After another dominating win last weekend the Wildcats hit the road again, this time to face the No.6 Javelinas from Texas A&M-Kingsville.
The Javelinas come to the match at 4-0, with a marquee win in the first week of the season over Northwest Missouri State, the No. 1 team in the nation at the time.
Kingsville boasts the strongest statistical defense in the country, allowing just over five points per game this season.
“We are really excited about this game,” said senior linebacker Eric Edwards. “We have had a good week of practice so far.”
Leading the Javelinas is a slew of all-Lone Star Conference potential and former picks, most notably at the safety spots where two 2009 all-LSC teamers play. Daira Glover and Corey Robertson have combined for 36 tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery, with a secondary unit that has allowed just 109 yards per game through the air and only two passing touchdowns.
The secondary will have to contain a Wildcat passing attack that burned them last season for 289 yards and two touchdowns and has continued to flourish this season. Mitchell Gale and the ACU passing attack have averaged 268 yards through the air in four games this season -Â 68 more yards than last season.
Edmund Gates, who torched the Javelinas last season for over 100 yards, continues to climb his way up the record books this season. He is now in ACU’s history’s top-10 in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown receptions. Gale will have to move the ball early and often for the Wildcats to succeed.
The battle of the lines should be the key to this game. Kingsville statistically has the most dominating defensive line in all of Division II, allowing less than 50 yards rushing per game and 14 sacks on the season.
Defensive end Matt Romig has been wreaking havoc on opposing offenses this season. Romig has accounted for five of the Javelinas 14 sacks and has five tackles for loss. Trevis Turner and Neal Tivis will have to keep Romig and his counterpart Mike Talamantez from getting to Gale and the running backs to allow time for plays to develop.
“The offensive line protection is going to be key this weekend,” said ACU head coach Chris Thomsen. “We have to be able to get our receivers open down the field.”
The ACU defense should have an easier time this Saturday. The Javelinas come in with the 91st ranked offense in Div. II. They have scored only 12 touchdowns this season, including just 20 points against an East Central team that allowed 45 points in its first game of the season and 47 points in its second. Kingsville has struggled to replace one of the most feared quarterbacks in the LSC in recent years with Billy Garza. Junior Nate Poppell has thrown just four touchdowns to a receiving core that was considered one of the best coming into the season. Receiver Deleshaun Dean, a senior transfer from Arizona, and senior Ryan Lincoln are the primary targets for Poppell. The two have combined for 367 yards this season, nearly half of the team’s receiving output.
But just because the Javelinas have not been scoring does not mean they come without weapons. Dean and Lincoln are always a threat to break big plays, and Kingsville’s new two-headed rushing attack should not be overlooked. After star running back Fred Winborn was dismissed from the team two weeks ago, the Javelinas have turned to Connell Davis and Jonathan Woodson to carry the load. The two combined for 96 yards in their first game after Winborn’s departure in a 34-9 win over Incarnate Word last weekend.
“They lost Fred, but they found they had two or three backs that can take his place,” said Thomsen. “So I don’t really expect much of a drop off in production from that aspect of their game.”
The Wildcats will have to cut down on penalties if they want to reach 5-0. ACU was tagged nine times last Saturday for 94 yards in that department – something neither Thomsen nor Edwards wants to see repeated.
“We have been telling ourselves that we need to stop it,” said Edwards. “We know that committing penalties is going to get us beat this weekend.”
If the Wildcats can cut down on the penalties and find a way to penetrate a daunting Kingsville defense, ACU should be able to move to 5-0 and solidify its spot as one of the top teams in Div. II.