By Daniel Johnson, Sports Editor
In his final ACU home game, senior linebacker Cody Stutts nearly did it all.
Stutts got one interception, blocked a field goal, recovered a fumble and led the Wildcats with 11 tackles.
But the senior linebacker’s performance wasn’t the only good thing about ACU’s home closer against Texas A&M-Kingsville on Saturday; the Javelinas couldn’t stop ACU’s offense in the second half.
“It was almost to the point where I’m on the bench and hoping they’ll take a little longer before they score,” said Stutts, who was named Lone Star Conference South Division Player of the Week for his performance.
ACU’s defense made a thirdquarter stand that allowed the Wildcats to go on a second-half scoring surge that put the No. 17 Wildcats past the Javelinas 59-31 and lifted the Wildcats to 8-2 overall and 4-1 in LSC play.
The Wildcats racked up 675 yards of total offense, scored the most points they ever have against Kingsville and junior running back Bernard Scott recorded 276 all-purpose yards and scored four touchdowns to keep ACU in the hunt for a spot in the NCAA Division II playoffs. ACU moved up to No. 5 in the Southwest Regional poll, and with one game left on their regular season schedule, the Wildcats must win their final regular season game against Midwestern State on Saturday to make their second-straight playoff berth.
“We want to make the playoffs; we know we have to win out,” Scott said.
Scott has scored at least three touchdowns in five of ACU’s 10 games, and his four touchdowns against Kingsville put his season total at 27. The record-breaking rusher is only 10 touchdowns away from the ACU single- season record of 37 set by Wilbert Montgomery in 1973, and Scott’s 194 rushing game lifted his single-season total to 1,559. He is the only person in ACU history to ever rush for more than 1,500 yards and is already the school record holder for rushing yards in a single-season.
“He’s just a good player; wherever he is he’s productive” said offensive coordinator Ken Collums.
Junior quarterback Billy Malone was 20-31 for 362 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. Malone is 72 yards away from the LSC career passing yards record and has thrown a touchdown pass in 22 straight games.
The offensive effort pushed ACU to the top of the offensive rankings in Division II football. ACU now leads the league with a game average of 543.4 yards per game, which is five yards more than their final regular season opponent Midwestern State.
ACU also moved up two spots from No. 19 to No. 17 in the American Football Coaches’ Association national poll.
Kingsville trailed all game but came within four points of the Wildcats early in the third quarter, until ACU responded.
ACU scored 31 unanswered second-half points and kept the Javelinas from scoring until late in the fourth quarter, to win its final home game of the season.
It started with a 40-yard field goal from junior place kicker Matt Adams 31-24, then Scott scurried 28 yards for his third touchdown of the game, Malone threw a 50-yard touchdown to junior wide receiver Johnny Knox, Scott ran for his fourth touchdown of the day, this time a 3-yard score and freshman running back Kebron Lampkin ended the surge with his second touchdown, after sprinting to the edge of the end zone to put ACU up 59-24 with 11:31 left in the game.
At that point, the backups came in and Kingsville scored with 2:10 remaining in regulation.
“Our guys really responded,” said head coach Chris Thomsen. “Our seniors led the charge, and Bernard really got us going on the ground.”
ACU’s defense struggled against the pass but held Kingsville to only 126 yards on the ground. Despite losing starter David Garza to injury in the second quarter, Kingsville threw for 383 yards.
Kingsville dropped to 2-7 overall and 1-4 in LSC play.