The ACU football team traveled to Ill. to take on Illinois State looking for a road victory but fell short 31-17.
“You know coming in here that this is going to be a tough gig,” head coach Ken Collums said. “You have to put together four quarters of quality football to have a chance to beat Illinois State and we didn’t do that.”
The Wildcats were within seven points of the Redbirds late in the second quarter when Illinois State returned a punt for a touchdown to end the half and steal the momentum from ACU.
“I don’t know that there is a worse time for that to happen,” Collums said. “But I thought we responded in the third quarter, we just could not finish the job here against a really good team.”
ACU hung tight throughout the entire game, though, and put together a strong showing in their first game on the road as a Div. I team.
“I thought the atmosphere here was great,” Collums said. “You read about it and you hear about it. This is ultimately what we want on our campus. This is a super classy place, and these guys deserve it.”
Wide receiver Darian Hogg caused problems for the Redbird defense, scoring a couple of touchdowns. Hogg also had 68 yards receiving to lead the team.
“I thought that Darian played well. I thought he competed hard,” Collums said. “I thought all of our guys competed hard. I thought he could have had an even better game if we could have gotten the ball to him a little more. Same thing with Taylor and Darrell Harkless.”
Quarterback John David Baker tossed two touchdown passes and finished the game with 232 yards through the air.
ACU’s offense showed a lot of their playbook during the game, getting creative with reverses and other innovative plays that got the ball into the hands of ACU playmakers.
Defensively, the Wildcats held their own for the duration of the game, forfeiting only two touchdowns to a potent ISU offense.
The Redbirds’ physical offensive line was unable to push the Wildcats around. ACU only gave up 3.7 yards per rush and held ISU to just over 200 yards in the air as well.
Linebacker Justin Stephens recorded a game high of 13 tackles and one tackle for loss. Stephens is still playing with a protective cast over his hand because of a surgery earlier in the season.
Linebacker Thor Woerner and safety Angel Lopez each had 10 tackles in the game, as well. Lopez recorded a sack on fourth down in the third quarter to give ACU the ball back in great field position and a chance to tie the game.
Unfortunately, the Wildcats were unable to get anything going in the second half, and the Redbirds outlasted ACU and hung on for the win.
ACU will be back in action against Tarleton at 4 p.m. Saturday in Frisco.