New head coach Keith Patterson and the Wildcats prepare for the start of the 2022 season, which is marked by the conclusion of fall camp and the upcoming Sept. 1 matchup against familiar conference foe, the Lamar Cardinals.
Patterson has his work cut out for him with ACU’s last winning season coming in 2018 when the Wildcats went 6-5. Patterson takes over a Wildcats team who encountered a fair share of struggles last season. Under former head coach Adam Dorrel, ACU finished 2021 with a 5-6 overall record, ending with a 2-5 record in the last seven games. The morning after the Wildcats’ last game of the season, the athletic department revealed Dorrel would not return to coach at ACU.
Two weeks later on Dec. 6, Patterson, the former defensive coordinator for Texas Tech became the new head coach for the Wildcats. Before his hiring at ACU, Patterson was a part of different coaching staffs across the country, from Tempe to Pittsburgh to Utah to now Abilene.
As the Wildcats entered the beginning of fall camp, Patterson integrated multiple new strategies to help turn around the Wildcat football program. To help promote the new culture he desires to bring, Patterson emphasized the importance of his players putting their best foot forward no matter what.
“The thing I continue to harp on and every time I get in front of our guys is I just want their best,” Patterson said. “Whether if you just bring out the best in people, whether it be in the classroom, in our community, as a teammate or in the weight room, it doesn’t matter. We’ve really emphasized every single day that the standard is best and just give me that.”
One of the players participating in fall camp includes last year’s starting quarterback, Peyton Mansell. Returning for his third season as a Wildcat, Mansell feels that this year is already different.
“Anyone who’s been through fall camp knows how much of a grind it is,” Mansell said. “It’s three to four weeks of just going, and I think the new coaches did a great job of taking care of us and not grinding us down. The team’s been really coming together and grown a lot physically, emotionally and as a brotherhood.”
Another player returning to the Wildcats’ roster is senior wide receiver Kobe Clark, who led the Wildcats with 64 receptions in the 2021 season. Initially, when Dorrel left ACU, Clark entered the transfer portal to examine all of his options. But after meeting with Patterson, Clark ultimately left the transfer portal to return to ACU for his final year of eligibility.
“I was kind of freaking out a little bit, honestly,” said Clark. “I did not know what kind of coach that we were going to bring in, and one I talked to Coach Patterson, it was a really good conversation. It was very blunt and honest, but also genuine, so he was one of the reasons came back.”
Along with Clark and Mansell returning to the Wildcats, Patterson and his staff added numerous freshmen and 19 transfers from both FCS and FBS programs.
One of the new faces for the Wildcats includes sophomore quarterback Maverick McIvor, a transfer from Texas Tech. The San Angelo native has grown to love the family-oriented atmosphere that ACU has shown him.
“It’s been pretty seamless, and the coaches have really poured into me,” McIvor said. “Tech was a little bit different in the sense that it was a different realm of football with a different conference and players. But I’ve fallen in love with ACU by being here and seeing how different it is.”
With fall camp reaching its conclusion and the regular season looming around the corner, McIvor eagerly anticipates the start of the 2022 season, with the catalyst of his excitement resulting in the chemistry built with his team during camp.
“We’re in it pretty deep, and we are starting to build bonds that will be great for the rest of the season,” McIvor said. “From day one to now, the chemistry has been starting to come together, and we have a big one next week that we are excited about.”
Patterson and the Wildcats open the 2022 season at home against Lamar University. The game against the Cardinals in Wildcat Stadium will begin on Thursday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. and will stream live on ESPN+.