The ACU offense scored 36 unanswered points as the Wildcats routed Eastern New Mexico 36-7 on Saturday.
“I thought our defense clamped down well,” ACU head coach Chris Thomsen said. “And I though our offense was aggressive. We got the ball down the field. That’s three straight games without a turnover, that’s big.”
Wildcat quarterback Mitchell Gale had one of his best games this season as he finished with 295 yards and three touchdowns. A big chunk of those passing yards went to Darrell Cantu-Harkless who finished with eight catches for 105 yards.
The defense also played well as they sacked ENMU QB Wesley Wood five times throughout the game. ACU’s defense also came up with a big momentum-turning play as freshman Justin Stephens picked off a Wood offering deep in Greyhound territory in the third quarter.
“The coaches drew up some really good stuff,” said linebacker Thor Woerner, who made two key stops late in the game. “It was open and I didn’t get blocked.”
The ‘Hounds jumped out to an early lead with their quick snap offense. ENMU was successful early against the Wildcat D as Wood hit Michael Matthews on an eight-yard touchdown strike in the corner of the endzone to make it 7-0 Eastern.
From there though, it was all ACU. Gale was quick to answer though as he drove the Wildcats right back down the field. Helped by a horse-collar penalty on the drive, Gale found Gabriel who barely got the ball across the plane for an ACU touchdown. Morgan Lineberry’s extra point tied the game at 7 midway through the first quarter.
“With all the repetition in practice, it’s all starting to come together,” Gabriel said.
Cantu-Harkless had a big first quarter as he converted three critical third-and-longs and had 65 yards on four receptions in the opening 15 minutes. Cantu-Harkless found the end zone early in the second quarter as a running back, but a holding penalty on ACU nullified the run. It didn’t matter as Gale hit tight end Ben Gibbs a few plays later for his second passing touchdown of the game. The pass gave the Wildcats their first lead of the game at 14-7.
“Cantu-Harkless did a great job,” Thomsen said. “Seven or eight of those will wear you down. Mitchell threw some strikes to him, and he made some catches.”
The points kept coming as Gale found Gabriel again, this time the play went for 48 yards down to the Greyhound one-yard line. A one-yard plunge by Daryl Richardson made it a two-score game as the Wildcats took a 21-7 lead into the locker room.
A 20 minute break didn’t stop the Wildcat offense as they got back on the scoreboard quickly as Gale found Cantu-Harkless on a seam route. Cantu-Harkless went untouched into the end zone to give the ‘Cats a 27-7 lead.
The score was set up by the Wildcat D. Freshman linebacker Justin Stephens stepped in front of a Wood pass to give the offense the ball inside the Greyhound 25-yard line.
Lineberry added a field goal before the Wildcats found the end zone again. This time it was Reggie Brown with a 10-yard scamper to extend the lead. Lineberry however missed his second consecutive extra point to hold the margin at 36-7.
The Wildcats will take on West Texas A&M for Homecoming weekend next Saturday at Shotwell Stadium.