By Michael Freeman, Assistant Sports Editor
ACU jumped one spot in the NCAA Division II national poll to No. 14 thanks to a dominating 58-7 victory over Northeastern State at Shotwell Stadium on Saturday.
The Wildcats, ranked No. 8 in the Southwest Region, pushed its record to 5-1 overall and 4-0 in the Lone Star Conference with the win. Meanwhile, the River- Hawks fell to 1-5 overall and 1-4 in conference play.
“I thought that they did a good job at just coming out with a really good focus on what they had to do,” head coach Chris Thomsen said. “That’s what I’m most proud of them is each week they’re coming out with great intensity and focus.”
The victory marked the Wildcats’ fifth straight game scoring 40 points or more with 51 of those points coming in the first half.
The Wildcats’ first 51 points scored set a schoolrecord for points in a half, breaking the old record of 47 points set on Oct. 23, 1993 as ACU defeated Tarleton State 57-15. And ACU’s 58 points for the game were the most scored by an ACU football team since Oct. 10, 1970, when the Wildcats defeated Eastern New Mexico, 61-7.
Junior quarterback Billy Malone played for only the first half in Saturday’s record- breaking game as he efficiently completed 17 of 24 passes, threw for 343 yards and four touchdowns and helped give ACU to a 51-0 lead at halftime.
“We came out focused,” Malone said. “We just wanted to come out and make a statement right off the bat.”
In the first half, ACU’s dynamic offense, ranked No. 9 in the nation in scoring, converted all eight of its possessions into scores. ACU began its offensive onslaught with a 29-yard field goal by junior a 29-yard field goal by junior kicker Matt Adams with 9:31 remaining in the first quarter. Two minutes later, freshman wide receiver Edmund Gates ran a 29-yard end around off a handoff from Malone.
Northeastern senior quarterback Joe Hogan started the game for the River- Hawks. But after going down 10-0 in the first eight minutes of the game, Northeastern turned to junior quarterback Jarrett Beal. However, the switch did not help the RiverHawks as the Wildcats scored again on a 15-yard pass from Malone to freshman running back Kebron Lampkin. ACU was up 17-0 after the first quarter.
“We tried to kill them before they killed us,” Lampkin said.
Lampkin did plenty of killing himself as the 15-yard touchdown reception was just his first of three touchdowns in the game. His second score came late in the second quarter and didn’t happen before ACU tacked on three more touchdowns.
Junior wide receivers Rodney Freeman and Johnny Knox each caught a touchdown in the first seven minutes of the second quarter. Junior running back Bernard Scott also capped off an 11- play, 58-yard drive with a 2-yard run for a touchdown. Scott finished the game with 32 yards rushing, 66 yards receiving and one touchdown.
The Wildcats took full advantage of the River- Hawks’ mistakes. Northeastern turned the ball over five times in the game, each
leading to ACU points.
“The defense did well. Those guys come out with a great passion,” Thomsen said. “They’re getting better every week.”
The Wildcat defense caused trouble for the Northeastern quarterbacks as Hogan threw three interceptions, while Beal threw one and also fumbled once. ACU defenders Josh Henry, E.J. Whitley, Tony Harp and Josh Wise each had an interception. And freshman linebacker Fred Thompson recovered the fumble. The Wildcats allowed the second fewest point total by an opponent this season as Northeastern posted seven points. ACU held Southeastern Oklahoma State to only three points on Sept. 15.
ACU finished up the first half with two more touchdowns, both scored by Lampkin. Lampkin ended up with 90 yards rushing and 17 yards receiving to go along with his three touchdowns. With his scores, the Wildcats went into halftime leading 51-0.
“We were able to throw the ball,” Malone said. “It was really good.”
Backup junior quarterback Nick Bird started the second half for ACU. With him, coach Chris Thomsen played his bench and sat his 22 starters for the rest of the game. Northeastern managed to get on the board in the third with a short rush by sophomore running back Josh Lewis, and ACU sophomore running back Patrick Washington countered the score by rushing into the end zone in the fourth.
ACU finished the game with 475 yards in total offense, while limiting the RiverHawks to only 243 yards. ACU also gained more first downs with 20 over Northeastern’s 14.
The Wildcats will take its powerful offense on the road this Saturday against Angelo State. The game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.