The ACU football team wrapped up their inaugural season as a Div. I football last Saturday, earning their eighth straight winning season and showing ACU fans the best is yet to come.
“Nobody is ever satisfied with losing more games than you win,” head coach Ken Collums said. “Having a winning season is a relief at some level because it should not have come down to one game. I am very proud of our wins in college football, but we could have won several more games easily. I am grateful for what these guys did this year. They laid the foundation for the future.”
The football team started their season by dropping 84 points on Concordia College. Signs pointed to ACU’s offense exploiting a team that was devoid of talent, but the rest of the year proved to be more of the same for one of the country’s best offenses.
The very next week, the Wildcats hung 60 on cross-town foe McMurry. ACU had two players go over 100 yards rushing when Charkandrick West and quarterback John David Baker cracked the century mark. As it turns out, the War Hawks would be better than everyone expected later on this year when they beat University of Texas San Antonio on the road.
Next, the Wildcats pounded a New Mexico Highlands team and had a 3-0 record heading into their first road game of the season.
ACU fell to Illinois State 31-1, but left ACU fans with a lot to be excited about. The Cardinals were the only team to slow down ACU’s offense all year long, but the fact that ACU did not get blown out and even had chances to win the game showed that the team was in a good spot.
However, the loss was the first of a three-game skid in which ACU lost in double overtime to rival Tarleton State and then followed that up with a loss against juggernaut Pitt State, leaving the Wildcats at 3-3 half way through the season.
Future Southland Conference competitor Houston Baptist was just what the doctor ordered for the Wildcats, who scored 69 points and got their defense rolling as well. The Wildcats gave up only 12 points and played even better the next week.
ACU’s Homecoming victory against Incarnate Word got the Wildcats to 5-3. The defense gave up only six points in the victory and ACU scored 40. A historic senior class won their final game in Shotwell.
Then ACU nearly won an ESPY against New Mexico State, completing a Hail Mary pass and lateralling the ball to star wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, who was knocked out of bounds at the six-yard line. But make no mistake, every team in the Southland Conference took notice at the way the Wildcats played against the biggest school on their schedule.
In San Antonio, untimely errors and atrocious officiating robbed ACU of their second win against Incarnate Word. The players and coaches cited mistakes as the reason they lost, but officials that barely knew what sport they were watching took three touchdowns off the board for ACU, which is obviously tough to overcome.
But at 5-5, the Wildcats faced off against the most established Div. I team on their schedule and answered the bell, running away with the game 65-45.
In 11 games, ACU faced the toughest schedule in recent memory but still managed to turn in another winning season. Baker accounted for an ACU record 40 touchdowns.
“What he did this year was really special,” Collums said. “The more he steps away from this season, I think the more it will mean to him. When you sit back and time goes by, he will realize what he put together this season was pretty special. It speaks to his preparation, competitiveness and love for the game.”
Darrell Cantu-Harkless finished his career with over 1,000 career rushing, receiving and kick return yardage. Cantu-Harkless is the only player in ACU history to do so.
West will leave ACU with the fourth most touchdowns in ACU history, and Taylor Gabriel walks away with in the top 10 receivers in ACU history in terms of yardage. Darian Hogg was a part of more than half of ACU’s 10 longest touchdown catches in ACU history. The trio of wide receivers was possibly the best group of receivers in ACU history, which is saying a lot.
Nick Richardson recorded double-digit sacks and Angel Lopez made over 100 tackles. Tyler Chapa intercepted two passes and returned them both for touchdowns. The middle-linebacker combination of Thor Woerner and Jesse Harper combined for 126 tackles.
Being the first Div. I team in school history is unique in itself. But the ability to turn in another winning season and rewrite the ACU record books in the process makes the 2013 ACU football team completely unforgettable.
“I am grateful for how these guys have grown as players and how they have grown as men,” Collums said. “They have learned how to win, but just as importantly as all of that, they have learned how to be men. I would hope that they would have a better chance to make it in the next chapter of life.”