ACU lost to the Bearcats at Shotwell Stadium on Thursday – by the stat sheet, at least. Luckily for the Wildcats, the numbers do not always tell the story, and ACU was able to eke out a win in a close game that spotlighted the talent of several backup players.
Northwest Missouri State actually beat ACU in yardage, 230 to 174. Wildcat quarterbacks Zach Stewart and Clark Harrell together passed for only 89 yards, 47 of those to tight end Ben Gibbs. The three running backs did not do much better, racking up only 85 yards between them.
Capitalizing on Bearcat mistakes was crucial for the Wildcats. With that in mind, ACU took advantage of several turnovers.Â Both ACU touchdowns resulted from Bearcat turnovers, and the safety was delivered to the Wildcats on a silver platter.
On that safety, the ball floated above the NWMSU punter’s outstretched fingers and into the end zone to give the Wildcats an early 2-0 lead.
The first of two touchdowns set the tone for the Wildcat defense.Â Â After a forced fumble by defensive star Aston Whiteside, backup linebacker Arthur Johnson returned the ball 42 yards for a touchdown. ACU was suddenly ahead 9-0 without scoring an offensive point.
The only other Wildcat touchdown resulted from another play by a backup.Â With the Bearcats poised to make a run, backup linebacker Casey Carr intercepted a pass and returned it 37 yards.Â The return set up a connection from Harrell to Gibbs, putting the Wildcats up 16-0 going into halftime.
The defense remained staunch in the second half, and the offense did just enough to keep the ball out of the Bearcats’ paws, including completing a field goal late in the game, giving the Wildcats some breathing room.Â The Wildcats held on for a nail-biting win and started their bid for a championship.
Saturday’s game against Fort Lewis College will start at 6 p.m. at Shotwell Stadium.