The Wildcats have reached the halfway point of their 100th season, and they just barely have a winning record.
At this point in the season, it seems as though fans see two different teams. A team that dominates opponents, like the 56-0 win against Lamar on Sept. 25. Or, they see a team that is dominated, like their season opener against SMU and their 42-21 loss to Central Arkansas.
So, why is it that fans seem to see two different types of teams?
This answer can be tracked down to multiple different things, from the range of talent that the other teams we play have, for example, playing FBS school SMU one week, then the next week, playing NAIA school Louisiana College the next one. It can also be because of ACU’s offense, which can score 56 points in a whole game, or can be shut out for an entire half.
But, I believe the root of ACU’s problems comes down to one thing: The handling of defense, on both sides of the field.
In multiple press conferences, head coach Adam Dorrel has talked about how essential defense and creating turnovers is to the Wildcats’ success and the statistics would not agree with him more.
In ACU’s biggest win this season against UTPB and Lamar, the Wildcats came out on top in the turnover battle. The team’s 34-9 win over UTPB has been praised due to the strong defense that game, highlighted by four turnovers and a pick-six. The same goes for ACU’s 56-0 win at Lamar, where the Wildcat defense shut out the Cardinals and created three turnovers, resulting in another pick-six that game.
Meanwhile, in the games where ACU struggled, like against SMU and Central Arkansas, those games are typically highlighted by the lack of turnovers ACU causes versus, the turnovers that other teams force ACU to make.
When ACU suffered a 56-9 loss to SMU, the Wildcats did not force a single turnover that game, while SMU’s defense forced four of them. The same happened to the Wildcats’ home loss to Central Arkansas, but the Bears force three turnovers instead of four.
By looking at these statistics and the win-loss column, there is an obvious correlation of defense playing the biggest factor in the team’s success and failure.
Everyone in sports has heard the saying defense wins championships. So, if ACU wants to get back on the path of success this season, they need to continue to elevate their defense while being about to read and beat their opponents’ defense. If they do so, the Wildcats might have a shot to play in the postseason for the first time in years.