 21 for 57 yards
    • Passing: ASU 39 of 67 for 446 yards, 2 INTs and 2 TDs; ACU 18 of 32 for 234 yards and 2 TDs
    • Total Offense: ASU 503, ACU 418
    • Time of Possession: ASU 30:29, ACU 29:31
    • Third Down Conversions: ASU 8 of 16, ACU 7 of 12
    • Penalties: ASU 6 for 55 yards, ACU 6 for 55 yards
    • Passing: Mitchell Gale, 18 of 32 for 234 yards and 2 TDs
    • Rushing: Daryl Richardson, 18 for 84 yards and 2 TDs; Taylor Gabriel, 1 for 45 yards; Reggie Brown, 7 for 35 yards; Mitchell Gale, 3 for 10 yards; Charcandrick West, 3 for 8 yards; and Justin Andrews, 1 for 2 yards
    • Receiving: Ben Gibbs, 5 for 53 yards and 1 TD; Daryl Richardson, 3 for 43 yards; Darian Hogg, 3 for 42 yards, Justin Andrews, 3 for 40 yards and 1 TD; Taylor Gabriel, 3 for 28 yards; and Darrell Cantu-Harkless, 1 for 28 yards
    • All-purpose: Daryl Richardson, 127 yards; Taylor Gabriel, 73 yards; Caleb Withrow, 55 yards; and Ben Gibbs, 53 yards
    • Punting: Spencer Covey, 3 for 139 yards and 46.3-yard average
    • Defense: Darien Williams, 10 tackles; Richard Havins, 7 tackles; L.B. Suggs, 7 tackles; Derek Odelusi, 6 tackles; Nathan Baggs, 5 tackles, 1 sack; Thor Woeener, 4 tackles; Chris Summers, 4 tackles, 1 INT; and Derek Drummond, 4 tackles, 1 INT
    • NOTES: The 67 passes thrown by ASU quarterback Blake Hamblin are the most ever attempted against the Wildcats, breaking the record 64 attempts by West Texas A&M in a 93-68 loss to ACU in the 2008 NCAA Division II playoffs. Hamblin completed 39 of them for 446 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs. ACU defenders were credited with breaking up 6 of Hamblin's passes and hurrying him on 6 others. They threw Ram runners for losses on 6 plays, causing a loss of 34 yards.

    Saturday, September 24, 2011

    Final: ACU 31, Angelo State 17

    Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel showed his speed on a 45-yard end-around on ACU's first drive of the fourth quarter. Four plays later, tight end Ben Gibbs caught a 7-yard pass from Mitchell Gale and Morgan Lineberry's fourth PAT of the game gave ACU a 31-10 lead with 9:31 left.

    ASU ended its scoring drought at 5:29 of the final quarter when Blake Hamblin tossed a 21-yard scoring pass to Nate Bayless. Jarred Martin's PAT was good, cutting the Wildcat lead to 31-17.

    Angelo State's short kickoff was recovered by the Rams at the ACU 41. A sack by linebacker Nathan Boggs stopped a third-down play deep in Wildcat territory, and ACU stopped a fourth-down play to regain possession.

    End of Q3: ACU 24, Angelo State 10

    ACU scored its third TD of the game when Mitchell Gale hit fullback Justin Andrews on a 7-yard swing pass in the right flat, and the junior from Fort Worth dove just inside the pylon in the end zone. Morgan Lineberry's PAT made the new score 24-10 in favor of the Wildcats at 12:36 of the quarter.

    One Ram drive ended deep in ACU territory; Derek Drummond intercepted Blake Hamblin's pass at the Wildcat 8-yard line and returned it to the 16, but ACU was not able to capitalize on the turnover.

    SUMMARY: ACU overtook Angelo State in total offense, 325-312, and only allowed the Rams 23 yards of rushing in the third quarter. Daryl Richardson has 83 yards on 15 carries, and Mitchell Gale is 15 of 29 for 208 yards and 1 TD.

    Halftime Stats for ACU-Angelo State

    • Score: ACU 17, ASU 10
    • First Downs: ACU 10, ASU 16
    • Rushing: ACU 17 for 75 yards, ASU 10 for 30 yards
    • Passing: ACU 9 of 15 for 129 yards; ASU 20 of 31 for 203 yards and 1 TD
    • Total Offense: ACU 204, ASU 233
    • Time of Possession: ACU 14:30, ASU 14:52
    • Third Down Conversions: ACU 5 of 7, ASU 3 of 7
    • Penalties: ASU 4 for 29 yards, ACU 2 for 10 yards
    • Passing: Mitchell Gale, 9 of 15 for 129 yards
    • Rushing: Daryl Richardson, 9 for 60 yards and 2 TDs; Reggie Brown, 3 for 14 yards
    • Receiving: Ben Gibbs, 3 for 38 yards; Justin Andrews, 2 for 33 yards; Darian Hogg, 2 for 31 yards; and Darrell Cantu-Harkless, 1 for 28 yards
    • Defense: Darien Williams, 6 tackles; Derek Drummond, 4 tackles; Derek Odelusi, 4 tackles; Nick Richardson, 2 tackles and 1 sack

    End of Q2: ACU 17, Angelo State 10

    ACU roared down the field on an 8-play, 70-yard, 3-minute drive to start the second quarter. Along the way, Daryl Richardson ripped off runs of 22 and 20 yards, the latter of which was good for the Wildcats' second TD of the game. Morgan Lineberry's PAT put ACU on top, 14-0, with 12:48 remaining.

    Another ACU drive stalled at the Rams' 10-yard line, but Lineberry kicked a 20-yard field at the 3:11 mark to pad the Wildcat lead to 17-10.

    SUMMARY: The ASU Rams were held scoreless in the second quarter but look to be up to this challenge, and is vastly improved over last season. They lead in total yards (233-204) and first downs (16-10). Stephen Covey's three kickoffs all resulted in touchbacks for the Wildcats. Daryl Richardson leads all rushers with 60 yards (and two TDs). Ben Gibbs has 3 catches for 38 yards. Mitchell Gale has completed 9 of 15 passes for 129 yards. ASU's Blake Hamblin has completed 20 of 31 passes for 203 yards and a TD.

    End of Q1: Angelo State 10, ACU 7

    Angelo State marched down the field on an 80-yard drive to open the game. ASU quarterback Blake Hamblin hit wide receiver Joey Knight with a 29-yard TD pass on the right sideline, and he ran untouched into the end zone. Jarred Martin's successful PAT put the Rams on top, 7-0, at 11:10 of the first quarter.

    ACU moved crisply to a TD on its first possession, capped by a 1-yard run by Daryl Richardson with 5:28 left, and Morgan Lineberry's successful PAT. Tight end Ben Gibbs kept the drive moving and put his team in the red zone with a nifty one-handed grab of a 9-yard pass from quarterback Mitchell Gale.

    ASU moved easily downfield on its second possession, until the Wildcat defense finally stiffened when the Rams reached the ACU 2-yard-line. Angelo State had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Martin that built a 10-7 Ram lead with :48 seconds remaining.

    SUMMARY: The Rams, 3-0 on the season against teams with a combined 1-8 record, looked pretty savvy against the nation's 10th-ranked team during this game's first 15 minutes of play. ACU's offense appeared solid and business-like on its only drive of the quarter; running back Daryl Richardson has regained his form and ASU seemingly has no answer yet for covering tight end Ben Gibbs. The Wildcat defense is going to have to start playing up to its reputation, however. Perhaps it will find some inspiration in its last stand of the first quarter.

    Saturday, September 17, 2011

    Final Stats: North Alabama 23, ACU 17

    • Score: UNA 23, ACU 17
    • First Downs: ACU 27, UNA 19
    • Rushing: UNA 34 for 108 yards; ACU 26 for 103 yards
    • Passing: ACU 33 of 59 for 390 yards, 2 INTs and 2 TDs; UNA 22 of 37 for 240 yards and 1 TD
    • Total Offense: ACU 493, UNA 348
    • Time of Possession: ACU 30:01, UNA 28:17
    • Third Down Conversions: ACU 4 of 14, UNA 5 of 16
    • Penalties: UNA 13 for 125 yards, ACU 14 for 109 yards
    • Fumbles (number-lost): ACU 2-2, UNA 3-1
    • Passing: Mitchell Gale, 33 of 59 for 390 yards, 2 INTs and 2 TDs
    • Rushing: Daryl Richardson, 10 for 63 yards and 1 TD, Taylor Gabriel, 1 for 13 yards; Reggie Brown, 5 for 11 yards; and Mitchell Gale, 8 for 10 yards
    • Receiving: Taylor Gabriel, 8 for 135 yards and 2 TDs; Daryl Richardson, 7 for 59 yards; Darrell Cantu-Harkless 5 for 71 yards; Ben Gibbs, 4 for 37 yards; and Darian Hogg, 4 for 17 yards
    • Defense: Thor Woerner, 10 tackles, 1 pass break-up; Richard Havins, 8 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass breakup; Derek Odelusi, 7 tackles; Derek Drummond, 6 tackles; and Ryan Smith, 5 tackles, 1 sack
    • Notes: UNA's leading offensive players were Lee Chapple (22 of 37 passes for 240 yards and 1 TD), Antwan Ivey (12 rushes for 67 yards and 1 TD and 3 passes for 73 yards), Wes Holland (9 rushes for 58 yards) and Mo Milliam (7 catches for 62 yards and 1 TD). UNA sacked Mitchell Gale 3 times and ACU sacked Lee Chapple once. Two of Spencer Cover's 3 kickoffs were touchbacks; he led the nation in touchbacks in 2010. The 27 penalties assessed to both teams contributed to the game lasting 3 hours and 35 minutes.

    Final: North Alabama 23, ACU 17

    Sensing victory, the Lions turned to a time-eating ground game. When Mo Milliam caught a 3-yard pass from Lee Chapple and attempted to score with 5:09 left, he fumbled, and ACU's Lee Suggs recovered in the end zone for a touchback.

    ACU's Mitchell Gale proceeded to lead his team 80 yards down the field and into the end zone, capping the drive when he passed five yards to Taylor Gabriel with 1:42 left. Morgan Lineberry's PAT was good, pulling the Wildcats to within six points, 23-17.

    UNA recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.

    End of Q3: North Alabama 23, ACU 10

    North Alabama went on a 61-yard drive to open the second half, but Lion senior Nathan O’Jibway – one of the biggest kickers you'll see at 6-3, 260 pounds – missed a 36-yard field goal attempt with 11:38 left.

    ACU wide receiver Darian Hogg caught a pass and fumbled it at the UNA 45-yard line. The Lions' Janoris Jenkins picked up the ball and returned it 49 yards for a TD with 3:13 remaining. The PAT by Josh Montgomery was good, and UNA led 23-10.

    Halftime Stats for ACU-UNA

    • Score: UNA 16, ACU 10
    • First Downs: ACU 17, UNA 9
    • Rushing: ACU 17 for 93 yards, UNA 12 for 43 yards
    • Passing: ACU 14 of 35 for 249 yards, 2 INTs and 1 TD; UNA 13 of 21 for 176 yards and 1 TD
    • Total Offense: ACU 342, UNA 219
    • Time of Possession: ACU 18:34, UNA 11:26
    • Third Down Conversions: ACU 3 of 9, UNA 2 of 7
    • Penalties: UNA 5 for 45 yards, ACU 9 for 69 yards
    • Passing: Mitchell Gale, 14 of 35 for 249 yards, 2 INTs and 1 TD
    • Rushing: Daryl Richardson, 7 for 52 yards and 1 TD; Taylor Gabriel, 1 for 13 yards;
    • Receiving: Darrell Cantu-Harkless, 5 for 71 yards; Taylor Gabriel, 3 for 60 yards; Darian Hogg, 3 for 22 yards; and Daryl Richardson, 2 for 25 yards
    • Defense: Thor Woerner, 4 tackles; Darien Williams, 4 tackles; Derek Odelusi, 4 tackles; and Richard Havins, 3 tackles
    • Notes: ACU has yet to return a punt or kickoff. UNA's two interceptions of Mitchell Gale were key defensive plays of the first half. Antwan Ivey is UNA's leading rusher with 7 carries for 42 yards and 1 TD. He also has caught three passes for 73 yards.

    End of Q2: North Alabama 16, ACU 10

    Both teams' strong defensive units took over in the second quarter, and ACU's offense came alive.

    ACU went on a long – 12-play, 96-yard – drive late in the first half, with Mitchell Gale tossing a 17-yard pass over the middle to sophomore wide receiver Tony Gabriel with 4:46 left. Morgan Lineberry's PAT was successful, cutting the UNA lead to 16-7.

    With senior running back Daryl Richardson doing his best impersonation of his brother, Cincinnati Bengals RB Bernard Scott, ACU moved smartly down the field (10 plays, 55 yards) for another score. Lineberry booted a 27-yard field goal with 16 seconds remaining.

    It took two quarters for these two nationally ranked teams (ACU No. 3, UNA No. 4) to look evenly matched.

    End of Q1: North Alabama 16, ACU 0

    ACU has by far the largest contingent of fans attending the Lone Star Football Festival; they fill the first and second levels of the south sideline, from one end zone to another. Great turnout!

    UNA scored first when Michael Schuster kicked a 45-yard field goal with 11:20 left in the first quarter.

    ACU quarterback Mitchell Gale's third pass of the ensuing drive was intercepted, with UNA taking over on the Wildcat 33-yard line. The Lions struck again quickly when quarterback Lee Chapple threw a 23-yard TD pass to Tristian Purifoy, and Nathan O’Jibway's PAT was good, making the score 10-0 in favor of UNA.

    ACU drove down the field but Gale threw his second interception of the game; Jonathan Byrd caught the ball at the UNA 15 and returned it 46 yards to the ACU 39. It only took the Lions three plays to get in the end zone again when Antwan Ivey ran 9 yards for another TD. The PAT failed, but UNA's lead grew to 16-0 with 5:57 left.

    The Lions are big, fast and talented, but the Wildcats have hurt themselves with turnovers. Gale only threw three interceptions all of last season, but has two this afternoon.

    Welcome to Jerry World

    First impressions of The House That Jerry Built (Cowboys Stadium), the site of ACU's football game this afternoon with the University of North Alabama:
    • It's not too late to come on in. Plenty of good seats left in a 80,000-seat stadium.
    • The pregame party in the Dr Pepper End Zone, sponsored by the Alumni Association, is a big hit. The 750 lunch tickets were sold out earlier this week, but fans are welcome to stop by and say "How are youuuuuuuu?" to all your friends. From the looks of things here in the press box, it's packed.
    • The biggest challenge for watching (or playing) in this cavernous stadium is getting your bearings and a sense of the space. Some Texans might call it big as all outdoors, but there's a roof. The stadium covers 73 acres and 3 million square feet. The arches above soar 292 feet above the field. The roof alone consumes 660,800 square feet. It can open, but probably won't today, but if it did, it takes 12 minutes for it to do so.
    • In the first of the three games today, Midwestern State hammered Texas A&M-Commerce, 63-17, in a matchup of Lone Star Conference foes. The game following this one has Texas A&M-Kingsville playing West Texas A&M in another LSC tilt. ACU's game with North Alabama is the only non-conference game of the Lone Star Football Festival.
    • The press box is in the northwest corner of one of the end zone, high above the field. A great view, of course, but it's tempting to watch the gigantic screen suspended from the ceiling, rather than the action on the field below. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones did a fine job of making a workplace for the media; hard to believe there's a better venue from which to do one's blogger thing.
    • Two former NCAA Division I head coaches are leading Division II universities in today's games. Guy Morriss is the head coach of Texas A&M-Commerce; he spent two years in the same role at the University of Kentucky (2001-02) and five seasons at Baylor University (2003-07). Terry Bowden – son Florida State coaching legend Bobby Bowden – was the head coach at Auburn University (1993-98) before accepting the head coach's position at North Alabama. In between those two jobs, he was a color commentator and studio analyst for ABC Sports.
    • ACU's Big Purple Band is here to march at halftime; the first time in 25 years it has performed on the home turf of an NFL team. The last time was Sept. 21, 1986, when the Dallas Cowboys hosted the Atlanta Falcons. Former ACU band director John L. Whitwell (’65), director of bands emeritus of Michigan State University, will guest-conduct the Big Purple while it plays the national anthem.

    Friday, September 2, 2011

    Booth Review: Surviving Pur-Palooza

    ACU 27 Tarleton State 24
    Shortly after laying waste to several pounds of meat at Hard Eight BBQ in Stephenville late Thursday afternoon, your intrepid Wildcat broadcast team (Lance Fleming, Michael Bacon and me) waddled into the Memorial Stadium parking lot just in time to hear the musical stylings of Matt Wayne & Company as they serenaded students at Tarleton State's tailgate party known as Texan Alley.

    "THAT'S why we need an on-campus stadium," Lance said.

    It was a groovy scene, to be sure. Loud music, good food, fired-up fans. As we walked through the gate and up the stairs to the press box, we heard someone on stage - presumably Matt Wayne, himself, or perhaps someone in his Company - say:

    "This next song is about goin' down to Mexico to buy marijuana and try to bring it back to the states!"

    Okay, so we still need an on-campus stadium. Just maybe not that band.

    Playing Tarleton in any sport is always a little peculiar to the eye. Because both schools' colors are purple and white, the games against them tend to look like intrasquad scrimmages. And after sauteeing in the frying pan that was Memorial Stadium for better than three hours Thursday night, I still couldn't tell much of a difference between the two.

    The score showed ACU won, 27-24, by way of Daryl Richardson's Bernard-esque 23-yard touchdown catch-juke-and-dash with 1:09 to play in the 4th quarter, relentless pressure from the Wildcats' defensive line and Nate Bailey's goal-line interception on the game's final play.

    But, as the score and those aforementioned details would suggest, the game could have gone either way.

    Both teams looked ragged. ACU's offense frequently appeared confused in its substitutions. Tarleton committed four drive-extending personal fouls and coach Cary Fowler seemed to spend more time on the field barking at the officials than talking to his own players.

    Both teams are clearly talented. Texans QB Nick Stephens, a former starter at Tennessee who was injured and didn't play in his team's 65-3 loss in Abilene last year, is humongous at 6-5, 230. He made a lot of big throws, often with large humans in purple helmets bearing down on him. Wildcats sophomore RB Charcandrick West partially blocked a punt in the 1st quarter and turned a short pass into a 41-yard touchdown reception down the far sideline. University of Maryland transfer LB Derek Drummond looked like a D1 player with an interception at the goal line and a sack in his first game in an ACU uniform.

    More than anything it seemed each was determined to keep the other in the game. ACU had 14 penalties, mostly false starts and illegal procedures from a group breaking in six new starters. It felt like 114. I commented on the air that it was the second time this week ACU had staged a Parade of Flags. Sadly, none from cool places like the Plurinational State of Bolivia. Only yellow ones that meant ACU had to move backward. Meanwhile, by throwing two goal-line interceptions - in the final 30 seconds of each half - and missing two very makeable field goals, Tarleton squandered anywhere from 12-20 points.

    Both teams have a lot to work on. It's just that ACU gets to work on its stuff at 1-0 - overall and, more important, in the Lone Star Conference. Forget about style points. On a night when West Texas A&M lost at home to Colorado State-Pueblo, 26-24, the only points that matter are the ones on the scoreboard. And ACU had three more than Tarleton Thursday.

    A few other observations:

    Mitchell Gale. Last year's player of the year finalist was 26-of-49 for 335 yards, 3 TDs and 2 INTs. He matched his regular season interception total from 2010 in the first 47 minutes of 2011. They weren't tipped balls either. More of a combination of miscommunication and poor decision-making. He also overthrew (his bugaboo) a wide-open Taylor Gabriel on a deep route in the second half that likely would have been a touchdown and missed a couple of other receivers at different times who had gained a step on their defenders.

    On the other hand, he was running for his life nearly every other play as his offensive line struggled to keep a quick-footed Tarleton defensive front at bay. He was only sacked once but was credited with 10 carries for 25 yards. When your drop-back QB is your second leading ball carrier, your backup better keep his helmet handy. To be fair, Gale was breaking in three new starters (Gabriel, Darian Hogg and Darrell Cantu-Harkless), another who has played sparingly (Austin Kessler) and two more who were suiting up for the first time (transfers Ron Gaudin and Andrew Richards). So what looks like a bad throw may have been exactly where it was supposed to be and the receiver may have been in the wrong spot.

    Say this, when ACU needed a score, Gale delivered what amounted (after a holding penalty) to a 76-yard touchdown drive in the closing two minutes, capped by a heads-up forward heave to Daryl Richardson who looked very much like big brother Bernard Scott in using his strength, speed and savvy to find the end zone.

    Defense. Wildcats fans have seen the team's regular season defense steadily improve through the years, only to get gouged in the postseason. ACU has given up 76 (3 OT), 45, 35 and 55 points in their last four playoff losses. Last year's defensive strength was its senior linebacking corps of Kevin Washington, Eric Edwards, Bryson Lewis, Courtney Lane and Casey Carr. I didn't call the names of this year's LBs, seniors Nate Baggs and Derek Odelusi, sophomore Thor Woerner, redshirt freshmen Cy Wilson (who did have a sack on his very first play as a Wildcat) and Nick Richardson and transfer Jesse Harper, very often. (As indicated earlier, Drummond had an exceptional game, but by the end he was lining up as a defensive tackle.)

    Fortunately for ACU, its defensive line was tremendous. Ryan Smith had three of ACU's eight game-changing sacks, not to mention a heart-melting postgame testimony of how grateful he is to be at ACU and how he plays for an audience of One. And Aston Whiteside and Donald Moore were constantly in the Texans' backfield, even late in a game played in excruciating heat. It's hard to completely shut down that Texas Tech-style spread offense, and Tarleton's version gave ACU trouble. Consider that the Texans' 391 total yards and 52 yards rushing includes the -43 that goes on Stephens' ledger. (College football counts yards lost on sacks against the rushing total; the NFL takes minus sack yardage from a QB's passing yards.) So the two Tarleton RBs - Evan Robertson and Brandon Lowery (3 TDs) - actually combined to rush 21 times for 90 net yards. And Stephens threw for 339 yards. That's pretty good.

    The 'Cats will see that wide open offense again this year at least twice (ENMU and WT on Oct. 8 and 15). They need to improve. Way too many blown coverages. But again, like Gale, when the defensive players had to make a play, they did.

    Special teams. Spencer Covey, whom I twice during the broadcast renamed "Stephen," knows there is really only One Habit of a Highly Effective Kickoff Specialist, and that's booting the ball through the end zone. He led all of college football in touchbacks last season (39) and was 2 for his first 2 Thursday night. But when his kickoffs and punts (first year as starting punter) were returned, they came out a long way. Both coverage teams gave up a couple of biggies. And after ACU curiously attempted a 55-yard field goal into a slight breeze in the final minute of the first half, Tarleton's Tad Hill even brought back that kick (which came up short) nearly 70 yards to give the Texans a great chance to score. Junior Morgan Lineberry was 2 for 3 kicking field goals, including a clutch 39-yarder with 6:35 to go in the 4th to pull ACU within 24-20, and 3 for 3 on PATs. Covey also did a nice job corralling a couple of errant snaps to give Lineberry a good hold.

    Resilience. There aren't a whole lot of teams in Division II who have played in more big games the last five seasons than ACU. Last night felt big and really it was big, especially when you consider each of the nine teams in the newly-contracted LSC plays each other this year. There is much to be said for finding a way to win, even when you haven't played your best.

    But I've already said much, so I'll stop with this final caveat: season openers in football are a crap shoot. Teams, especially on the college level and even more so in Division II which perennially sees a heavy influx of D1 transfers, never exactly know what they have. Tarleton now knows it has a much better team than it had last year. We'll see whether or not what ACU has is enough to make it back to the playoffs for a sixth straight year.

    I don't know if this team is good enough to make a run at a national championship, but I know this one thing for sure: you'll sooner see Matt Wayne & Company perform at Sing Song than see a Chris Thomsen team go down without a fight.

    And THAT'S why we need an on-campus stadium!

    Thursday, September 1, 2011

    Final: ACU 27, Tarleton 24

    ACU was driving deep in TSU territory for what looked like a potential score, but Mitchell Gale's pass was intercepted at the Texan 3. Gale threw only three INTs last season but was picked off twice tonight.

    Morgan Lineberry's 27-yard field goal with 6:15 left in the game closed the Tarleton lead to 24-20.

    ACU's defense rose up, sacking TSU QB Stephens on consecutive plays with about 3 minutes remaining, forcing the Texans to punt.

    Then, The Drive.

    Starting at his own 34 with 2:01 remaining, Mitchell Gale led a gutsy march downfield, completing clutch passes along the way to Darian Hogg for 39 yards and Taylor Gabriel for 16 yards. On first and 10 from the Tarleton 23-yard line with 1:09 remaining, Gale scrambled up the middle before completing a shuttle pass to senior running back Daryl Richardson, who scampered in for a touchdown. Lineberry's PAT was good, and ACU had climbed what had looked for all the world as a too-tall mountain, leading 27-24.

    The Texans were not through. Stephens led his team down to the ACU 5-yard line, and with 8 seconds left, chose to run one more play instead of attempting a game-tying field goal. Nate Bailey, a senior cornerback, intercepted the pass at the 3 as time expired, preserving the win.