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 thing good about ACU’s home closer against Texas A&M-Kingsville on Saturday; the Javelinas couldn’t stop ACU’s offense.
“It was almost to the point where I’m on the bench and hoping they’ll take a little longer before they score,” Stutts said.
ACU’s defense made a third-quarter stand that allowed the Wildcats to go on a second-half scoring surge that put the No. 19 Wildcats past the Javelinas 59-31.
ACU racked up 675 yards of total offense, scored the most points it ever has 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 is now 8-2 overall and 4-1 in Lone Star Conference play, and will most likely stay in the top six of the NCAA Division II Southwest regional poll. Only the top six teams in the region make the playoffs.
The Wildcats will finish off the regular season in Wichita Falls against Midwestern State, a team that surprised the Wildcats last season. If ACU wins, a playoff spot is all but certain, but if the Wildcats lose they may lose their spot.
“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 ten 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” offensive coordinator Ken Collums said.
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.
Two of Malone’s touchdown passes were to junior wide receiver Johnny Knox. Knox finished the day with five catches for 173 yards, Knox’s longest catch was a 50-yard touchdown reception.
Kingsville trailed all game but came within four points of the Wildcats early in the third quarter, until ACU responded.
Junior place kicker Matt Adams started a second-half surge with a 40-yard field goal that put ACU up 31-24. Scott scurried 28 yards for his third touchdown of the game to give two-possession lead with 5:17 left in the third quarter. Malone threw a 50-yard touchdown to junior wide receiver Johnny Knox to put ACU up 45-24. Scott ran for his fourth touchdown of the day, this time a 3-yard score to put ACU over the half-century mark with a 52-24 and freshman running back Kebron Lampkin ended the surge 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.
“Our guys really responded,” said head coach Chris Thomsen. “Our seniors led the charge and Bernard 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.
“I expected them to come out and test the secondary,” Jordan said.
In the first half, ACU wasted little time getting in the end zone, taking an early 7-0 lead after Scott jogged 13 yards into the end zone to cap off an eight-play drive that took less than three minutes.
ACU got the ball back after Cody Stutts dove backwards and intercepted a pass from Garza to give ACU the ball back on its own 26-yard line. ACU capitalized off of the turnover and pulled ahead 14-0 with 7:38 left in the first quarter after Kebron Lampkin scurried in for the 3-yard score.
Kingsville received prime field position after a 15-yard late-hit penalty put the Javelinas at the ACU 11-yard line. But ACU’s defense forced Kingsville to settle for a 27-yard field goal that dropped ACU’s lead to 14-3 late in the first quarter.
On the first play of the second quarter Malone connected with junior wide receiver Johnny Knox in the middle of the field, and Knox ran the rest of the way for a 44-yard touchdown that put ACU up 21-3 with 14:52 remaining in the first half.
Kingsville picked at ACU’s lead when Garza connected with tight end Chase Nesbitt for a 36-yard score at 9:09 in the second quarter. The scrambling throw that Nesbitt caught in the bottom corner of the end zone dropped the Wildcats lead to 21-10.
Scott broke away for a 55-yard touchdown, his second of the day, and ACU’s lead bumped up to 28-10, halfway through the second quarter.
Garza left the game and did not come back in after injuring his knee.
Kingsville received prime field position after a double-penalty, pass interference and roughing the passer, gave the Javelinas 30 free yards that put them on ACU’s 45-yard line. Another ACU penalty put them on the 14-yard line and Ramirez capitalized, connecting with tight end for a touchdown to drop ACU’s lead to 28-17 at the end of the second quarter.
Penalties continued to hurt the Wildcats in the second half, and Kingsville capitalized at the beginning of the third quarter after Ramirez rushed in for a 2-yard touchdown to drop ACU’s lead to 28-24.