ACU football finished its first official season in the Southland with a heart-pounding win as it toppled Stephen F. Austin, 37-35.
The Wildcats improved their record to 6-6 overall and 4-4 in conference, while the Lumberjacks fell to 7-4 and 4-3 in conference.
The Lumberjacks were looking for a win to keep their playoff hopes alive and seemed to be doing that early on as they forced and recovered a Parker McKenzie fumble. SFA went down the field easily and scored an opening drive touchdown, but the Wildcats would respond quickly with a 66-yard De’Andre Brown rushing touchdown.
An offensive shootout would ensue from there and the teams would continue to trade scores, when late in fourth quarter ACU was trailing SFA by one. SFA punter Nick Bruno shanked a 16-yard punt to give the Wildcats the ball at the ‘Jacks 41. The key play of the drive was a defensive pass interference call against SFA that moved ACU into the red zone.
The Wildcats would stall in the red zone and have to settle for a field goal. Nik Grau punched through a 31-yard field goal, his third make of day, with 5:48 remaining in the game.
SFA quarterback Zach Conque led a clock-killing drive that lasted 4:24 and went down to the ACU 9-yard line. Jordan Wiggs set up for a 26-yard game-winning field goal with a little more than a minute remaining in the game, but he missed the chip shot, and the Wildcats took over. ACU would burn the clock down before they punted to give SFA one last shot with two seconds left. Senior defensive end Nick Richardson pressured Zach Conque into an incomplete pass to end the game.
“This is a huge win for several reasons,” said Ken Collums, head coach. “It’s a huge win because we came off a disappointing loss last week, and the second reason is because this is a good football team and they can beat anyone in our league.”
ACU’s offense looked like a completely different unit against Stephen F. Austin. The offense put together an efficient game after last week’s 10-point, five-turnover outing. Parker McKenzie was 19-for-29 for 267 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. McKenzie’s final game gave him 3,084 yards on the season, making him only the sixth passer to do so in ACU history. Brown topped his game against UCA with 22 rushes for 256 yard and three touchdowns against the Lumberjacks.
The receiving corps came up with a huge performance as junior Jace Hudson, who changed his number to 20 for this game, had his best game of the season with five catches for 105 yards and one touchdown. Cade Stone also caught five passes for 64 yards and in Demarcus Thompson’s final game as a Wildcat he caught four passes for 66 yards. Thompson moved into the top 10 in career catches in ACU history with 120 receptions passing the great Johnny Knox.
ACU’s defense struggled to stop the high-octane Lumberjack offense, but it pressured Conque with four sacks.
Senior Nick Richardson recorded a sack in his final game, falling just short of the record but making him second all-time in ACU history with 32.5 sacks.
Senior Justin Stephens led all players with 16 tackles. Stephens swapped numbers with Hudson so he could wear number 17, the number his dad wore when he was a quarterback for ACU.
“I am so proud of these seniors they have carried this thing from day one,” Collums said. “They have walked on a lot of gravel so our guys could have nice stuff in the Southland. I am so pleased, 6-6 is a good deal when it could be 5-7, so we will take it regardless of what our record is.”
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