Oct. 10, 2010

ABILENE - Sophomore ACU quarterback Mitchell Gale and senior MSU quarterback Zack Eskridge finished with exactly the same passing yardage, but it was Gale's team that prevailed in a wild 31-28 win before a happy Wildcat Homecoming crowd of 13,486 in Shotwell Stadium.

Gale threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns to lead No. 5 ACU over No. 8 MSU, the third time the two teams have played in each others' last seven games. The Wildcats lost to the Mustangs in the 2009 regular season finale but beat MSU in the first round of the national playoffs.

The win Saturday pushed the Wildcats to 6-0 and 5-0 in the Lone Star Conference, and dropped the Mustangs to 5-1 and 4-1 in the LSC. ACU is 3-0 in the LSC South, and MSU is 1-1. ACU returns to action next Saturday when it travels to San Antonio to take on Incarnate Word in a game at 7 p.m. in UIW's Benson Stadium.

ACU and MSU traded scoring blows all afternoon, but the Wildcats took the lead for good when junior running back Darryl Richardson caught a 10-yard scoring pass from Gale with 2:40 left.

"I think what people saw today was the heart of our team," said ACU head coach Chris Thomsen. "They responded to just about every kind of circumstance you could imagine."

Gale completed 27 of 39 passes in a head-to-head battle with MSU quarterback Zack Eskridge, who was 26 of 42 - also for 263 yards ­- and one TD. ACU senior wide receiver Edmund Gates caught eight passes for 104 yards and a score, while freshman Darrell Cantu-Harkless ran 17 times for 117 yards, including a 69-yard TD in the fourth quarter.

After a scoreless first quarter, ACU came to life in the second quarter and looked to be in control when it took a 14-6 halftime lead. Gale threw scoring passes of 16 yards to Kendrick Johnson and 11 yards to Edmund Gates. MSU's only scoring of the back-and-forth first half came on Jose Martinez field goals of 41 and 31 yards.

Midwestern rallied from a 14-3 deficit to tie the game at 14-14 when Lester Bush ran 1 yard for a touchdown at 9:23 of the third quarter. ACU bounced back with a 27-yard field goal by Morgan Lineberry on the ensuing drive, and MSU answered when Keidrick Jackson scored on a 5-yard run at 3:09 of the quarter, and Martinez' PAT gave MSU a 21-17 lead.

Cantu-Harkless scored on a 69-yard TD run with 11:09 left, helping the Wildcats regain the lead, 24-21. The freshman from Austin had 215 all-purpose yards on the afternoon.

MSU wasn't through, however. Eskridge gambled on fourth down with 8:05 left, and hit David Little on a 35-yard scoring pass over the middle that gave the Mustangs the lead again, 28-24.

But ACU found the end zone again for the decisive score when Gale hit Daryl Richardson over the middle for a 10-yard pass with 2:40 left. Lineberry's PAT made it 31-28. The Wildcat defense was forced to step up and stop two MSU possessions in the final two minutes, and answered each challenge.

ACU led in first downs (26 to 24), rushing (198 yards to 155), total offense (461 yards to 418), and in enough penalties (11 for 70 yards to MSU's 8 for 50 yards) to keep the crowd and coaches on edge.

The game marked the most action for Richardson in several weeks after an early-season knee injury, and he looked quick and strong in gaining 74 yards on 13 carries, including 33 yards on the final drive for ACU.

Wildcat linebackers led a determined defensive effort against an MSU team ranked sixth nationally in rushing offense (248 yards a game), seventh in scoring offense (42.0 points a game) and eighth in total offense (492.4 a game). L.B. Suggs had 11 tackles, and Courtney Lane and Kevin Washington added eight each. Washington had an 8-yard fumble return as well. Washington's recovery of a fumble with six seconds left sealed the win and capped a wild fourth quarter. The Wildcats held MSU to nearly 100 yards below its per-game rushing average this year.