Through the first three games this season, the Wildcats had zero turnovers. But they turned the ball over six times against SFA, and the Lumberjacks preserved a 41-30 victory.
“We couldn’t do much in the run game,” head coach Ken Collums said. “And they were getting too much pressure on us as far as pass protection. Our plays are not necessarily designed for Dallas to run around for three seconds and find somebody to throw it to.”
SFA starting quarterback Zach Conque wasn’t in the game long; he was replaced by Hunter Taylor late in the first quarter. It turned out to be a work of genius on the Lumberjack’s part because Taylor finished the game with 376 yards and four touchdowns, orchestrating touchdowns on four of his first five drives.
Trailing 28-0 and having produced hardly any offense at that point, the team showed signs of life with an eight-play, 81-yard drive that started with under two minutes left left in the half. The Wildcats capped the drive with a 30-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Dallas Sealey to junior Troy Grant to cut the lead to 28-7 heading into halftime.
Sealey would rally in the second half to finish 28-53 for 400 yards and three touchdowns. Grant recorded 53 yards on just three catches, two of which went for touchdowns.
Defensively, the Lumberjacks turned it up early in the third quarter, as they forced consecutive fumbles and turnover on downs. SFA scored the first 10 points of the half and led 38-7 with four minutes to play in the third.
However, on the ensuing kickoff, freshman Justin Miller sparked ACU with a 93-yard kick return to cut the lead to 38-14. Miller also caught four passes for 42 yards to go along with his 200 yards on kick returns.
With momentum from the special teams touchdown the Wildcat defense forced a fumble on the Lumberjack’s next possession, and ACU had a chance to cut the lead to two possessions with three minutes left in the third.
But on the third play of the drive, the Wildcats gave the ball right back with a fumble of their own, which SFA recovered in the End zone for a touch back.
The Wildcats continued to fight as they regained possession with 1:19 left in the third and junior De’Andre Brown needed just one play to score as he took a Sealey pass 55 yards for a touchdown. The Wildcats went for two and converted on a pass to senior Adrian Duncan and the lead was cut to 38-22.
Brown finished with over 200 total yards for the second time in three games against the Lumberjacks.
“He wasn’t 100 percent and he’s going to be nursing that thing for a while,” Collums said. “He is a fierce competitor. The screen he caught was awesome, that was almost like the old De’Andre.”
After fumbling their first possession of the fourth, the Wildcats took advantage of SFA’s Storm Ruiz’s first missed field goal of the year and marched 80 yards for a touchdown. Grant capped off the drive with his second touchdown catch of the day from six yards out.
But those would be the last points of the night for ACU as SFA added a field goal and one final stop of the Wildcat offense to preserve the victory.
The loss drops ACU to 0-4 overall and 0-2 in Southland Conference play. It is also the first time the Wildcats have lost to SFA since rejoining the Southland in 2013.
ACU returns home Saturday to take on Central Arkansas, which boasts a 3-1 record overall and 2-0 in the Southland.