When ACU (0-1) takes the field Saturday night for its home opener against Northern Colorado (1-0) it will mark the beginning of an end to an era at Shotwell.
This is the second time the Wildcats have faced the Bears in two years. The teams played each other in the final game of the season last year where the Wildcats played strong offensively, but fell 40-36.
After a 37-21 loss to FBS opponent Air Force in week one, head coach Ken Collums expects the most out of his team during this home opener.
“On one hand you’re in a hurry to play that next game because you want to see how these guys are going to improve from game one to game two,” Collums said. “On the other hand, I’d like a couple more days of practice just to see more of that improvement within our practice times.”
Offensively, the Wildcats hope to keep improving after gaining 360 total yards against Air Force. Sophomore quarterback Dallas Sealey is coming off of his first start of the season, completing 16-of-33 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns.
ACU’s defense held the Falcons to one touchdown in the first and fourth, but an unsuccessful second quarter determined their defeat.
Junior defensive end Dylan Douglass recovered a fumble and had a sack against Air Force last Saturday.
Douglass expects the team this year to put up a better battle against the Bears than they did last year with the help of a stronger defense and offense competing on the field.
“From what I’ve seen, they’re pretty equivalent to what they were last year,” said Douglass. “Obviously we didn’t get the job done last year, but we’re much better than what we were and as long as we stick to our game plan and do our job then we’ll be okay.”
Northern Colorado has won its only game of the season so far 56-27 against NAIA member Rocky Mountain College 56-27.
The Wildcats will face the same quarterback as last year. With less than a year of experience, redshirt sophomore Jacob Knipp has gone 11-for-16 for just 186 yards with two touchdowns in the only game of the season.
With a majority of the Bears returning to the squad this season, Collums notes Northern Colorado has something the Wildcats lack.
“They’re going to come down here and they’re going to play well,” said Collums. “They’re an experienced group together, and on our part we haven’t played many games together. But it seems to be a good match up because we’re a different team than we were last year.”
The Bears are expected to run the ball with returning running backs Trae Riek, Zach Lindsay and Brandon Cartagena. The three rushed 23 times for 230 yards and two touchdowns last week. On offense, Northern Colorado has ran the ball 39 times to just 19 pass attempts making this a run-heavy offense.
After trips up to Colorado for their last two games Coach Collums said his team is ready to be at home.
“This certainly beats driving up to Greeley, Colorado,” said Collums. “I’m ready to play these guys at home. We should have a good crowd, and these guys deserve a good crowd because I think we’re going to end up having a quality football game.”