By Joel Weckerly, Sports Editor
After dropping their first three games, Coach Gary Gaines and his Wildcats knew they’d have to win every one of their remaining seven games to have a shot at making the playoffs.
Five down, two to go.
The ACU football team climbed the next rung of its ladder to the postseason with a 47-6 crushing of Texas A&M-Commerce at Shotwell Stadium Saturday. The 41-point margin of victory was the largest for ACU since a 57-15 pounding of Tarleton State back in 1993.
“I’ve gotta be pleased with the performance that our guys had,” Gaines said. “I’d say it was the most complete victory we’ve had so far.”
In other words, the Wildcats dominated all facets of the game. ACU’s offense racked up 415 yards of total offense on the day, while ACU’s defense held Commerce to 176 total yards, including a single rushing yard.
Senior running back Eric Polk led the Wildcat offensive attack with 140 rushing yards on 23 carries for three touchdowns.
Defensively, ACU racked up seven sacks on the seemingly helpless TAMC quarterback Justin Simons, who completed just 38 percent of his passes in the game. Sophomore linebacker Shawn Taylor was the defensive anchor, recording nine tackles, two and one-half sacks and a forced fumble. For his solid play, Taylor received the Lone Star Conference South defensive player-of-the-week award.
“It was an outstanding defensive effort for us,” Gaines said. “Our guys are committed to finishing the season up strong.”
Which they will need to do if they plan on making the playoffs. To enter the postseason, ACU must be one of the top four teams in the West Region Poll. According to this week’s poll, the Wildcats are ranked eighth, and can only keep winning to decide their fate.
With its most recent win, ACU moves to 4-0 in the LSC South and 5-3 overall. ACU was tied for first in the division with Texas A&M-Kingsville prior to Saturday, when the Javelinas lost 37-34 to South opponent Eastern New Mexico. The loss put Kingsville at 3-1 in the LSC South, leaving the Cats in sole possession of first.
“We were worried about what would happen in conference if Kingsville would’ve won out,” junior quarterback Colby Freeman said. “(Their loss) gives us a legitimate chance to win the conference outright.”
And Gaines said the Wildcats are heading in the right direction by taking their momentum and running with it into the close of the season.
“We’re peaking at the right time,” he said. “We still can improve, but we’re on track. I think we just need to improve as a team in every area.”
The Cats have two more games on their schedule. The first is Saturday in a crucial matchup with nationally-ranked Kingsville (No. 18 this week), which needs to knock off ACU to have any shot at a playoff bid. That game will be played in Kingsville, while the Cats’ last game of the season is set for Nov. 10 against last place West Texas A&M in Shotwell Stadium.
Freeman said the team knows what it has to do to be a postseason contender.
“We’re gonna have to win these last two games,” he said. “We know we’ll have to play our best game we’ve played all year, because the best we’ve played up to this point won’t do it.”