Daryl Richardson ran wild, and the Wildcats used timely second half defense to beat Angelo State 31-17 on Saturday night in Shotwell Stadium.
“When the offense is executing, holes open,” Richardson said. “I just ran through them.”
Richardson had 84 yards rushing as well as 43 yards receiving to set the tone for the Wildcats offense. ACU quarterback Mitchell Gale also had a strong bounce back performance with 234 passing yards, two touchdowns and, more importantly, zero interceptions.
“It was good to play a cleaner game than what we have been playing,” Gale said. “I was having fun again, getting our guys involved. It was fun.”
The Wildcat defense, though, did have a key interception in the second half. With the ‘Cats up 24-10 in the third quarter, Derek Drummond picked off a Blake Hamblin pass inside of the ACU five-yard line and stalled a promising ASU drive that could have narrowed the defecit to one score.
“I was in zone coverage,” Drummond said. “I just jumped it, and it fell into my hands. The game could have been completely different if that doesn’t happen.”
The Rams jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead as they gashed the ACU defense early. The opening drive of the game culminated with Ram QB Blake Hamblin finding receiver Joey Knight for a 29-yard touchdown.
ACU was quick to respond though as a 72-yard drive was highlighted by a circus catch from Ben Gibbs to put the Wildcats in the red zone. Gale found Gibbs on the sideline as the tight end snatched the ball out of the air with one hand. That catch set up Richardson’s one-yard TD run to tie up the game at 7.
Angelo again drove the ball on their second possession of the game, but a botched snap forced the Rams to settle for a 26-yard field goal and a three point lead.
Richardson continued his strong start as he took over on the Wildcats second drive. After being tripped up on what would have been 81-yard touchdown run, he found the end zone on a 20-yard run for his second touchdown of the game. The score also gave the ‘Cats their first lead at 12:48 of the second quarter.
“We watched a lot of film on them,” Richardson said. “We knew what their defense would be doing so we dialed up some specific plays for them.”
Although the ACU secondary looked exposed early in the game, the defensive line continued to hound Hamblin throughout the game. The defense held ASU scoreless the rest of the first half as ACU went into halftime with a 17-10 lead.
The Wildcats begun their second half the way they began their first: with a touchdown. Richardson took a Gale screen pass 26 yards into the red zone, and Gale found Justin Andrews for a five-yard touchdown to extend the purple and white lead to 24-10.
Angelo State threatened to respond with a TD of their own, but Drummond’s interception put an end to that.
“It was a huge momentum swing,” Gale said. “It took the breath out of them and gave us life.”
Early in the fourth quarter ACU got it’s second important interception of the game as ASU was again in Wildcat territory. This time it was Chris Summers as he made a diving catch to stall another Ram drive.
The Wildcat offense quickly took advantage of the defense’s gift. A 45-yd run by receiver Taylor Gabriel set up another Gale touchdown. Gale squeezed the ball between to Ram defenders to hit Gibbs for a six-yard touchdown giving ACU a 21-point lead 31-10.
Down three scores and the clock as their enemy, Angelo was able to add a late touchdown as Hamblin hit tight end Nate Bayless on a 21-yard touchdown pass. Other than the two interceptions, Hamblin had a huge game, throwing for 446 yards and two TDs.
The 67 pass attempts by Hamblin are a record for the most ever against ACU.
ACU will play again next Saturday at home against Western Oregon. Kick off is set for 6 p.m. at Shotwell Stadium.