By Joel Weckerly, Sports Editor
The ACU football team thought it would have its first unranked opponent this weekend when the Cats go on the road to take on Eastern New Mexico. But that was before the Greyhounds en-tered the Top 25 this week at No. 25.
Saturday’s Lone Star Conference South matchup with first place ENM (4-0) makes four ranked opponents in the Wildcats’ first four games. After losses to Central Arkansas, California-Davis and Tarleton State, ACU stands at last place in the LSC South with a 0-3 record.
“We’re not worried about where we’ve been, but where we’re gonna go,” said sophomore linebacker Shawn Taylor, who leads the team in tackles with 29. “Those losses were all non-conference games. This is the real deal here.”
The Wildcats kick off their six-game LSC South schedule against a high-octane ENM offense that has racked up 44.5 points and 464 yards of total offense per game against opponents this season.
Senior quarterback Heath Ridenour leads the Greyhound attack. The scrambling back leads the LSC South in passing efficiency with a 162.3 rating and in total offense with 204.8 yards per game. He is 26-for-51 passing with 503 yards and five touchdowns, and on the ground has 364 yards rushing with three TDs and a 79-yard game average.
“Ridenour is a great operator,” ACU Coach Gary Gaines said. “He’s an excellent runner and a good passer too. That offense has some magic.”
Taylor, who was the LSC Defensive Player of the Week after ACU’s last game, said the defense will focus on putting out ENM’s offensive fire.
“From watching them on film, the seem like a powerhouse running team,” Taylor said. “We need to get everybody running to the ball and making the big tackles.”
Gaines said the team is ready for the conference sche-dule to begin.
“The players are looking forward to conference,” he said. “It’s like a new season is beginning for us now. It’s a big step, and we’re ready for it.”
The Wildcats received a bye this past week, giving them a period of refocus and recuperation. Sophomore cornerback Corrian Thompson and junior safety David Jones had been out a couple weeks with inju-ries but will be back in the lineup on Saturday. Junior running back Eric Polk, who left the Tarleton State game with a shoulder injury, is also back in playing shape for ENMU.
“The week off helped us get some healing for some bumps and bruises,” Gaines said. “We did do some work on Eastern, but we tried to refine some fundamentals that we hadn’t been executing properly.”
The Cats have an impressive history against Eastern New Mexico. They have won the last three meetings against ENM, including last year’s 35-21 win at Shotwell Stadium on Sept. 29. Interestingly enough, the Greyhounds started off 4-0 in 2001 as well, but lost to ACU the following game.
Still, the Wildcats won’t rely on history to earn them a victory on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Greyhound Stadium.
“We just need to get the ball rolling this week and win some games,” Taylor said.