By Joel Weckerly, Sports Editor
After a nine-day break, the Wildcat football team is ready to play again. What’s more- it’s ready to play at home.
“I’m ready to play this week, man,” junior linebacker Shawn Taylor says eagerly. His right hand is covered in a blue cast, a visible reminder of strained ligaments he suffered in last week’s game against Central Arkansas-a game in which Taylor had 14 tackles and an interception return for a touchdown, but the Wildcats still lost.
So, despite the injury, Taylor will be starting in ACU’s home opener Saturday against
Fort Lewis (Colo.). He can’t afford not to; he and his teammates are too hungry.
“Yeah, you could say that,” Taylor said. “Last week[‘s 30-12 loss] gave us a wake-up call; it gave us a spark.”
The Wildcats are hoping the spark turns into a wildfire against Fort Lewis (0-1), a team they have never played before. The Skyhawks, who finished 3-8 in 2002, are coming off a 24-7 loss to No. 22 Central Washington last week. In that loss, Fort Lewis ran 58 plays: 55 of those were passing; just three were rushing.
“They’re certainly a passing team,” ACU head coach Gary Gaines said. “They’ll run a lot of four- and five-receiver sets, which means there will be a lot of footballs in the air.”
The one launching them will be senior quarterback Andrew Webb. Last season Webb led all of Division II in total offense (4,245) and passing yards (4,109) while completing 317 of 529 passes with 37 touchdowns.
To combat this, Gaines said his defense won’t change much from last week.
“We’ll blitz some but we’ll drop and cover some, too,” he said.
Gaines also said he’s counting on the offense to catch up to its potential soon.
“I’d like to see continued improvement in all phases: offense, defense and special teams,” Gaines said. “I’d like to see us take care of turnovers and play mostly error-free football.”
It’s a tall order, to say the least, but the priority at the top of this list for all coaches and players is to win-and win in front of a home crowd.
“We’re always excited to play at home,” Gaines said. “Hopefully the student body will come out and watch.”
Kickoff is 2 p.m. Saturday at Shotwell Stadium.