The football season will finally begin this Saturday with the anticipated match of ACU and Baylor in Waco.
Last season, both teams struggled to find success as the Wildcats ended with a 2-9 record while Baylor went 1-11.
Since then, ACU has signed 24 new members to the squad and is also transitioning to a new starting quarterback in redshirt sophomore Luke Anthony.
Anthony said getting to play the Bears will be a great experience for him and his teammates.
“Obviously, it’s a cool opportunity to play a power-five team from Texas,” Anthony said. “I think we all are ready to go out and play football again whether against Baylor, or anyone else. We know the magnitude of this game, but we haven’t let it distract us from trying to prepare in the appropriate way.”
Last year, Anthony managed to throw almost twice as many touchdown passes (11) as former starter Dallas Sealey did all year (6).
He nearly threw half of his scores in the wild 44-35 loss to Sam Houston State when he finished with five touchdown passes on 37 completions out of 67 attempts and 297 yards. He also broke the ACU single-game records of completions and attempts with each of those numbers in the SHSU game.
Other notable returning starters for the Wildcats include redshirt junior running back Tracy James, redshirt junior safety Bolu Onifade and senior safety Brandon Richmond.
James had a breakout season as the Wildcats’ starting running back taking over, then a senior, De’Andre Brown’s reign. James carried the ball 113 times and gained 658 yards averaging 5.6 per carry with two touchdowns.
Onifade and Richmond also broke out and surprised the team as they led the defense in tackles. Onifade made 76 tackles on the year, while Richmond totalled 72. The only other player to reach at least 70 tackles on the year was now graduated linebacker Sam Denmark.
With Baylor returning a few starters on the defensive line and redshirt senior defensive tackle Ira Lewis headlining the group, the ACU offensive line will have quite the challenge in week one. Lewis led the Bears in sacks last year as he totalled 5.5 and made 34 tackles.
Head coach Adam Dorrel said he feels confident in his offensive line, despite the talent on the defensive front of Baylor.
“Without question, we are eight times better on the O-line than we were last year,” Dorrel said. “I’m just super pleased with the development of our offensive line, they are going to be better this year, they have a huge challenge in front of them Saturday. We’re going to do some things to try and help them control that pass rush.”
With the quarterback decision up in the air for Baylor, it looks as if the likely starter will be the sophomore Charlie Brewer. The Austin native split a lot of playing time with now Tulsa junior transfer Zach Smith.
Brewer completed 139 passes out of 204 attempts for 1562 yards and 11 touchdowns. His rating was a solid 146.3 and he averaged 7.7 yards per completion.
Junior wide receiver Denzel Mims will likely be a big target for Brewer at the returning wideout racked up 1,087 yards in 2017 and averaged 17.8 yards per reception with eight touchdowns.
Senior safety Verkedric Vaughns rounds out the Baylor defense as the leading tackler from last season of the returners. Vaughns made 42 tackles along with two tackles for a loss and one sack.
The game will begin at 7 p.m. in McLane Stadium. Coverage can be viewed on Fox or heard on 98.1 FM.