ACU’s 2022 campaign started on a winning note on Thursday night as they defeated the Lamar Cardinals, 28-14, in the first home season opener in Wildcat Stadium.
The Wildcats’ win on Thursday night marked multiple historic landmarks. The win marks the first season-opening win for the program since Aug. 31, 2013, when ACU defeated Concordia College, 84-6, in Shotwell Stadium.
The win also served as the first-ever head coaching win for brand new head coach Keith Patterson, former defensive coordinator from Texas Tech, who said he feels honored to be a part of the program’s history.
“It’s a great honor, to number one, just to be the head football coach here,” Patterson said. “I have such great respect for the men who came before me from Tonto Coleman, Wally Bullington and Chris Thomsen. I’ve read all their stories. All those men who laid the foundation for us to be able to build a bond and we’re just looking to continue to move forward with our program.”
The Wildcats struck first during the opening drive of the game when senior running back Anthony Smith ran the ball 11 yards for a touchdown. The Cardinals followed with an opening drive resulting in a touchdown as well, thanks to freshman quarterback Mike Chandler’s 59-yard pass to senior wide receiver Jalen Dummett.
Lamar took its first and only lead of the game with 1:04 left in the first quarter, with another long throw for a touchdown from Chandler, but this time, to sophomore wide receiver Sevonne Rhea for 75 yards.
But, the late first quarter touchdown proved to be the last scoring drive for the Cardinals. The Wildcats finished the game on a 21-0 scoring run, a response that Patterson said he was proud of.
“The biggest thing is that our kids can take away from tonight is that winning is not easy,” Patterson said. “We talked about it in our team Chapel, and I told them they would be tested with fire and it would be how we responded. How we responded was that nobody flinched and that was what I was looking to see from our team.”
The scoring run began within the first three minutes of the second quarter, sophomore quarterback Maverick McIvor threw a 30-yard pass to senior wide receiver Kendall Catalon. Then, with 1:54 left in the half, Catalon ran the ball on a double reverse for 37 yards to take a 21-14 lead to the locker room.
The penalty-filled third quarter led to a scoring drought for both teams, but it was inevitably snapped when McIvor threw a six-yard pass to senior wide receiver Kobe Clark.
Catalon and Clark served as the primary targets for McIvor, both leading the team with 119 yards on seven receptions and 71 yards on six receptions, respectively. McIvor finished his first collegiate start throwing for 258 yards on 22-38 passing, resulting in two touchdowns on the night.
Not only did Thursday’s game mark McIvor’s first collegiate start, but also his first start since 2018.
McIvor’s last start was Sept. 7, 2018 while was a senior at Central High School in San Angelo. In this game, he tore his ACL, knocking him out for the remainder of the season. As he entered and prepared to play at his former university, Texas Tech, knee injuries continued to plague the quarterback, preventing him from playing in a game until Thursday.
Now, nearly four years since his last start, McIvor said that words fail to express how much it meant to be back on the field.
“It was awesome,” McIvor said. “Words can’t even describe how good it feels to be out there. I love football so much and I’ve played it ever since I was so small, and to finally get to get the opportunity to do what I do, I really loved it.”
McIvor also said that this win was important, but that the team will quickly move on and prepare for its opponent.
“It’s huge getting one game under your belt,” McIvor said. “Any game win at home is is huge, so having that one is great, but we’re playing week by week and on to the next. Our game plan for next week is to enjoy this victory tonight, wake up tomorrow and start new.”
Up next, ACU stays at home in Wildcat Stadium and takes aim at a second-straight win against its next opponent, Prairie View A&M. The Wildcats and Panthers will play next Saturday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m., with the game also streaming on ESPN+ and the ACU Sports Network.