By Daniel Johnson, Sports Editor
Running back Taber Minner ran in a 76-yard touchdown to give ACU a 15-point lead over West Texas A&M with eight minutes left in ACU’s first NCAA playoff appearance.
Fans leaving early thought it was over and so did Minner.
“I took my rib cage protector off and I thought the game was over,” Minner said.
But it was far from it.
The run would be the last time ACU would score.
West Texas came from behind to beat ACU 30-27 in overtime on Saturday after scoring 15 unanswered points in the last eight minutes of regulation.
Although ACU led the throughout game, WTAM quarterback Dalton Bell threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to come from behind and send the game to overtime.
“We never stopped believing,” said Bell.
Bell’s fourth quarter comeback started with a 17-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Charly Martin, which was followed by another Bell-Martin connection for a two-point conversion. The scores put the Buffs’ within seven points of the Wildcats.
ACU punted and Bell went to work again, this time with a 50-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Ramon Perry. The extra point tied the game and eventually sent it to overtime.
After holding West Texas to a field goal in overtime, ACU had to score a touchdown to win the game. But with starting quarterback Billy Malone out with a strained rib cage, quarterback Nick Bird was unable to get the Wildcats in the end zone and ACU needed a field goal to force a second overtime.
The Buffs’ blocked the 34-yard field goal attempt to end the game.
“They made a good play, you got to give them credit,” said head coach Chris Thomsen.
Bell’s fourth quarter touchdown passes were two of three total as he threw for 410 yards. Martin had nine catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns while Perry’s touchdown catch was one of eight he had for 124 yards.
The game was the second time West Texas and ACU met this season. The first time ACU beat West Texas 49-33 in a nationally televised game during the regular season. Bell said that the win was big because of the loss the first time around.
“We came out and laid a turd on national T.V.,” Bell said. “But this time we came out and proved we could beat these guys.”
The loss put ACU’s overall record at 8-3 and ended one of the best seasons in ACU’s history.
ACU finished the season nationally ranked No. 22 and won eight games for the first time since 1981.
Malone made history of his own by breaking the single-season record for completions with his total of 245. The record was previously 228 and held by Rex Lambarti.
Malone threw for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver John Brock had seven catches for 88 yards and one touchdown. Minner led ACU in rushing with 123 yards.