By Daniel Johnson, Sports Editor
Wide receiver Jerale Badon made one catch in the second half against Texas A&M-Kingsville.
But it was the most important catch of the game.
After heading to the sideline with a first-half MCL sprain, an injured Badon returned with 14 seconds on the clock and caught a 34-yard pass to set up place kicker Matt Adams for a game-winning field goal.
“We weren’t going to play [Badon] unless we had to have him,” offensive coordinator Ken Collums said. “There is just something in him that is different.”
Adams’ 25-yard field goal ended a back-and-forth offensive battle and won the Wildcats the game 41-38. The win extended the Wildcats’ record to 8-1 and kept the program’s hopes for its first NCAA Division II playoff berth alive.
“I know I was praying,” head coach Chris Thomsen said. “I was praying for him to just have confidence and to just go out there and nail it.”
And nail it he did.
Adams was named Lone Star Conference South Division Special Teams Player of the Week after completing two of three field goals and booting the game winner on Saturday.
“They are the heroes this week,” Badon said about the special teams. “They stepped up and did what they had to do to win this game.”
The hero in Thomsen’s mind was quarterback Billy Malone.
“I was thinking about maybe kneeling the ball and playing for overtime,” Thomsen said. “But coach Collums talked me into going after it and reminded me how much confidence we had in Billy to come through.”
Malone, who drove the Wildcats 74 yards down the field into field goal position with 1:03 remaining on the clock, threw for career-best 404 yards and two touchdowns against Kingsville. Malone’s performance was the first time he has thrown for more than 400 yards in a game.
“That last drive he did exactly what you’re supposed to do,” Thomsen said. “And that’s the sign of a truly great quarterback; a guy that can do it in those types of situations.”
Two ACU receivers, Badon and wide receiver Chris Morris, both finished with more than 100 receiving yards. Morris led the Wildcats in catches with seven for 122 yards and a touchdown, while Badon made four grabs for 165 yards and one touchdown.
On the ground, running back Taber Minner led the Wildcats in rushing with 109 yards and two touchdowns. Chancy Campbell contributed with a touchdown of his own and 36 yards on the ground. Despite a pre-game average of 93 rushing yards, the Kingsville Javelinas’ biggest offensive weapon was its running attack. Kingsville rushed for 240 yards and two touchdowns.
Outside linebacker Marcus Brown led the Wildcats in tackles with nine, while cornerback Corey Jordan recorded his fourth interception this season and linebacker Brandon Henry recorded a pick of his own. Henry also had the Wildcats’ only sack against the Javelinas.
The Wildcats final regular season test will be in their final home game against Midwestern State on Saturday.
ACU moved up to No. 18 in the American Coaches Football Association national poll and remained at No. 5 in the Southwest Regional rankings.
The Wildcats must beat Midwestern to secure a spot in the playoffs and win its first outright conference championship.