The Wildcats leaned on the defense Thursday night to pull off an upset over Northwestern Missouri State 19-14.
The much-anticipated game between the Wildcats and the Bearcats was delayed more than an hour because of a lightning storm, and the ensuing game was not much prettier.
The storm tore down tents, banners and signs, and sent fans to their cars. Shotwell Stadium took its shots as well. The North end zone bleachers were blown onto the field during the storm.
With the help of almost 75 students and staff personnel the bleachers were moved back off the field. 50 minutes after the last lightning flash within eight miles Shotwell, the game was under way.
The Wildcats’ defense was the story of the game.
“Our defense came out an executed the game plan,” Defensive Coordinator Jason Johns said. “They made the plays, and held on when it got rough at the end.”
On the Bearcats’ first possession the ACU defense forced a three and out. On the following punt attempt, the center’s snap was high and sailed into the end zone, giving the Wildcats a safety.
The defense continued its dominance when the Bearcats dropped a handoff, and Arthur Johnson returned the ball for a touchdown.
Later in the second quarter, the defense stepped up again with a crucial interception by Casey Carr that was returned deep into Bearcats territory. This set up a touchdown pass from Clark Harrell to tight end Ben Gibbs. Going into halftime the Wildcats led the game 16-0.
The Wildcats defense continued to shine in the second half. On the first Bearcat possession the Wildcats defense forced a three and out. Zach Stewart lost a fumble, giving the Bearcats a short field. NW Missouri took advantage of the turnover and scored on a touchdown pass early in the third quarter.
Late in the third quarter the Wildcats were backed up in their own territory and forced to punt. The Bearcats rushed the punt and blocked it; recovering it in the end zone for a touchdown. This cut the Wildcats lead to 16-14.
In the fourth quarter the Wildcats added a field goal and their defense held on to a hard fought 19-14 victory.
The Wildcats caught some fortunate breaks in a sloppy game. Early in the game Northwest Missouri beat themselvesÂ with penalties. Including a chop block penalty that wiped out a Northwest Missouri State touchdown. This same drive the Wildcats intercepted the ball, which led to their lone offensive touchdown. Also late in the game the Wildcats’ punter was hit after his punt and got a roughing the kicker call. This allowed the Wildcats to run out the remaining two minutes of the game and emerge out with a victory.
Overall the defense led the way with two-forced turnovers and three turnovers on downs. It also scored a touchdown and held the Bearcats to 230 yards of total offense.
The Wildcats play Fort Lewis College at 6 p.m. Saturday Sept 5 at Shotwell Stadium.