By Daniel Johnson, Sports Editor
After two failed PAT’s opened the door for a game-winning Tarleton State field goal in the Wildcats’ first loss of the season, head coach Chris Thomsen doesn’t want to let the same thing happen again.
“We’ve made some personnel changes to try and fix some things,” Thomsen said.
Among those personnel changes is the holder for field goals and extra points. Thomsen said quarterback John Brock, who currently punts for the Wildcats, will replace quarterback Nick Bird and take snaps for the Wildcats on special teams.
“We’re just giving another guy a shot,” Thomsen said.
The nationally ranked ACU football team still has its shot at making the NCAA Division II playoffs for the first time in the program’s history, but the team must win its two remaining games to secure a spot. If the No. 19 Wildcats win their last two games, they will finish 9-1 and win the Lone Star Conference Championships for the first time since 1977.
But before the Wildcats can celebrate, the team must overcome the first of two remaining obstacles this weekend as its hunt for the playoffs goes on the road to take on the last place Texas A&M-Kingsville Javelinas on Saturday.
“We just have to play at our highest level,” Thomsen said.
Unlike the Wildcats, the Javelinas are out of the playoff picture and assured their first losing season since 2000 after starting conference with a 0-4 record. The Javelinas’ latest loss was a 37-14 rout from Eastern New Mexico on Oct. 28.
Although the Wildcats must travel more than 400 miles to take on the Javelinas, offensive lineman Nathan Young said he prefers playing on the road.
“It’s easier to focus on the road,” Young said. “Being away from all the distractions at home and thinking about nothing but football helps you focus.”
ACU has been nothing but focused on the road this season, as the Wildcats are undefeated at 3-0, with their latest victory being a 49-33 rout of No. 12 West Texas A&M in front of in front of 13,641 fans.
Kingsville, who lost to ACU 19-3 the last time the two teams met, struggles this season because of youth and injury and will look to get their first win over the Wildcats.
The inexperienced Javelinas have been offensively unsuccessful throughout the season and are led by freshman quarterback Jeremy Heatly, who has only completed about 50 percent of his passes and thrown 10 interceptions this season.
The Kingsville defense has struggled just as much as its offense this season as it allowed an average of 32.6 points-per-game, 11 rushing yards-per-game.
“They’re a team that you want to kick them when they’re down,” Young said. “We need to beat up on them and get ready to play our best.”
Despite conceding their first loss of the season to Tarleton State and dropping in the national and regional rankings, the Wildcats continue to have one of the best offensive attacks in Division II football. Quarterback Billy Malone, who threw for 353 yards and four touchdowns in the loss, is fourth in the nation in passing efficiency and total offense and is fast approaching multiple university and conference passing records.
Wide receiver Jerale Badon broke a record of his own against Tarleton, as he had 14 catches for 147 yards. Badon is 11th in the nation for receptions-per-game and 16th for receiving yards-per-game.
ACU and Kingsville will kick off Saturday at 2 p.m. in Kingsville.