It will go down as a win for ACU, but this wasn’t the win the Wildcats were expecting.
Facing an 0-7 Texas A&M-Commerce team, the Wildcats committed five turnovers en route to a disappointing 40-28 victory.
“I’m just disappointed in the lack of focus, we did some things today that are very uncharacteristic,” head coach Chris Thomsen said. “That’s an obvious lack of focus, poor job on my part of getting our guys ready to play.”
The first quarter set the tone for the entire game as the Wildcats were hit or miss early on. In the first six offensive plays, Gale turned the ball over twice, but Richardson broke two huge touchdowns runs to give the ‘Cats a 14-0 first quarter lead.
The 78 and 46-yard scores by Richardson accounted for the only Wildcat offense, though, as Gale failed to complete a single pass the entire quarter.
In the second quarter, the Wildcats finally found some offense through the air. With a 29-yard pass to tight end Ben Gibbs, Gale brought the ‘Cats inside the Lions five-yard line. The drive stalled, though, and the Wildcats were forced to take a field goal and increase their lead to 17-0.
The defense, like it had done all game though, stepped up on Commerce’s next drive, and on a third-and-3, defensive back Mike Wallace got the second of three Wildcat interceptions. Wallace made a couple of shifty moves on the way to a 46-yard touchdown. That ballooned the lead to 24-0, and it looked like ACU fans were going to get the blowout everyone expected.
ACU’s next offensive series, aided by a muffed punt return from Commerce, went for a touchdown when Gale faked a reverse and found Darian Hogg wide open downfield. Hogg jogged into the end zone and the ‘Cats went up 30-0.
“Overall I thought our defense did a good job,” Coach Thomsen said. “Mike (Wallace) got the big touchdown for us. We had to have that, that was crucial.”
From that point on, though, Commerce got better and ACU got worse. Before halftime, Commerce QB J.J. Harp got the Lions on the board with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Rawlings.
After an ACU field goal made it 33-7 to open the second half, miscues came back to bite ACU. A Reggie Brown fumble led to another Lion touchdown to cut the lead to 33-14.
A three-and-out by the ACU offense gave Commerce some life and Harp was methodical, completing all six of his passes on the drive. Running back Marcus Graham finshed off the drive with a seven-yard score and Commerce had cut a 30-point lead to 12 with two minutes left to go in the third quarter.
Gale and company answered with a long drive of their own, as Gale went 5-6 on the drive and found Gibbs from 13 yards out to put the ‘Cats up 40-21.
Harp stayed sharp, though, and again led the Lions down the field. The quarterback closed out another successful Commerce drive with his second touchdown pass of the game, again closing the gap to 12 at 40-28.
The ACU defense hung tough the rest of the game, forcing two turnovers-on-downs and closing out the Lions.
“The first half we played pretty good, had a couple of stops, really shut em out they scored that TD late in the first half,” safety Darien Williams, who had one of three Wildcat interceptions in the game. “I feel like second half we let off the gas, let them back in the game.”
Although the defense forced five turnovers, the story of the game was the Wildcats lack of productivity on offense. Three of the four offensive touchdowns were scored on big plays, and the Wildcats only had one long drive that led to a touchdown.
“I’m proud of our guys for finding a way to get the win, it’s tough to do that in the Lone Star Conference,” Coach Thomsen said. “At the end of the day, it’s going to take a much better game to do that in Kingsville.”
The ‘Cats will travel to south Texas to take on the Texas A&M-Kingsville Javelinas next weekend. The Wildcats are in must-win mode, and any loss will surely end their chances of a playoff spot.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. next Saturday in Kingsville.