By Daniel Johnson, Sports Editor
ACU’s offense scored more than 40 points for the fourth-straight week as the No. 17 Wildcats won their Lone Star Conference South Division opener against Eastern New Mexico 45-20 Saturday night.
Although Greyhound quarterback and No. 1 rusher in the nation Michael Benton ran for two touchdowns and 149 yards against ACU, the Wildcats’ offensive production of 551 overall yards and six touchdowns was too much for the run-happy Greyhounds to keep up with.
“It’s just fun having so much depth on the field with so many play makers, it seems easier than last year,” said senior wide receiver Jerale Badon, who had a record-breaking night of his own.
Badon broke the LSC record for career receptions after catching a 36-yard grab down the left sideline for an ACU first down in the first quarter. Badon’s second catch of the game put his career total at 182 and broke the record held by former East Texas receiver Gary Compton since 1990. The record was the third one Badon broke this season; he broke the ACU record for career receptions on Sept. 1 and the ACU record for career receiving yards on Sept. 22.
Badon finished the night with six catches for 107 yards, his second game with more than 100 yards receiving this season and putting his career receptions total at 186.
“It’s just fun, it was a fun game,” the modest Badon said.
ACU extended its overall record to 4-1 and is now undefeated at 1-0 in LSC South Division play, something that ACU hopes to maintain if it wants to make the playoffs for the second-straight season in a row. Meanwhile ENMU drops to 4-1 overall and 0-1 in the LSC South.
“I think we want to just win every game, no matter what we are in the nation or in the LSC,” Badon said.
ENMU, who held the second-best rush defense in the LSC prior to the game, did little to slow down ACU junior running back Bernard Scott who rushed for 179 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. Scott, who was ranked No. 13 in rushing before the win, has rushed for more than 100 yards every game this season for a season total of 552 yards.
Despite a few mistakes junior quarterback Billy Malone threw another solid outing with a 272 yard performance and four touchdowns throws.
“I don’t think it’s gonna stop; we have more weapons that we can use,” said senior cornerback Corey Jordan. “We got a lot of people stepping up each week.”
ACU’s defense stepped up to hold the No. 1 rushing team in the nation to 344 yards on the ground, which is modest considering ENMU’s averages 403 yards per game. ACU also held Benton under his game average; Benton rushed for more than 40 yards below his average of 187.8 yards.
“You can never really practice live for their offense,” said linebacker Cody Stutts, who led ACU with 10 tackles and a fumble recovery. “I think our defense responded well and adjusted well.”
ACU took a 7-0 lead in less than two minutes when Malone connected with junior wide receiver Johnny Knox on ACU’s first drive. Knox leaped over an ENMU safety, caught the ball and tumbled to the back of the end zone for the 10-yard score.
After halting a desperate Greyhound fourth-and-14 attempt, ACU was unable to find the end zone and had to settle for a 21-yard field goal from junior place kicker Matt Adams to go up 10-0.
ACU’s defense shut down Benton in the first quarter, but Benton got through the ACU defense in the second period after surging into the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown with 11:16 left in the half to drop ACU’s lead to 10-7.
The Wildcats took back their ten-point lead after Malone connected with sophomore fullback Chris Conklin for a 6-yard score to put ACU up 17-7 with 7:36 left in the first half.
ENMU responded on defense when Greyhound linebacker Brandon Haug intercepted Malone and ran it back 41 yards for a touchdown to drop ACU’s lead to 17-14.
Junior running back Taber Minner ran in an 8-yard touchdown to extend ACU’s lead to 24-17. Minner ran for 49 yards in the 72-yard drive and set up his score with a 41-yard breakaway that he created himself after quickly switching directions when he met up with a Greyhound defender on the line of scrimmage.
The Wildcats racked up 334 yards of offense and held a 24-17 lead after the first half.
ACU’s offense kept rolling in the second half when Malone connected with Knox for his second passing touchdown, this time a 6-yard catch that put ACU up 31-14 with 7:40 left in the third quarter.
ACU kept the scoring surge going extending its lead to 38-14 after Scott scored a 1-yard touchdown with 1:02 remaining in the third period. Scott’s run in was set up by a 15-yard catch and run by wide receiver Edmund Gates to put ACU on the one-yard line.
ACU passed the 40-point mark after Malone connected with freshman running back Kebron Lampkin for a 13-yard score to put ACU up 45-14.
Benton rushed for a 4-yard touchdown on a slew of ACU defensive backups to drop ACU’s lead to 45-20 but the touchdown was too little too late.
ACU’s next game will be against LSC North opponent Northeastern Oklahoma State on Oct. 6 at Shotwell Stadium.