The Wildcats aim to take down a giant on Saturday as they head to Columbia, Missouri. to face off against the Missouri Tigers from the Southeastern Conference.
ACU’s matchup against the SEC opponent comes after a 21-13 win against Prairie View A&M. After being down 13-7 at the end of the first half, the Wildcats held the Panthers scoreless and earned 14 unanswered points to come out with their second win of the season.
With the win on Saturday, the Wildcats are 2-0 to start off the season, the first time that the program has earned that record during its Div. I era. This came as news to first year head coach Keith Patterson, who said he would rather focus on taking things one game and one win at a time.
“I don’t really focus on that much,” Patterson said. “I know it sounds like coach speak, but we really do try to focus on winning every day. Just win the day. We try to control what we can control, and all that other stuff will be a byproduct.”
The win did come with some struggles for the Wildcat offense. After scoring a touchdown at the end of the first quarter, ACU did not score until the 11:27 mark in the fourth quarter. ACU starting quarterback, sophomore Maverick McIvor, was held to 11-19 in passing for 151 yards, while also throwing for three interceptions.
But things took a turn for the better for McIvor in the second half. He finished the game throwing 20-34 for 225 yards, while also throwing an additional touchdown pass and running the ball into the endzone with five minutes left in the game to seal the win for ACU.
After the game, Patterson gave credit to the Panthers’ defense to stumping his offense, but also said he had faith that is quarterback would turn things around, which McIvor and his team were able to do.
“I’ve been asked why didn’t you pull the quarterback, it’s because we believe in the quarterback,” Patterson said. “We believe in our team and we believe in each other. I thought maybe we got a little bit in a hurry a couple of times and forced some throws, but you got to give the opponent credit, since they made some good plays as well.”
Despite the offensive struggles that the Wildcats faced in their matchup, the Wildcats’ defense shined. Along with holding the Panthers scoreless the second half, ACU’s defense forced junior quarterback Trazon Connley into throwing one interception and scoring only one touchdown the entire night.
The Wildcat defense was led by sophomore defensive linemen Tyrin Bradley. He finished the night with 10 tackles, with two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry. Bradley’s breakout performance allowed him to be named the WAC Defensive Player of the week.
“He was very active, and the thing that I love is about how he’s handling himself now,” Patterson said. “I mean, he is really focusing on becoming the best version of himself that he can. I’ve seen so much growth with him and he’s just going to continue to get better.”
As for the Wildcats’ opponent, also called Mizzou, heads into Saturday coming off a 40-12 loss to the Kansas State Wildcats from the Big 12 Conference.
The Tigers faced offensive woes themselves in their previous matchup, with sophomore quarterback Brady Cook and graduate quarterback Jack Abraham each throwing two interceptions. But in this case, Kansas State overcame the Tiger’s defense and was able to capitalize off of Mizzou’s mistakes.
Even though the Wildcats are heading into a matchup where the home team is hungry for a win, Patterson said that his team is ultimately aiming to focus on themselves, and that despite going to a Power Five and SEC environment, it is just another football game.
“Our focus has really been on us and it’s going to be no different this week,” Patterson said. “Going into that stadium, the field is still 120 yards long and goal post on each end are the same yards wide. If you get caught up in that it is a SEC environment, then you can become big-eyed. At the end of the day, it’s a football game going on, and if we can maintain that focus on improvement, it all takes care of itself.”
The Wildcats’ matchup versus Mizzou will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. The game will stream live on SEC Network+ and will be broadcast live on the ACU Sports Network.