By Joel Weckerly, Sports Editor
For the first time since its season opener, the 1-3 Wildcat football team returns home Saturday to face Lone Star Conference North opponent Central Oklahoma.
When the Cats last played at Shotwell Stadium on Sept. 7, they fell 31-17 to Central Arkansas. Coming off a 20-19 road victory over conference rival Eastern New Mexico, Coach Gary Gaines said the team is anxious to return to its own turf.
“It’ll be a nice welcome home party,” Gaines said. “It’s been over a month since we’ve been here. We’re excited about getting to play in front of our home fans again.”
ACU and Central Oklahoma haven’t played since a 30-0 UCO win in Edmond, Okla., in 1998. The Bronchos are 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the LSC North after a last-second loss to Southwestern Oklahoma last week. They mix a run-oriented offense with a defense that has allowed only 10 touchdowns in five games.
“They’re a power running offensive football team,” Gaines said, “but they’ve always played excellent defense. They’re very defensive-minded.”
Senior strong safety Jerremy Dale anchors the defense, leading the squad with 50 tackles. On the offensive side of the ball, junior tailback Tarik Abdullah leads the team in rushing with 498 yards and six touchdowns. He averages 96.4 yards per game. An additional offensive spark comes from all-America wide receiver Dee Dee Carter. The junior leads the Bronchos with 18 catches for 274 total yards and15.2 per reception, adding big-play potential to a traditional offense.
Gaines said the ACU defense would prepare accordingly.
“We want to be able to stop the big play every time we can, but we’ve got to stop the running game first,” he said. “At the same time, we can’t commit so many people to stop the run that we give up big play after big play.”
The Wildcats, 1-0 in their division, are fresh off their last-second win last week in which kicker Eben Nelson booted the game-winning field goal and senior quarterback Colby Freeman received offensive player of the week honors in the LSC South.
After surrendering 65 points in its first two games, the ACU defense has allowed just 31 in the last two, an average of 15.5 per game.
“Our defense has been doing really well by not giving up a lot of points,” Gaines said. “We’re getting the big plays offensively and the special teams are playing well. Those things really help.”
Central Oklahoma’s last visit to Shotwell Stadium in 1997 resulted in a 28-0 Bronchos’ win. ACU will try to turn the tables Saturday with a 7 p.m. kickoff.