By Joel Weckerly, Sports Editor
The ACU football team outran and outpassed unbeaten opponent Central Oklahoma in Saturday’s Lone Star Conference crossover game in Edmond, Okla., but couldn’t seem to outscore the Bronchos-who took advantage of ACU’s numerous mistakes and prevailed, 17-14.
UCO all but handed ACU the football game, but the nervous Wildcats let it get away with these mental mistakes: two missed field goals by junior kicker Eben Nelson (one blocked, one missed-both in the first quarter); a bad snap on a second-quarter field goal attempt that resulted in a 32-yard loss; seven dropped passes-a week after dropping 10 against Eastern New Mexico; three trips inside the UCO red zone with no scores; and two penalties on UCO’s time-killing drive late in the fourth quarter.
Additionally, a breakdown on special teams in the second quarter allowed UCO’s Chad McGaugh to return a punt 85 yards for a touchdown.
“I thought we should have won the game,” ACU head coach Gary Gaines said. “I thought that going in. If you look at those field goals, there’s potentially nine points. We had some breakdowns in special teams. Really, that’s where the game went.
“That’s why special teams is one of those phases of the game that will always jump up and bite you,” he said. “It beats you quicker than any other part of the game.”
ACU senior quarterback Colby Freeman, who completed16 of 44 passes for 202 yards and ran for 43, was disappointed following the loss.
“The whole performance was one big missed opportunity,” he said. “To know you had all the chances in the world to win and you didn’t… as hard as we’ve worked, it’s a sick feeling.”
Gaines said the dropped passes-which last week he called “drive-killers” are becoming a problem.
“That’s a big factor offensively,” he said. “Too many, for sure. If I had a solution for it, I’d fix it. We just gotta do better; that’s all there is to it.”
Freeman, who was on the throwing side of those incompletions, expressed his disdain.
“It’s frustrating to me,” he said, “but it’s not any more frustrating than when I don’t hit an open receiver. I have a lot of respect for our wide receivers and there’s not a doubt in my mind that they’re trying their hardest.”
ACU outrushed the Bronchos-171 yards to 158-and outpassed them-202 to 177-while also moving the first-down chains with much more efficiency- 25 to 15.
Senior starting running back Richard Whitaker went down with a hurt ankle late in the first quarter, but not before picking up 50 yards on 10 carries. His replacement, senior Willie Williams, carried 22 times for 94 yards and one touchdown.
Defensively, Wildcat junior linebacker Randall Webb led all tacklers with 15 and now leads the team with 56 on the season. Redshirt freshman safety Danieal Manning and senior safety Dawon Gentry added nine tackles in the losing effort.
UCO’s passing game wasn’t much of a factor in the game, allowing junior running back Jarrod Manoy to carry the Bronchos on his back-gaining 98 yards on 29 carries with one touchdown run.
“[Our players] were disappointed,” Gaines said of his team’s mood following the loss. “It was one of those games that we played hard and gave an incredible effort. In a close game there’s not that many plays that determine the difference. We had some that weighed in their favor and that was the difference.”
While UCO improves to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in LSC play, the Wildcats drop to 2-3 overall and 1-2 in LSC play (they remain 1-0 in the LSC South Division). ACU stays on the road this Saturday against 2-4 Angelo State. The South Division game is also the Rams’ Homecoming game.
“I’m ready to go again,” Freeman said. “I’m ready to get back on the field.”