The Wildcats moved to 2-0 on the season with a 43-13 thumping of Northeastern State. Special teams carried ACU, scoring on a punt return for a touchdown and blocking two punts returned for touchdowns.
ACU’s offense clicked from the start, taking just six plays to get inside the red zone. But the Wildcats stalled at the Northeastern 12-yard line and would settle for a 29-yard Morgan Lineberry field goal. Lineberry made three of five that night and is now five for eight this season.
Northeastern made just one play on offense before turning the ball over when Eric Edwards forced a Riverhawks fumble recovered by Marvin Jones.
The Wildcats stalled again inside the red zone, forcing another Lineberry field goal, to make it 6-0 ACU.
The Wildcats forced Northeastern to punt, and Kendrick Johnson, after dropping the punt, picked up the ball and ran 80-yards for the score, putting ACU up 13-0.
The defense was stout again with Aston Whiteside recording his first sack of the season; he would end up with two on the night. After forcing another punt attempt Chris Jones busted through the Riverhawks defense and blocked the punt that was picked up by Nate Bailey and returned for another special teams touchdown to push the lead to 20.
“Chris Jones, Thor Woerner, Kendrick Johnson, with the big punt return. Our guys are stepping up on special teams and they are taking a lot of pride in it,” said ACU Head Coach Chris Thomsen.
After pinning the Wildcats deep in their own territory Northeastern forced a punt that put them in excellent field position. Quarterback Kenny Davis found Trey McVay on two separate occasions on the drive, the last one resulting in a 26-yard touchdown, closing the gap to 20-13.
ACU committed their first turnover of the season later in the quarter, when Edmund Gates fumbled the ball at the Northeastern 30-yard line.
With 3:48 left to play in the second quarter, the Wildcat defense forced another punt, and again blocked the attempt. Thor Woerner got his hands on the play, and Caleb Withrow returned it 25-yards for another ACU special-teams touchdown.
The Riverhawks got the ball back, and drove down the field on the Wildcats. With two seconds left in the half, Davis connected with Kendall McKellum with no time on the clock for the hail-mary touchdown. ACU led 26-13 heading into the half.
Running back Daryl Richardson left the game towards the end of the second quarter and would not return. Richardson is believed to have injured his knee on a 12-yard run early in the second quarter.
After trading punts to start the third quarter, ACU special teams came up big, blocking another punt, their third of the game. It only took two plays for the Wildcats to score their first offensive touchdown of the game when Mitchell Gale completed a pass to Emery Dudensing for a three-yard touchdown. Gale finished the night completing 18-25 passes for 161 yards and one touchdown.
“Coach said it best, it was just an overall team win,” said quarterback Mitchell Gale. “Offensively we can still get better. I know I can get better with my post-snap decisions.”
On ACU’s next possession, filling in for Daryl Richardson, Darrell Cantu-Harkless bounced a run outside and took it 83-yards to the house to put the game out of reach for the Wildcats.
ACU finished the night with 171 rushing yards and out-gained the Riverhawks on offense by over 100-yards, turning the tables from last week when they were out-gained by 100 yards.
“Just a good overall team win, all three phases really contributed to the victory,” said Thomsen. “We are just happy to come on the road against a really good team and get a win.”
ACU will be back in action next weekend for their home opener against East Central.