The Wildcats (4-1, 1-0) started conference play on a high note, earning their first Western Athletic Conference win of the season on the road against the Utah Tech Trailblazers (1-4, 0-2), 26-10.
With its first conference win, plus a 3-1 start to the 2022 season, ACU sits as the top team in the WAC. The win also marked the best start ACU’s football program has seen since 2011, and the best start for the program during its Division I era.
Both teams struggled to score in the first quarter, with the only points coming from an Utah Tech field goal. The only touchdown of the first half came when Utah Tech’s sophomore running back Quali Conley ran the ball in for a touchdown three plays after they forced ACU to fumble the ball deep in the red zone.
ACU’s junior placekicker Blair Zepeda kept the Wildcats in the game with a 37-yard and 30-yard field goals, which allowed him to enter the 200-point for ACU this season. Despite having some struggles this season, Patterson never lost faith in placekicker, and mentioned how love and respected he was by his team.
“He’s been impressive since the day I got here,” Patterson said. he’s missed a couple of field goals this season, but I’ve not lost any confidence in him whatsoever. He’s a tremendous player, a tremendous kicker. I mean, obviously respect that he has voted special teams captained by his peers. We have nothing but confidence in him because we’ve seen what he can do all the way through the course of fall camp and spring football.”
Ultimately, ACU trailed at halftime 10-6, but the Wildcats flipped a switch at halftime, taking over the game and outscoring the Trailblazers 20-0. This shutout in the second half was sparked by the Wildcat defense, which held the Trailblazer offense to 146 total yards gained in the second half.
The second-half takeover was also sparked by sophomore running back, Jermiah Dobbins.
In the second half alone, Dobbins ran for a season-high three touchdowns and finished the game running for a season-high 130 yards, serving as a much needed spark to help the Wildcats gain the Saturday night win. Dobbins’ performance ultimately earned him conference honors, being named the WAC Offensive Player of the Week on Monday.
Along with the growth and performance from Dobbins, Patterson is excited to see the continued development of his running back core.
“Jermiah just is getting more comfortable with who’s on the field and who’s in front of him,” Patterson said. “Both of our running backs are getting more comfortable with what they’re seeing. And they’re both they’re still both fairly young guys. I mean, so they’re still learning themselves.”
Starting the game for the Wildcats under center for the Wildcats was junior quarterback Ethan Long, coming off a strong performance off the bench against Western New Mexico the previous week. He started under center for the entire first half, passing 8-23 for 92 yards.
The Wildcats saw a new quarterback at the start of the second half, with sophomore quarterback Maverick McIvor taking over after only playing the opening two drives against WNMU last week.
McIvor, along with Dobbins finally saw success for the offense. McIvor finished the game throwing 7-12 for 148 yards, with his longest pass being a 40-yard bomb to sophomore wide receiver Blayne Taylor to set up Dobbins for his first touchdown.
“I really like what we’re building, we’re building depth,” Patterson said. “It’s always great to have two quarterbacks that can come in and show that they have the capability of moving the offense down the field and scoring points and being a leader. We just need to develop consistency on that side of the football.”
Up next, ACU hits the road once again next week as they head to Nacogdoches to face off against longtime ACU and conference foe, Stephen F. Austin. The Wildcats are 3-5 in the eight matchups against with the Lumberjacks, with SFA winning the last matchup on Oct. 30, 2021, 41-27, in Nacogdoches.
The Wildcats and Lumberjacks renew their rivalry on Saturday in Homer Bryce Stadium at 6 p.m., with the game streaming live on ESPN+.