For the first time since 2019, the Wildcats will have a chance to be 3-0 at home as they take on the Western New Mexico Mustangs on Saturday, a Div. II. program of the Lone Star Conference.
Last weekend, the Wildcats valiantly fought against the Missouri Tigers but fell 34-17. Two quick scores from the Southeastern Conference member thwarted the Wildcats as they were unable to come back for the win. The defense once again was dominant as they left Columbia with nine players obtaining nine tackles for a loss with one tackle for loss turning into a touchdown. New and first time head coach Keith Patterson said he was pleased with the defensive performance.
“I’m very proud of our young men,” Patterson said. “We went in and I didn’t think the moment was too big for them. I thought they handled the plan in the SEC environment very well.”
WNMU is coming off a 35-30 win over Western Oregon leading to their first 2-1 start since 2015. The last time the Mustangs won in Texas was on Nov. 11, 2017 in a 21-17 win over former ACU rival West Texas A&M. Before 2022, WNMU won only two of their last 33.
A key reason for the Mustangs’ resurgence has been through the play of quarterback Devin Larsen, a sophomore Iowa State transfer. Through three games Larsen has thrown for 781 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions. Half of his passing yards came on Saturday as he sliced through the Western Oregon secondary for 369 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
“We’re playing a Division two opponent this week,” Patterson said. “We don’t even focus on that. Our focus is on us because most of your struggles in any organization or team, it comes from within.”
Both defenses come into Wildcat Stadium hot on Saturday as the Mustangs defense forced two fumbles, four sacks and two interceptions last weekend. One of the Mustang interceptions was taken back 96 yards to tie the game at 14. ACU’s defense has not allowed a single second half point at home this year and are 28-3 in the fourth quarter.
“I felt like we controlled the line of scrimmage for the most part defensively in the course of that game,” Patterson said. “We scored the one touchdown off of the strip sack and that was very impressive. So there’s a lot to build upon.”
Patterson’s goal for his first year in Abilene is to go 5-0 at home. The last time ACU went undefeated at home was in 2013, the first year of their Div. I era. Following Saturday night, ACU has two more home games on Oct. 15 against Southern Utah for homecoming and the final matchup of the year on Nov. 19 against Stephen F. Austin. In their history against WNMU, ACU leads 3-0 with the last matchup coming on Sept. 4, 1993 in a 24-10 Wildcats win in Odessa.
“Our goal is to go 5-0 this season at home, we have five home games and we’ve currently won two in a row,” Patterson said. “That’s all that really matters. That’s all we’re focused on. We’re focused on the process and everything that it takes and getting prepared to go through with that this week at home.”
The Wildcats and Mustangs matchup begins at 7 p.m. on Saturday night at Wildcat Stadium and will be streamed live on ESPN+.