ACU book ended its Shotwell legacy with a 25-22 come-from-behind victory over Northwestern State, as redshirt junior Nik Grau converted three field goals and sophomore quarterback Dallas Sealey threw for 304 yards and scrambled for the eventual game-winning touchdown.
Trailing 19-17 midway through the fourth quarter, Sealey found his leading receiver, junior D.J. Fuller on a screen pass and Fuller took it 48 yards to down to the NSU 1. The catch-and-run set up Sealey coasting in on the next play, and the Wildcats took a 25-19 lead after junior De’Andre Brown found junior Trevor Crain on a halfback pass for the two-point conversion. Sealey said the play call resulting in Fuller’s big play was a product of the fast-paced offense the team adapted to back in the spring.
“On that drive we have plays that we call quicks and he just called quick after quick, so we say one word and everyone knows the play,” Sealey said. “We got it communicated and we went up tempo the whole time and it was good for us.”
Sealey finished with 11 rushing attempts for 52 yards and 29-of-45 passing. He connected seven times with Fuller for 96 yards.
NSU started the game’s scoring on a 41-yd run by Ronald Green. One of the ten seniors honored before the game, Josh Bloom blocked the PAT and senior cornerback Keith Barnett scooped it up and returned it 98 yards to make it 6-2.
Head coach Ken Collums said this three-point swing was a product of the team playing loose.
“You get a fifth-year senior Josh Bloom putting his hand on the ball and all of the sudden another fifth-year senior Keith Barnett is running down the middle of the field with it wide open like he’s a kid again,” Collums said. “And that’s what you saw tonight was guys having fun.”
But other than the first of Grau’s three field goals, the returned PAT would be the only points the Wildcats could muster, trailing 13-5 at halftime.
Although ACU cut into the lead in the third quarter at 19-14, it wasn’t until the fourth quarter when the rushing attack came alive. At the start of the fourth quarter, ACU had recorded just eight rushing yards. But the run game was rediscovered on a drive ending with Grau’s third field goal, as the Wildcat’s rushed for 47 of the 56 total yards on this possession.
ACU finished with just 87 rushing yards to NSU’s 221, but accumulated 79 of those in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Demons 11-3.
“What you saw tonight was a game that required everybody, from the offense to the defense to the coaching staff,” Collums said.
The win in its final game at Shotwell is ACU’s 181st all-time at the stadium. The victory ends Shotwell’s legacy the way it started when the Wildcats defeated Trinity 13-12 in the first-ever game at this stadium.
“A come-from-behind win is a great way to go out,” Collums said. “We tip our hat to Shotwell, but what we have in front of us with an on-campus stadium is unbelievable.”
The Wildcats, now 2-8 and 2-6 in conference, play their season finale next weekend when they travel to take on Southeastern Louisiana, who is 5-2 in the Southland. Northwestern State has two games left as its host conference-leading Sam Houston State and travels to SFA the following weekend.