The ACU football team turned the ball over four times in a tough 38-21 loss Saturday to conference opponent Sam Houston State, falling to 4-5 overall with a 2-3 conference record.
The Wildcats came out slow to start the game, as the Bearkats jumped out to an early 10-0 second quarter lead. ACU’s offense attempted to answer on the next drive when quarterback Parker McKenzie threw an interception to Bearkat defensive back Eric Agbaroji, leading to a 28-yard return for a Sam Houston touchdown to make it 17-0 Bearkats.
ACU would drive down and cut the deficit back to 10 with a De’Andre Brown 5-yard touchdown run. The following drive would result in another touchdown, as McKenzie hit tight end Noah Cheshier for a 64-yard touchdown pass, making it 17-14 Sam Houston.
The comeback would stop there as Sam Houston scored 21 unanswered points and pulled away. SHSU’s defense would also score its second defensive touchdown of the afternoon on a 27-yard fumble return for a touchdown by A.J. Davis. Utility player Jonathan Epps would cut the deficit down late for ACU with his first touchdown catch of the season.
The Wildcats went stride for stride offensively with the Bearkats, putting up 445 yards to Sam Houston’s 452. The turnovers, however, cost the Wildcat 14 points, as the team lost three fumbles and threw an interception. ACU entered the game without losing a fumble and with only five total turnovers on the year.
McKenzie finished the game 29-for-44 for 385 yards with two touchdowns and one pick on the day. McKenzie was pressured all day as he lost two fumbles and was sacked five times.
“They are a great defense,” head coach Ken Collums said. “This is the best defensive line we have played all year. Offensively, I am embarrassed by the way we didn’t protect the ball.”
The receiving corps put together a complete game, with five different players recording multiple catches. Receiver Cedric Gilbert led the way with eight receptions for 98 yards. Demarcus Thompson and running back De’Andre Brown both had five catches, Thompson with 70 yards and Brown with 40 yards. Epps had one reception for a touchdown and Cheshier had two catches for 73 yards and a touchdown.
“I felt the receiving corps did pretty well,” Gilbert said. “There weren’t many dropped balls and I felt like we had a pretty good game.”
The running game was ineffective for most of the game as they carried 22 times for 31 yards and one touchdown. The sack yardage affected those numbers heavily, with McKenzie losing 30 yards on the day.
True freshman lineback Sam Denmark led the way for the defense with 14 total tackles but left late in the game with what appeared to be an ankle injury. Fellow linebacker senior Justin Stephens followed with 12 total tackles. The defense did not force a turnover or record a sack all day as sophomore quarterback Jared Johnson had 363 total yards. However, the defense did only give up 24 points as the offense gave away 14.
“I am so proud of our defense,” Collums said. “We forced three-and-out after three-and-out and that gives you a chance to win.”
The Wildcats will prepare for a matchup against the University of Central Arkansas (5-4, 4-1) next Saturday at Clark Stadium in Plano.