By Joel Weckerly, Sports Editor
It might’ve been Angelo State’s Homecoming, but after ACU’s 39-23 win in San Angelo Saturday, the Wildcats were the team that came home the happiest.
For the first time since 1983, ACU beat the Rams on their home turf and did so with a potent ground attack that starred two underrated running backs.
Junior Wil-lie Williams, starting in place of the injured Rich-ard Whitaker (ankle sprain), and freshman Mark Gaines, appearing in his first varsity game, torched ASU in front of 7,000 students and alumni.
Behind solid blocking from ACU’s offensive line, Williams led all rushers with 172 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries (7.2 avg.), while Gaines was second with 71 yards on 14 carries (5.1 avg.) and one score.
“I think Willie and Mark both did great at tailback,” ACU head coach Gary Gaines said. “It was good for them and gave them some confidence.
“We were proud of all our players,” he said. “They gave a great effort and played hard. The players prepared well for it all week long, and it was a good win.”
Gaines said beating his alma mater (ASU class of 1971) on its home field was rewarding, as well.
“Winning in San Angelo was something that had been a long time coming for us, and I’m certainly proud of it,” he said.
Williams, making his first start for the Wildcats, said he was at ease prior to the big game.
“I was very calm,” he said. “I wasn’t nervous or excited or anything. A lot of variables came together on Saturday and everything turned out all right.”
ACU got the rest of its points from a field goal by junior kicker Eben Nelson and three touchdown scampers from senior quarterback Colby Freeman.
Unfortunately, everything didn’t turn out for the Brownwood native, who also passed for 102 yards. Early in the second half, Freeman took a brutal hit on the tail end of a 3-yard touchdown run.
“I got hit in the elbow and got spun around…then I got hit hard in the back of the head,” Freeman said. “I was knocked out for a few seconds, and when I woke up I realized how bad my arm was hurting.”
Freeman left the game with the injury to his non-throwing arm and junior backup Greg Wiggins took his place. On Sunday, Freeman kept his arm in a sling before his Monday morning X-rays.
Despite the extremity of the pain, Freeman said he still wanted to start Saturday’s Homecoming game against Midwestern State.
“It hurts real bad,” he said. “When I straighten it out, it kills me. But I really think I’ll figure out some kind of way to be out there next week.”
Unfortunately, Monday’s X-ray results showed a fractured left forearm, head trainer Rick Fox said Monday afternoon.
“He’ll be out three weeks-minimum,” Fox said.
That said, the earliest Freeman can return to the field is ACU’s regular season finale Nov. 15 at West Texas A&M.
Still, despite the unpleasant tone the injury might give off, Williams said the Cats have new life after Saturday’s victory.
“I think we’re able to see what we can do as a team,” he said. “We’re really motivated right now. This should boost our self-esteem within our conference.”
The Wildcats are now 3-3 overall and 2-0 in the Lone Star Conference South Division.