By Daniel Johnson, Sports Editor
After winning four straight games by scoring more than 40 points and gathering more than 400 total offensive yards each time, the top-ranked ACU offense should continue to roll again in week six.
The No. 15 Wildcats, who have the 10th best offense in Division II, will take on a struggling 1-3 Northeastern Oklahoma State whose defense is ranked 10th in the 13-team Lone Star Conference.
But despite the statistical and ranking difference, head coach Chris Thomsen said Northeastern should still be a challenge for the Wildcats.
“I expect them to play at a high level,” Thomsen said. “There’s some concern on both sides of the ball. They’re a good football team, and we have to play well to win, so it’s a typical Lone Star Conference game.”
The Northeastern Riverhawks’ defense gives up an average 406.4 yards per game and has given up 15 touchdowns this season. Although Northeastern is undefeated in the LSC North after downing East Central in its division opener, it lost all of its season games against other LSC South teams – No. 10 West Texas A&M, No. 12 Midwestern State and Eastern New Mexico.
Senior wide receiver Jerale Badon attributes ACU’s 4-1 success to simply hard work.
“It’s just because we’re working so hard at practice, just going out every day and working hard,” Badon said.
Badon and fellow wide receiver Johnny Knox provide two tough threats that no defense has been able to shut down at the same time, and Northeastern shouldn’t be the first team to do so.
The Riverhawks’ biggest defensive weakness is its pass defense. Ranked second to last in the LSC, Northeastern’s pass defense allows an average of 257 yards a game and has given up 10 passing touchdowns this season.
Northeastern isn’t the best against the run either, giving up an average 149.4 yards per game. Badon and Knox have combined for nine of ACU’s 14 passing touchdowns, and each average
more than 75 yards receiving per game. Junior quarterback Billy Malone averages 253.2 yards per game and has thrown 14 passing touchdowns this season.
But despite the chance for another ACU blowout victory, Badon isn’t overconfident.
“We just want to stay humble,” Badon said.
One of biggest reasons ACU’s offense is doing so well right now is junior running back Bernard Scott. Scott’s game average of 146.2 yards per game is No. 10 in the nation, and he is No. 9 in the nation in scoring. Scott rushed for over 100 yards and scored at least a touchdown in ACU’s four wins and has a season rushing total of 731 yards.
“He’s a big part of the offense,” Badon said of Scott. “He gets the game going on a good pace when he breaks long runs, and he’s becoming a good spark and leader on the team.”
But Scott isn’t the only rushing weapon the Wildcats have.
Both backup running backs, junior Taber Minner and freshman Kebron Lampkin average more than 40 yards per game and each have found the end zone at least once.
The combination of all the Wildcats’ offensive weapons have helped ACU score 198 points in its first five games.
Northeastern’s offense, which is ranked second to last in scoring in the LSC, should have trouble scoring on a solid ACU defense that held back the No. 1 rushing team in the nation, Eastern New Mexico, last Saturday. Northeastern, despite winning its first game of the season last week, is only averaging 11 points and barely 250 offensive yards per game.
Another big advantage is that ACU, who is 4-1, is playing at home. The Wildcats are undefeated at home and average 505.5 yards and 43 points in its two games this season at Shotwell Stadium.
“I think it’s a big part of this weekend’s game for the fans to be there and us preparing well,” Badon said. “It will be a great combination.”
ACU and Northeastern will kick off at 6 p.m. at Shotwell Stadium.