The Wildcat football team begins their season on Saturday against an MIAA team for the third straight year. ACU will travel to Topeka, Kansas, to take on the Washburn University Ichabods.
The Wildcats have once again chosen a top-10 opponent to start their season. The Ichabods ranked as the number nine team in Division II after a 34-29 comeback win over the Colorado School of Mines. Washburn overcame five turnovers and put up 27 points in the second half for the 11-point win. Running back Vershon Moore rushed for 218 yards on just 24 carries, averaging just over nine yards per carry.
The defense should get an early season test against Washburn, who finished with 611 yards of total offense, including 300 from quarterback Dane Simoneau. In 2009 the Wildcats allowed just 291 yards of total offense per game and just 55 yards per game rushing. With all of the front seven returning to ACU, they should find an easier time containing Moore.
“We know they have a good running game, their linemen are big, and we’re ready for that,” said senior linebacker Kevin Washington.
It will be up to Aston Whiteside, Marvin and Mike Jones, and Fred Thompson to get a good initial push on Washburn’s offensive linemen. Thompson will be making his first start at the defensive end in two years after being moved back to the position from linebacker this past offseason.
The secondary will also have its hands full with an efficient quarterback at the helm of the Ichabods’ offense. Simoneau completed 21 of 28 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns. Simoneau threw two interceptions and coughed the ball up once, accounting for three of the five Ichabod turnovers.
Mitchell Gale and the ACU offense will look to begin a new season with new results on the offensive side of the ball. With a year under his belt, head coach Chris Thomsen thinks Gale is ready to take the next step towards being a solid starter for the Wildcats.
“He worked extremely hard in the offseason,” said Thomsen. “He’s shown the work ethic and the character and the commitment we thought he had.”
Gale will face a defense that struggled to stop the Colorado School of Mines in the passing game, allowing 314 yards through the air and four touchdowns.
Darryl Richardson will have a tough time on the ground, if last week is any indication. Washburn allowed just nine yards on 20 carries during the game. ACU’s offensive line will need to gel quickly and open holes for Richardson and company to run through.
The biggest disadvantage for ACU isn’t even on the field. The Wildcats left for Topeka on Thursday and will drive a total of eight-and-a-half hours to get there.
“It’s definitely going to be a tough one because it’s a road game against a tough opponent,” said Washington. “But I think we are going to be able to handle it fine – the road is nothing new for us. We have been able to go on the road before and win.”