The ACU football team travelled to New Mexico State looking for their first win against a BCS team since 1980. The Wildcats completed a Hail Mary pass as time expired, but wide receiver Taylor Gabriel was knocked out of bounds at the six-yard line and the Wildcats lost 34-29.
“I am not suspired that we went down there and played a really competitive game and had a chance to win,” head coach Ken Collums said. “Our guys played hard and our guys fought. I am proud of our guys and I think we are sitting in a really good spot as far as our growth goes. To people that don’t know who we are and what we do, that put a stamp on it and said, ‘Hey, we belong in the Southland Conference.'”
Gabriel’s near touchdown was one of 15 catches he recorded on the night, totaling 188 yards.
“We have enough playmakers to where we can create some matchups that are hard for people,” Collums said. “We got Taylor the ball 15 times and we were able to run it pretty well, too.”
Running back Charkandrick West had 90 receiving yards and 102 rushing yards in the loss and also ran for a touchdown.
Quarterback John David Baker threw for 428 yards and three scores and added 32 yards on the ground against the Lobos.
After two quarters of play, the Wildcats were clinging to a 22-21 lead. In the third quarter, both offenses were unable to score, giving ACU a narrow lead heading into the fourth quarter, when the Lobos would kick a field goal on the first play and take a two-point lead.
“The first half went really well,” Collums said. “I was very pleased with the first half, we moved the ball and got some stops. I thought we were sitting really well at half time. We kept them from scoring in the third quarter, which was good. But there were just missed opportunities, which is ultimately what cost us the game.”
With less than a minute left and the Wildcats behind by two scores, Baker found Darrell-Cantu Harkless for a touchdown on fourth down to narrow the Lobo lead to five.
Then, linebacker Thor Woerner successfully executed an onside kick, giving the Wildcats the ball back with less than 20 seconds. After a couple of penalties, the Wildcats were left with nine seconds and 79 yards to the end zone.
Baker threw a Hail Mary that was tipped by Darian Hogg before Monte Green-Avery made the reception and pitched the ball to Gabriel, who nearly scored before being knocked out of bounds just yards away from the end zone.
“Of all people, you want the ball in Taylor’s hands in the open field,” Collums said. “When we made the pitch, I thought it was over just like everybody else, but their guy made a great play.”
Defensively, several Wildcats rose to the occasion and played excellent football. Justin Stephens was in on 12 tackles, including one tackle behind the line of scrimmage. Stephens also intercepted a pass in the game.
Jesse Harper also picked off a pass to give the Wildcat offense the ball back. Safety Justin Stewart made 14 total tackles to lead the game. Will Harlos also had double-digit tackles with 11.
The Wildcats have a bye week before they head to San Antonio to take on Incarnate Word for the second time this season.
“I want to say we are ready to play another game as fast as we can, but we are not,” Collums said. “We are kind of beat up, so we will have to live with the bye week, which is good because we need to get healthy.”