By Joel Weckerly, Sports Editor
Both ACU and Lone Star Conference South opponent Texas A&M-Commerce have one thing in common-they haven’t had the seasons they were expected to have.
On one hand, the Wild-cats, who were picked to finish sixth out of seven teams in the LSC South, have reversed the prediction with their current share of first place in the division. On the other hand, Commerce was predicted to place in the middle of the pack, and has fallen short of its expectations with a 2-5 overall record and a 1-2 mark in the South.
“Commerce hasn’t had the year they were expected to have,” said ACU Coach Gary Gaines, “and that’s what makes them dangerous. They’re not barefooted by any means.”
Despite their poor record, the Lions have the second best defense in the LSC South behind Texas A&M-Kingsville. Commerce has given up a total of just 324.4 yards per game on the season. Senior linebackers Reggie Williams and Jesse Brooks anchor the TAMC defense with 70 and 63 tackles this year, respectively.
“What’s on paper doesn’t really mean anything,” Gaines said. “We’ve seen videos of them, and we’ve seen their athletic ability on those tapes.”
Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Clayton Farrell agreed.
“It’s amazing that their record is how it is because they have unbelievable athletes,” Farrell said. “We understand that they have a lot of good weapons on offense.”
Junior quarterback Justin Simons leads the Lions in passing, with 826 yards and six touchdown throws on 68 of 121 completions. His favorite target is senior wideout Cedric Bonner, who has 31 catches for 391 yards and two TD catches. Senior kicker Randy Weston is 9-for-13 in field goal attempts and 6-for-8 in extra point tries.
On ACU’s side is junior quarterback Colby Freeman. The Brownwood native has completed 92 of 158 passes for 1,339 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior running back Eric Polk is the team’s rushing leader with 622 yards and three touchdowns, while averaging 84.3 yards a game. Junior wide receiver DaRay Sims has 18 receptions for 338 yards and two touchdowns, as freshman receiver Don Hooks has caught 17 passes for 295 yards and three scores. Sophomore kicker Eben Nelson has converted nine of 13 field goal attempts and 13 of 15 point-after kicks this season.
Defensively, sophomore linebacker Shawn Taylor and senior defensive back Steven Riddley lead the team with 66 and 51 tackles apiece, respectively.
“I hope our guys are really focused on this game,” Gaines said. “For us to have a chance to win, we really have to put everything into it. I’ve been pleased with the way we’ve played the last month, but I would be disappointed in the team if they were pleased with the point they’re at right now.”
Farrell said the 4-3 Wildcats are confident after four straight wins, but are not overconfident going into Saturday’s game. n
“We’re excited right now,” he said. “We know we have a chance to win conference and go to the playoffs, but we’re not looking past any teams. We’re a lot more serious about winning games.”
Gaines said the only change for Saturday’s game is freshman linebacker Matt Allen for junior Larry Conway, who is out with a sprained ankle.
Saturday’s game against Texas A&M-Commerce kicks off at 2 p.m. in Shotwell Stadium.