By Daniel Johnson, Sports Editor
The ACU football team will check into a hotel in Abilene Friday night. But not for the chocolate mints on the pillows.
It’s to help the team block out all distractions before its final regular season game, which they must win to clinch a spot in the playoffs.
“We’re trying to create an isolated environment,” Thomsen said. “You can’t simulate playing on the road, but we can try and take some of that road fuel.Ó
The Wildcats are undefeated on the road, and with a Lone Star Conference championship and a playoff berth on the line, Thomsen said their ability to play at home with the highest level of focus is vital for their game against the Midwestern State Mustangs.
With a win Saturday, ACU will clinch both the conference championship and an automatic spot in the postseason. If ACU does make the playoffs it will be the program’s first time in the NCAA Division II postseason.
ACU is tied for first in the conference with West Texas A&M, with both teams at 7-1, and is No. 5 in the Southwest Region. Three more LSC South teams are ranked in Region, No. 4 Tarleton, No. 6 West Texas and No. 7 Midwestern, and all are vying for a spot in the playoffs. Only the top six teams in the region receive playoff bids. But Thomsen said that despite all the playoff talk he is only focusing on Midwestern.
“I’m kind of mad at listening to that kind of talk,” he said.
To be successful against Midwestern, Thomsen’s team must find a way to shut down the best rushing attack in the league and second best in the nation, starting with Mustang quarterback Daniel Polk. “We better improve in that area,” Thomsen said, “especially with what they’re able to do offensively.”
Polk averages 101.2 yards-per-game on the ground and 9.4 yards-per-carry. Polk has rushed for a total of 1,012 yards, which is 37-yards shy of Midwestern’s two running backs’ yards combined.
Midwestern running backs, Ross Harrison and Ulysses Odom also contribute to Midwestern’s conference-leading rushing offense. They combine for 1,059 rushing yards and each average more than 58 yards-per-game.
The ACU running defense slipped in its most recent win against Texas A&M-Kingsville.
Kingsville rushed for 240 yards against the Wildcats, which is more than twice as many yards than Kingsville averaged before the game.
If it comes down to an offensive battle, ACU quarterback Billy Malone is in prime position to lead his team to victory.
Malone is coming off of his career-best game of 404 yards and is ranked fourth in the nation for total offense.
The Wildcats and Mustangs will kick off at 2 p.m. Saturday at Shotwell Stadium.