By Michael Freeman, Assistant Sports Editor
ACU converted its first eight possessions into scores Saturday night as the Wildcats crushed Northeastern State 58-7 at Shotwell Stadium. The win gave No. 15 ACU its fifth straight win, and pushed its record to 5-1 overall and 4-0 in the Lone Star Conference, while the RiverHawks fell to 1-5 overall and 1-4 in conference play. The victory also marked the Wildcats’ fifth straight game scoring 40 points or more.
ACU’s 58 points scored 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 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 the halftime.
“We came out focused,” Malone said. “We just wanted to come out and make a statement right off the bat.”
ACU began its offensive onslaught with 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. Both drives began in RiverHawk territory. In the first half, half of ACU’s eight possessions started on Northeastern’s side of the field.
Northeastern senior quarterback Joe Hogan started the game for the RiverHawks. 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 with 2:44 left in the first quarter. 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.
With 13:39 in the second, Malone fired a 16-yard pass over the middle to junior wide receiver Rodney Freeman. Then at the 9:16 mark, the Wildcats capped off an 11-play, 58-yard drive with a 2-yard run by junior running back Bernard Scott. Scott finished the game with 32 yards rushing, 66 yards receiving and one touchdown.
Less than a minute later and following a Northeastern fumble, ACU scored again as Malone tossed an 18-yard pass to junior wide receiver Johnny Knox. Knox finished the game with 80 yards receiving.
The Wildcats took full advantage of the RiverHawks’ mistakes. Northeastern turned the ball over five times in the game, each leading to ACU points.
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.
ACU finished up the first half with two more touchdowns, both scored by Lampkin. The first came when Lampkin trotted one yard into the end zone with 5:09 left in the half. Then with 2:15 left, Lampkin broke a tackle after catching a pass from Malone, and raced down the sideline for a 75-yard score. 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. But the Wildcats didn’t score again until late in the fourth quarter. However Northeastern managed to get on the board in the third. Sophomore running back Josh Lewis ran seven yards into the end zone with 5:25 left to give the RiverHawks its only score of the game. ACU scored for the final time with 2:40 remaining in the game as sophomore running back Patrick Washington rumbled three yards into the end zone to put the Wildcats up 58-7.
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 high-octane offense on the road this Saturday against Angelo State. The game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.