The ACU Wildcats will look to complete their first ever 11-0 regular season when the visiting Southwestern Oklahoma State Bulldogs come to Shotwell Stadium on Saturday.
On paper, the match-up against the Bulldogs seems incredibly one sided.
Southwestern is in the bottom three of every major statistical offensive category in the Lone Star Conference – dead last in scoring offense and total offense.
But even though the Bulldogs don’t have the stats to strike the fear in the hearts of their opponents, they do have three wins and sit in a tie for third place in the LSC North.
At 3-6 in conference, Southwestern has pulled some impressive upsets over the course of the season. The Bulldogs have beaten Texas A&M-Commerce, a preseason favorite in the north, Eastern New Mexico, one of the top offensive teams in the conference and Central Oklahoma, a team with high expectations coming into the season.
But against LSC South opponents the Bulldogs are 0-3 with losses to West Texas A&M, Texas A&M-Kingsville and Midwestern State by a combined total score of 179-42.
The Wildcats will need to look out for the potential trap game against a sub par opponent coming off one of the biggest wins, both emotionally and in terms of the physical magnitude of the game.
“Coach T teaches us to try and take a game one at a time,” said senior tackle Trevis Turner. “The main thing is we just have to execute, execute, execute.”
One of the positions of strength for Southwestern is defensive tackle Henry Niutei, a junior transfer from TCU who has 4.5 tackles for loss and one sack on the season. He leads a defensive line that has allowed over 150 rush yards per game so far this season.
Mitchell Gale and the receivers will have to contend with an opportunistic defensive secondary. Southwestern has produced 13 interceptions on the season, tied for third best in the LSC.
ACU should be able to have little trouble keeping the ball since it has the fewest turnovers in all of Division II (7) and the No. 1 turnover margin in the LSC at +14.
“Mitchell has to continue to protect the ball,” head coach Chris Thomsen said. “We just have to execute and finish this out.”
Defensively, the Wildcats will have to do without star middle linebacker Kevin Washington, who is out with a broken arm. Washington broke his arm against West Texas A&M last weekend on a touchdown run by Tyson Williams in the second quarter. But even without Washington, ACU should have little trouble handling the LSC’s worst offense, which has eclipsed 20 points three times this season.
Red shirt freshman Thor Woerner is likely to at least see significant time at middle linebacker this weekend and possibly even start.
Quarterback Dustin Stenta comes into the final game of his season with a 92-passer efficiency rating. Stenta has thrown just six touchdowns in his 10 starts compared to 10 interceptions.
The strength of the Southwestern offense lies in the running game. The Bulldogs average over 105 yards per game on the ground, mostly on the legs of Dwight Pete, who is averaging less than 50 yards a game and has six touchdowns on the season.
ACU and Southwestern will square off at Shotwell Stadium on Saturday. Kick off has been moved to 12 p.m.