The No. 4 Wildcats proved resilient Saturday with a 31-28 comeback win over No. 8 Midwestern State in front of 13,486 fans at Shotwell Stadium, the largest crowd of the season.
Quarterback Mitchell Gale had another solid day for the Wildcats, going 27-39 for 263 yards and three scores. Gale also did not throw an interception, which makes it seven straight games without a pick. Wide receiver Edmund Gates also had a stand-out game with 100 yards receiving for the third time this season.
“Edmund really had a dirty work type of game,” said ACU head coach Chris Thomsen. “He was getting catches across the middle which is what he is going to have to do. They aren’t going to let him get deep every time.”
ACU came out fired up against Harlon Hill candidate Zack Eskridge and forced a punt on the Mustangs first drive. Aston Whiteside, Fred Thompson, and Marvin Jones all got pressure on Eskridge throughout the game.
On the Wildcats’ first possession of the game Gale and company drove farl into Midwestern territory before ACU stalled thanks to a timely sack by the Mustangs’ defense.
After a Mustang fumble the Wildcats were set up in great field position at the MSU 37-yard line. But the Wildcats were stopped on three straight plays and Morgan Lineberry missed a field goal from 53 yards to leave the Wildcats scoreless.
Early in the second quarter, ACU finally broke through on a drive that began with 2:28 remaining in the first quarter. On that drive Kendrick Johnson fumbled the ball, and it was eventually kicked out of bounds after three Mustang defenders couldn’t get a hold of it.
Later in the drive Johnson made up for the botched play when Mitchell Gale found him on a seam route for a 16-yard score to put the Wildcats up 7-0.
Midwestern would answer with a field goal on their next drive. The score was set up by a broken play that ended up going for 46 yards. Eskridge fumbled the snap from center, picked up the ball, and managed to find Desmond Ratliff wide open down the middle of the field.
The score would remain 7-3 until the Wildcats struck for an 11-yard score from Gale to Edmund Gates. Gates caught four passes on the drive, accounting Â for half of his total catches. On the scoring play Gale threw the ball behind Gates who managed to make a mid-air adjustment and grab the pass for the score. The touchdown put ACU up 14-3.
The Mustangs scored on a field goal just before half-time to close the gap to within 8 at 14-6.
After the break in the third quarter, it was all Midwestern who took their opening offensive drive 56 yards that featured running back Lester Bush. Bush had 17 carries for 86 yards to lead the Mustangs.
Morgan Lineberry nailed a 27-yard field goal attempt to put ACU back up-on top Â 17-14.
But the Mustangs went right back at it with Eskridge taking MSU 63 yards this time, finishing off the drive this time with a run by Kendrick Jackson. Eskridge went 4 for 4 on the drive featuring Jared Freeman who caught three. Eskridge finished the game 26 of 41 for 263 yards and a score.
On ACU’s first drive of the fourth quarter the Wildcats were faced with a third down and a yard to go. Instead, Darrell Cantu-Harkless went 69 yards outrunning the Midwestern defense to put the Wildcats back on top Â 24-21.
Midwestern wasted to time answering, moving the ball 80 yards for the score, thanks impart to two costly ACU penalties on third down that bailed out the Mustangs twice on the drive. Eskridge found a wide-open David Little to put it in the end zone on the 35-yard strike.
With 8:05 remaining in the game the Wildcats went back on offense needing a score in a big way. Â Thomsen and offensive coordinator Ken Collums decided to feature the running game on the drive. Daryl Richardson rushed the ball five times for 32 yards on the drive. With 2:40 remaining Gale found Richardson in the end zone to put ACU ahead for good 31-28. Richardson carried the ball 13 times for 74 yards, and Cantu-Harkless added 117 yards of his own to out rush the run happy Mustangs by 40 yards.
“I thought both our guys did a great job today,” said Thomsen. “Our run game really bailed us out today.”
On the last drive of the game the Mustangs looked to be moving in position to tie the game up with a field goal. But receiver Kevin Swanson tried to extend the ball and it was knocked out by David Lamour and recovered by Kevin Washington. The turnover was the second in the game for Midwestern and sealed the win for the Wildcats.
“David Lamour did a great job holding Swanson in bounds and he hit the ball out,” said senior linebacker Kevin Washington.
The Wildcats will be back in action next weekend in San Antonio to take on Incarnate Word.