The Wildcats struggled to produce offensively and failed to stop a bruising ground game in their trip to Fresno, Calif.
ACU’s offense compiled 247 yards of total offense in a sloppy season opening 34-13 loss to the Fresno State Bulldogs.
“Good teams make it hard on you, they make you fight for every yard and first down and tonight was no exception,” head coach Ken Collums said. “At times we moved the ball well and did some things OK, but we made some uncharacteristic mistakes that cost us.”
The ‘Cats started strong punching in a first quarter touchdown run by senior running back Herschel Sims to tie the game at seven. The Bulldogs scored two more touchdowns through the air before halftime to make it a 21-7 Fresno State advantage.
That would be as close as the ‘Cats would get before the mistakes began to sink ACU’s comeback hopes. Junior quarterback Parker McKenzie tossed two costly interceptions in the second half. While the defense failed to shut down senior running back Marteze Waller, who galloped his way to 154 yards.
“The consistency in the run game was not there tonight,” Collums said. “They made things really tough for our passers and we gave up more sacks than we want. I think against our own level of competition in the Southland, we’ll be OK, but it’s tough when you play a team of this caliber.”
The Bulldogs sealed the game with sophomore quarterback Zach Greenlee’s 31-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Chad Olsen, making it 31-7 lead in the 3rd quarter. Fresno would add another field goal to expand their lead.
ACU backup quarterback redshirt freshman Dallas Sealey added a late touchdown pass to freshman receiver Byron Proctor to make it a 21 point loss for the ‘Cats.
McKenzie had his roughest outing ever as a Wildcat, failing to throw a touchdown in a game for the first time in his career. McKenzie completed 18 of 29 attempts for 168 yards and two interceptions on the night. Sealey went 12-for-16 for 45 yards and a touchdown in a backup role.
The ground game couldn’t get going either, as sophomore running back De’Andre Brown rushed nine times for 32 yards. Sims rushed just four times for five yards but recorded the team’s lone rushing touchdown.
On the receiving end, seniors Jonathan Epps and Cedric Gilbert led the pack. Epps caught eight passes for 55 yards and Gilbert caught four passes for 44 yards.
The ‘Cats had a multitude of chances to make a run at a comeback. They forced two turnovers courtesy of freshman safety Junior Henderson and junior safety D.J. Arnold as they each recorded an interception. However, neither play turned into points for the ‘Cats. Junior kicker Nik Grau missed a 33-yard field goal that would have kept ACU in the hunt, but ultimately seemed to let the air out of the balloon.
Defensively, the ‘Cats didn’t fair well giving up 225 rushing yards to the Dogs. The secondary held the Bulldogs in check giving up just a 49 completion percentage. Fresno’s quarterbacks had the touchdowns, but neither the yards or efficiency to have a good game. Greenlee completed just 14 0f 32 passes for 156 yards, three touchdowns and just one interceptions and freshman Chason Virgil completed just 8 of 13 passes for 61 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
The Wildcats return to play in two weeks facing conference opponent Houston Baptist on Sept. 19 at 6 P.M.