ACU came into its first LSC-South game of the season expecting a hard-fought battle for the victory. Instead, they annihilated a depleted Tarleton State team in a 65-3 blowout at Shotwell Stadium.
“I think our guys just came out and played really hard and they kept playing hard,” said head coach Chris Thomsen.
The Wildcats amassed more than 500 yards of offense for the second straight week. Sophomore quarterback Mitchell Gale completed 25 of 38 passes and threw for a career high 344 yards in the game.
Tarleton State’s Saalim Hakim fumbled the opening kickoff, setting upÂ ACU Â with great field position. However, the offense stalled inside the red zone, Â a persistent problem to open the season. Â Morgan Lineberry capped the drive with a 40-yard field goal.
The Texans wasted no time answering, driving down the field inside the ACU five-yard line. But the Wildcats held their ground, holding Tarleton to just a field goal to tie the score 3-3.
After an ACU punt, the Wildcats were back on their heels with the Texans putting together another drive, until Aston Whiteside picked off Tarleton quarterback Aaron Doyle and returned it 58 yards for the ACU score.
“That was a real long way for me to run,” Whiteside said. “It was worse than gassers in practice, I was way tired.”
Gale completed 2 of 2 passes for 67 yards on ACU’s first possession of the second quarter, Â leading a Wildcat drive that was capped by a Darrell Cantu-Harkless two-yard touchdown run.
Tarleton Quarterback Aaron Doyle was pulled from the game late in the second quarter. He was replaced by Casey Page, Page went just 5 of 16 in place of Doyle.
With four minutes to go in the half Gale and the Wildcats were at it again. ACU drove down to the Tarleton 36-yard line, where Gale hooked up with tight end Ben Gibbs who broke three tackles on his way to the end zone. Morgan Lineberry added a field goal just before halftime and ACU took a 27-3 lead to the locker room.
After half-time, the Wildcats didn’t let up on the gas. Just two plays into the third quarter Cantu-Harkless burst through the middle of the line and out ran the Tarleton defense for a 42 yard touchdown. Cantu-Harkless finished the game with 92 all-purpose yards, 66 of those coming on the ground.
On Tarleton’s next possession first year head coach Carey Fowler decided to gamble on fourth and eight. Page completed the pass to Devon Gray, but was two yards short of the first down inside the ACU 20-yard line.
The Wildcats in turn drove 85 yards on 10 plays in just under five minutes. Mitchell Gale again found his tight end Ben Gibbs in the end zone for the score. Gibbs caught three passes for 43 yards and two touchdowns on the night.
Charcandrick West and Josh Morgan would each add a touchdown of their own. ACU had 169 rushing yards from the trio of backs. Darryl Richardson suited out but did not play in the game.
Late in the fourth quarter Taylor Gabriel added to the scoring Â with an 80-yard touchdown on a punt return.
ACU did have one blemish on an otherwise perfect night. The Wildcats committed nine penalties for 94 yards against the Texans. Something Coach Thomsen intends to rectify.
“We did some extra running this past week because I felt like the message didn’t sink in after last weeks game,” said Thomsen. “And it didn’t sink in tonight, so I have to find a way to make them understand that penalties are going to get us beat.”
The loss is the worst for Tarleton State since becoming a senior college back in 1961. Subsequently the Wildcats put up their biggest point total in the regular season since last season when they beat East Central 66-7.
“I really expected a close game, but that just goes to show the injuries they have had,” said Thomsen. “They are a quality program and we all know that, they just have to get healthy.”