By Joel Weckerly, Sports Editor
The ACU football team can play defense.
To say anything less after ACU’s narrow loss to nationally-ranked Tarleton State on Saturday would be absurd. The No. 7 Texans, who had been averaging 51 points a game, managed just a dozen against the Wildcat defense in a 12-9 victory at TSU.
“It was a great defensive effort,” ACU Coach Gary Gaines said. “It was the best defensive performance we’ve had in a long time.”
In Tarleton’s previous three games, the offense averaged 419 yards a game. On Saturday, it mustered just 255. TSU running back Olan Coleman, who was averaging 144 yards rushing per game, tallied 66 yards on Saturday.
The Wildcats showed an ama-zing spark on the defensive side of the ball, making 19 tackles for loss, in-tercepting two passes and re-cording five sacks. Sopho-more linebacker Shawn Tay-lor highlighted the ACU de-fense with 17 tackles of his own.
Unfortunately for ACU, Tarleton’s defense was just as dominant. The Texans allowed ACU just 183 yards of offense, including a mere 59 on the ground. Though the Cats’ nine points were more than Tarleton’s three previous opponents combined, it wasn’t good enough.
“Their defense really shut us down on offense,” Gaines said. “We couldn’t get a lot going. We made some dumb mistakes; we dropped six balls that could’ve been big plays, and that really hurt us.”
The Wildcats, who dropped to 0-3 with the loss, also missed a couple of other opportunities that could’ve been deciding factors against the now 4-0 Texans.
Toward the end of the second quarter, a Brad Walton interception return brought ACU to the Tarleton State 19-yard line. There, the Cats went three-and-out, and a field goal attempt by sophomore Eben Nelson went wide. Another kicking game flaw came in the fourth quarter, when Nelson’s point-after attempt was blocked following a Daray Sims touchdown catch.
“It was frustrating in a way,” Gaines said. “There were a lot of different ways we could’ve won, and the kicking game was one of them.”
The Wildcats were forced to try a field goal within the 20-yard line two times in the TSU loss.
“We can’t always rely on our kicking to win games for us,” Gaines said. “We need to cash in with touchdowns. Not scoring in the red zone is certainly a concern of ours.”
As was a second quarter chest injury to senior running back Eric Polk. Polk was averaging 109 yards in ACU’s first two games, but scraped together eight total yards before he went down with the injury.
“It’s too early to tell how bad it is,” Gaines said of Polk’s injury. “It’s not a major injury. He’ll have a little pain but hopefully he’ll get to practice some this week.”
ACU is idle this Saturday before kicking off its Lone Star Conference South schedule on the road at Eastern New Mexico on Saturday, Oct. 5.
“We need to take time this week and get our offense on the right page before conference starts up,” Gaines said.