The Wildcats will cling to a slight chance of post-season play as they take on Central Arkansas and welcome former head coach Ken Collums, UCA offensive coordinator, for his first game in the stadium that was constructed while he was coach.
ACU welcomes a 5-5, 4-4 Bears team that’s coming off a 40-27 loss to Southland champion Incarnate Word. Its quarterback, redshirt freshman Luke Hales threw four interceptions in the game, while the defense allowed 23 points in the second half.
With a win Saturday, ACU has a can achieve its best overall record since the Div. I transition in 2013 at 7-4.
Head coach Adam Dorrel said a victory over the Bears would be an important win over a powerhouse Southland team.
“Central Arkansas won the conference last year, so they’re a very good football team,” Dorrel said. “They’ve been one of the top dogs in this league for awhile, so it would be a big win for us.”
Over on the other sideline is Collums, who coached through the middle of the Div. I transition. He started in 2012, ACU’s last year in the Lone Star Conference (Div. II), and remained until 2016, the year before postseason eligibility in the FCS. He totaled a record of 24-32 at ACU. His best season was in 2012, when he finished 7-4 and was fifth in the Lone Star Conference.
Redshirt junior safety Bolu Onifade, who played under Collums in his redshirt freshman year, said it will Saturday’s game will be huge.
“I would say it’s a really big game, especially since our old head coach being the OC at Central Arkansas,” Onifade said. “I feel like we’re not focused on that though, we’re focused on getting the job done.”
As offensive coordinator for Central Arkansas, Collums leads a team ranked fourth in points per game (32) sitting just under the Wildcats’ 32.4. His offense has also gained 418.7 yards per game, good enough for sixth in the conference.
Junior running back Carlos Blackman has had his fair share of scoring with nine rushing touchdowns in the season, the second most in the conference next to Ra’Quanne Dickens’ 14.
Heading into the final regular season game, the Wildcats rank as the third-best Southland offense at 4,601 total yards (460.1 YPG). They’ve gained 1,764 yards on the ground and 2,837 through the air.
Redshirt junior running back Tracy James filled in for the injured junior transfer running back Billy McCrary last week and ran for 111 yards and a touchdown.
James’ now outscores McCrary in total yards 746-719 after his performance against Sam Houston.
Junior linebacker Jeremiah Chambers leads a Wildcat defense who is tied with Central Arkansas for third in points allowed per game at 28. ACU, however, has the edge in yards allowed per game being one of three schools to give up less than 400 (394.9).
Chambers individually broke 100 tackles last week and leads the team with 102. He also has 14 tackles for a loss and three sacks on the season.
Last year, the Wildcats were defeated by Central Arkansas 34-0 completing a perfect conference record for the Bears. This year, ACU looks to avenge the loss and get a victory over the Bears to keep its playoff hopes alive.
Before kickoff, the seniors will be honored for their final game. Ten will be recognized including wide receivers D.J. Fuller and Kalin Sadler, linebackers Quincy Dunn and Tryce Prince, offensive linemen Bill Weber and Dakota Laws, cornerback Jamar Mack, defensive tackle Dante Hibbert, tight end Cody Ennis and safety Erik Huhn.
The game is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Coverage will air on ESPN+, as well as 98.1 FM.