The Mississippi State Bulldogs showed little mercy in a 45-7 beating of the Wildcats in their first match-up against an SEC opponent.
Head Coach Adam Dorrel reached into his bag of tricks heading into Starkville, knowing the Bulldogs would be a tough match up for a considerably smaller ACU program.
ACU opted to kick to open the game, giving the Bulldogs the first opportunity to score. The Wildcats forced a three-and-out on the Bulldogs first two offensive drives of the game, made possible by several key plays by junior linebacker Jack Gibbens.
The Wildcats opened their offensive drive with some trickery, bringing out both quarterbacks to begin the game. Senior quarterback Luke Anthony handed the ball off to back-up quarterback lined up at receiver sophomore Sema’J Davis on a 10-yard gain to open the drive.
The Wildcats also ran the flea-flicker and several run-pass options to create holes for the Wildcat receivers to find space.
After going down 21-0, the Wildcats got on the board in the second quarter on a fake roll out to the right by Luke Anthony. Anthony rolled out to his right and threw back across the field to his left, targeting senior running back Tracy James who got the four-yard touchdown reception.
On the offensive side of the ball for ACU, tight end Brandon Hohenstein and receiver Kobe Clark stood out the most. Clark set the school record for most catches in a single season with 87, passing former ACU greats Ronnie Vinson (82 in 1969) and Chicago Bears receiver Taylor Gabriel, who had 73 receptions in a single season.
Hohenstein finished the night with four catches for 115 yards, averaging almost 29 yards per catch.
“He [Clark] is a guy who is very resilient,” Dorrel said. “We all love that kid. He is very diligent in what he does. What a great honor, and there is going to be big things for him to come in the future.”
The Wildcat defense was the highlight of the evening, though. After dealing with early injuries to defensive tackles Cole Burgess and Temisan Kuyatsemi, the Wildcats continued to scratch and claw to keep ACU in the game.
The defensive line continued to put heavy pressure on Bulldogs’ quarterback Tommy Stevens, including sacks from senior linebacker Jeremiah Chambers and defensive tackle Kuyatsemi. Gibbens led the defense with 12 tackles, followed by safety Brandon Richmond who had 11 on the night.
“They set the tone today,” Dorrel said. “We couldn’t get out of that hole early. We didn’t give up a lot of big plays, and we wanted to make them earn everything. I think we did a pretty good job of that.”
MSU tacked on an extra 24 points in the second half after heading into halftime with a 21-7 lead. Running back Kylin Hill finished his evening with 153 rushing yards, and the Bulldogs finished with 372 rushing yards.
Quarterback Tommy Stevens ended the night throwing for two scores and rushing for another, finishing 13-27 with 165 total passing yards.
“This was a great venue for our players and team to come through,” Dorrel said. “I was very impressed with the environment and the way they treated us.”
That game closed the books on the 2019 football season for the Wildcats, but they will open up the 2020 season on the road against another high-powered SEC team in Texas A&M.