By Daniel Johnson-Kim, Student Reporter
Quarterback Billy Malone’s best game began with his first fumble.
“I didn’t play good,” said a dissatisfied Malone, whose fumble dropped the Wildcats into a 15-point deficit, the biggest of the season.
The early mistake was soon forgotten as Malone tied the ACU and Lone Star Conference records for most touchdown passes in a single game and led the Wildcats to a 49-33 come-from-behind victory over formerly fourth ranked West Texas A&M Thursday.
Malone threw six touchdowns and 388 passing yards in front of a national television audience, 13,641 fans and former ACU standout, now NFL rookie, Danieal Manning, who flew in from Chicago.
But Malone wasn’t quick to forgive himself for his early mistake.
“My goal was to make good decisions 100 percent of the time and not have any turnovers,” Malone said.
Although he failed to meet his own expectations, Malone’s performance was good enough to pick up the Wildcats’ seventh straight win, securing the team’s spot atop the LSC standings and earning him LSC South Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Malone and the Wildcats are nationally ranked and undefeated in his second year.
“I’ve never been a part of something like this,” Malone said.
The last time “something like this” happened was in 1950 when ACU had its only unblemished record and first national championship.
Malone’s biggest target was wide receiver John Brock, who had four catches, three touchdowns and 160 receiving yards. Brock’s longest touchdown grab was an 84-yard, fourth-quarter bomb, and the hail-mary touchdown was one of two, as he pulled in a 64-yard grab for the Wildcats’ first score.
“We just found something in the defense,” Brock said. “This win really speaks for itself.”
Head coach Chris Thomsen said he wasn’t surprised his team did so well against such high caliber competition and he attributes all of his team’s fruits to the labor they put in at the beginning of the season.
“We want to play at the highest level,” Thomsen said. “That’s been our goal all year and we want to accomplish that no matter what.”
The Wildcat defense kept the nation’s second-best passing offense from playing at its highest level as they held WTAM in 11 of its 15 third down conversion attempts.
Outside linebacker Brandon Henry led the team with nine total tackles, while cornerback Quitin Wilson had the Wildcats’ only interception and defensive end Travis Carpenter added two more sacks to his conference-leading total of four.
Cornerback Corey Jordan said he knew from the beginning ACU would come out with the victory.
“We began preparing the day after we beat [Angelo State],” Jordan said. “This was just another game; that’s what we said all week.”
Other than the Wildcats’ defense, the biggest key that kept West Texas out of the endzone was West Texas, as the Buffs had 12 penalties for a loss of 143 yards.
The Wildcats have a chance to go 8-0 when they take on Tarleton State at 7 p.m. Saturday.
ACU and Tarleton are both 3-0 in LSC South competition and are tied for first in the division.