By Daniel Johnson, Sports Editor
Before playing the Wildcats, Eastern New Mexico quarterback Michael Benton led the LSC in rushing with 162.7 yards-per-game and 7.1 yards-per-carry. Against ACU, he rushed for -4 yards.
The No. 23 ACU football team is 4-0 for the first time since 1983 after shutting out an opponent for the second week in a row in its 21-0 win over Eastern New Mexico University.
The Wildcat defense pitched its second straight shutout for the first time since 1976 and hasn’t been scored against in 10 quarters. The Wildcats are 73-0 in their last 10 quarters since shutting out Southeastern Oklahoma State in the second half of their 55-14 win on Sept. 16.
“We put together a package and adapted our play to what they did,” said defensive coordinator Jason Johns.
The biggest threat the Wildcat defense adapted to was the rushing attack of Benton. The Wildcats held Benton to less than 100 yards on the ground, a feat that has only happened three times in his last 14 games.
ACU’s defense held Benton and the Greyhounds to 181 yards of offense and forced three fumbles in the win and both linebackers Cody Stutts and Marcus Brown recorded two sacks.
ENMU’s biggest opportunity to score came through a last-minute second quarter 79-yard drive. Benton drove his offense down the field only to be intercepted inches away from the end zone by defensive back Tony Harp. Harp’s interception thwarted one of the Greyhounds’ only chances to make it on the scoreboard and help protect the Wildcats’ scoreless streak.
Stutts led the defense with 15 tackles and was named LSC South defensive player of the week for his performance.
Although Stutts and Brown helped lead the way in the shutout, Johns attributed the defenses success to an overall consistent performance.
“Each defensive unit came up big,” Johns said. “There was no one player that we had to depend on to make plays.”
ACU’s first touchdown drive began after Jody Walker forced and recovered a fumble on ENMU’s first play of the game. Quarterback Billy Malone connected with wide receiver Tyjuan Manning on a 13-yard fade pass to complete the 30-yard drive.
The Wildcats scored again on a 78 yard drive late in the first half. Malone, who was 19 of 29 for 255 yards, connected with wide receiver Jarale Badon twice for 37 yards and once with wide receiver Chris Morris for a 21-yard catch one yard away from the end zone. Running back Chancy Campbell completed the drive by plummeting through the line for a one-yard touchdown and extending the Wildcats lead to 14-0.
Malone and Badon connected for another big drive for the Wildcats’ final score. On third and 29, Malone found Badon wide open in the middle of the field for a 37-yard catch and he was tackled on the two-yard line. Campbell finished the drive three plays later with another touchdown.
Badon finished the night with seven catches for 148 yards to push him to fifth place on the ACU all-time receptions list with 122 catches.
“Jarale has great preparation in and out of season,” said head coach Chris Thomsen. “He’s the hardest worker I’ve ever coached, and all his results come from his work ethic.”
The Wildcats will travel to Tahlequah, Okla.., on Oct. 7 for their second straight road game, this time against Northeastern Oklahoma State.