Both the ACU offense and defense finished the year strong in the final regular season game as the Wildcats took care of business against the woeful Incarnate Word Cardinals 61-16.
“This season has kind of been up and down in spots, so it was good to finish the year strong,” quarterback Mitchell Gale said. “I think that was a necessary step that we needed to take as we go into to the playoffs.”
Gale led the Wildcats on offense as he threw for 327 yards and two scores in barely three quarters of work. With the game well in hand by the middle of the third quarter Gale gave way to backup John David Baker who closed out the game for the ‘Cats.
“I just try to do my job, and that’s deliver the mail,” Gale said. “Whatever the numbers are, that’s what they are, and I don’t pay too much attention to that. It was a good team effort.”
The ground game was the story for the Wildcats who had 252 yards rushing in the game. Starter Daryl Richardson ran for 50 yards and a touchdown in his final game at Shotwell. Third down back Charcandrick West had 130 yards on only twelve carries and two scores. West’s day was highlighted by a 71-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, as he broke five tackles on the way to the end zone. In the fourth quarter Reggie Brown did most of the damage for the ‘Cats. Baker and the offense ran the ball almost exclusively to take down the clock, and Brown made the Cardinals pay with 94 yards.
The Wildcat defense had their best game of the year as they held the Cardinals to only 225 yards of total offense and returned two interceptions for touchdowns.
“It comes down to being physical and assignments sound,” Linebacker Thor Woerner said. “We are going to continue to do that.”
Defensive back Nate Bailey had the first “pick six” as he took a Eric Massoni pass back 53 yards for a score in the third quarter. Woerner had the second as he returned his interception 26 yards to the house. Mike Wallace and LB Suggs added interceptions while Justin Stewart forced a fumble giving the Wildcats five takeaways on the day.
“I hadn’t had (a pick six) since high school,” Woener said. “It was nice to get another one of those again.”
The win was enough to get the Wildcats into the NCAA playoffs for the sixth year in a row. The sixth seeded ‘Cats will have to travel to Topeka, Kan. to take on the third seeded Washburn Ichabods at noon on Saturday.
ACU played the Ichabods as recently as last year. The Wildcats opened their 2010 campaign in Topeka with a win over the Ichabods.