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.