Contributed by: Lance Fleming, ACU Associate Director of Athletics for Media Relations
ABILENE – The first 12-game regular-season schedule in ACU football history features games against three teams that reached the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs and the renewal of two series that haven't been played in 30 years.
The Wildcats will host Northern Arizona in the first home game of the season on Saturday, Sept. 6, and will also play a full Southland Conference schedule one season after the Wildcat athletics program moved to the NCAA Division I level and into the Southland Conference. ACU played an independent schedule last year and finished 6-5 in head coach Ken Collums' second season.
The schedule picks up considerably in 2014 as the Wildcats' opposition went 72-67 last season, including five teams that won at least seven games. Two of those games will be against NCAA Division I FBS opponents in Georgia State (in Atlanta on Aug. 27) and Troy, Ala. (at Troy, Ala., on Sept. 13).
"We're excited about the 2014 schedule," Collums said. "When you look at the big picture in terms of playing two FBS teams and three teams that reached the FCS playoffs – as well as a full Southland schedule – it's a strong reminder of just how much work we've got to do to grow this program into one that can not only withstand 12 games at that level, but fiercely compete and win games."
The Wildcats – who have played games in the famed Cotton Bowl in Dallas, glitzy AT&T Stadium in Arlington and professional soccer stadiums in Frisco and Houston since the 2009 season – will open the season on Wednesday, Aug. 27, against Georgia State at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, which has hosted two Super Bowls (XXVIII in January 1994 and XXXIV in January 2000), as well as multiple bowl games and SEC championship games.
After that season-opening road game, the Wildcats will be back in Abilene to take on the Lumberjacks of Northern Arizona on Sept. 6 at 6 p.m. That's the first of six scheduled home games for the Wildcats, who will also host Incarnate Word (Sept. 20), Lamar (Oct. 4), Ave Maria University (Oct. 11 for Homecoming), Central Arkansas (Nov. 1) and Northwestern State (Nov. 8) at Shotwell Stadium.
The Nov. 1 game against Central Arkansas could be moved to the DFW area pending negotiations with a stadium in the metroplex.
Aside from the two FBS opponents, ACU's other road games will be at Houston Baptist (Sept. 27), at McNeese State (Oct. 18 in Lake Charles, La.), at Sam Houston State (Oct. 25 in Huntsville), and at Stephen F. Austin in the season finale (Nov. 15 in Nacogdoches).
"Looking at this schedule gives you a greater sense of urgency because all of these teams play at a high level," Collums said. "All of them have great coaches, and they'll all show up with quality players and legitimate depth. That, ultimately, is where we'll be in the future. We understand our first year in the Southland Conference will be a monumental task, but we look forward to it with great anticipation and excitement."
Wednesday, Aug. 27 at Georgia State – Georgia State will be in its fifth season of college football in 2014, but first at the FBS level. The Panthers were 0-12 last season and are 10-35 in their four seasons. The Panthers are also facing the loss of 27 seniors from last year's team.
Series: first game
Saturday, Sept. 6 vs. Northern Arizona – The Lumberjacks will roll into Abilene coming off a 9-3 playoff season in 2013. After going 7-1 in the Big Sky Conference and finishing second to Eastern Washington, Northern Arizona earned an at-large bid to the FCS playoffs. The Lumberjacks lost to South Dakota State, 26-7, in the first round. NAU, though, lost leading rusher Zach Bauman, who ran for 1,465 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013.
Series: NAU leads 2-0
Last game: NAU 62, ACU 0 (Sept. 16, 1995)
Last ACU win: never
Last game in Flagstaff, Ariz.: NAU 62, ACU 0 (Sept. 16, 1995)
Last game in Abilene: never
Saturday, Sept. 13 at Troy – The Trojans are coming off a 6-6 season in 2013 (4-3 in the Sun Belt Conference), but lost quarterback Cory Robinson, who threw for 3,219 yards and 20 touchdowns. The Trojans will return running backs Brandon Burksback for his junior season after he ran for 675 yards and two touchdowns on 134 carries last year, as well as sophomore running back Jordan Chunn, who had 514 yards and 14 touchdowns on 128 carries.
Series: ACU leads 1-0
Last game: ACU 34, Troy 7 (Sept. 13, 1975, in Dothan, Ala.)
Last ACU win: ACU 34, Troy 7 (Sept. 13, 1975, in Dothan, Ala.)
Last game in Troy: never
Last game in Abilene: never
Saturday, Sept. 20 vs. Incarnate Word – This game will mark ACU's first home Southland Conference game since the end of the 1972 season. Incarnate Word posted the program's first winning season in 2013 with a 6-5 mark, and one of those wins was a 34-31 upset victory over ACU on Nov. 9 in San Antonio. The Cardinals return 10 offensive and seven defensive starters from last year's squad, including sophomore quarterback Trent Brittain (1,893 yards passing and 11 TDs), and sophomore running backs Broderick Reeves (616 yards, 11 TDs) and Junior Sessions (536 yards, 5 TDs).
Series: ACU leads 4-1
Last game: Incarnate Word 34, ACU 31 (Nov. 9, 2013)
Last ACU win: ACU 40, Incarnate Word 6 (Oct. 19, 2013)
Last game in San Antonio: Incarnate Word 34, ACU 31 (Nov. 9, 2013)
Last game in Abilene: ACU 40, Incarnate Word 6 (Oct. 19, 2013)
Saturday, Sept. 27 at Houston Baptist – After playing last year's game at BBVA Compass Stadium – the home of the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer – this year's game should be played at HBU's new on-campus stadium. The Huskies finished 3-4 last year in their first season of college football and one of those losses was a 69-12 loss to ACU. The Huskies return quarterback Ka'Darius Baker (1,083 passing yards and 4 TDs) and running back B.J. Kelly (551 yards, 5 TDs).
Series: ACU leads 1-0
Last game: ACU 69, Houston Baptist 12 (Oct. 12, 2013)
Last ACU win: ACU 69, Houston Baptist 12 (Oct. 12, 2013)
Last game in Houston: ACU 69, Houston Baptist 12 (Oct. 12, 2013)
Last game in Abilene: never
Saturday, Oct. 4 vs. Lamar – The Lamar Cardinals come to Abilene for the first time since Oct. 30, 1971, to take on ACU in a Southland Conference tilt. The Cardinals were 5-7 last year (2-5 in the Southland) and return one of the league's top signal-callers in senior QB Caleb Berry, who completed 295 of 475 passes for 3,332 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2013. Wide receiver Reggie Begelton returns for his junior season after catching 82 passes for 858 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013.
Series: Lamar leads 9-7
Last game: Lamar 31, ACU 10 (Oct. 14, 1972)
Last ACU win: ACU 42, Lamar 27 (Oct. 17, 1970)
Last game in Beaumont: Lamar 31, ACU 10 (Oct. 14, 1972)
Last game in Abilene: Lamar 30, ACU 28 (Oct. 30, 1971)
Saturday, Oct. 11 vs. Ave Maria (Fla.) – The Wildcats will host the Gyrenes of Ave Maria for Homecoming where ACU has a 52-33-1 all-time record with wins in three of the last four seasons. Ave Maria – which plays in The Sun Conference and is affiliated with the NAIA – was 8-2 last season, winning its final eight games of the season. The Gyrenes return 20 starters from that team.
Series: First game
Saturday, Oct. 18 at McNeese State – The Wildcats travel to one of the toughest places to play in the Southland Conference as they take on the Cowboys of McNeese State. The Cowboys were 10-3 last year and finished second in the Southland with a 6-1 mark. McNeese reached the FCS playoffs only to fall to Jacksonville State, 31-10, in the first round. The Cowboys must replace quarterback Cody Stroud, who threw for 2,935 yards and 28 touchdowns last season. The last time these teams met was Nov. 18, 1972, in what was ACU's final game in the Southland Conference before dropping down to NAIA before the 1973 season.
Series: McNeese State leads 1-0
Last game: McNeese State 22, ACU 0 (Nov. 18, 1972)
Last ACU win: never
Last game in Lake Charles, La.: McNeese State 22, ACU 0 (Nov. 18, 1972)
Last game in Abilene: never
Saturday, Oct. 25 at Sam Houston State – One week after taking on the Cowboys, the Wildcats will be back on the road at Sam Houston State in what could be the toughest back-to-back road game stretch in program history. Sam Houston State was 9-5 last year and reached the FCS playoffs where it lost to Southland champion Southeastern Louisiana, 30-29, in a an epic second-round game. The Bearkats – who lost in the FCS national championship game in both 2012 and 2013 – will have to replace a lot of familiar names that were lost after last season, not the least of which is head coach Willie Fritz, who left to become the head coach at Georgia Southern. Also gone are all-time leading rusher Tim Flanders, quarterback Brian Bell, a three-year starter, and multi-purpose wide receiver Richard Sincere. The new coach is K.C. Keeler, who came to Sam Houston from Delaware where he led the Fightin' Blue Hens to a 174-73 overall record, the 2003 FCS national championship and runner-up finishes in 2007 and 2010. This will be a renewal of an old rivalry that dates back to 1926 and was renewed for a few years in the 1970s and into the 80s when both programs were members of the Lone Star Conference.
Series: ACU leads 12-8-1
Last game: Sam Houston State 10, ACU 6 (Nov. 3, 1984)
Last ACU win: ACU 27, Sam Houston State 20 (Nov. 5, 1983)
Last game in Huntsville: ACU 27, Sam Houston State 20 (Nov. 5, 1983)
Last game in Abilene: Sam Houston State 10, ACU 6 (Nov. 3, 1984)
Saturday, Nov. 1 vs. Central Arkansas – The Bears come to Abilene for the first time since September 7, 2002. Current ACU head coach Ken Collums – who played at UCA – was the offensive coordinator for the Bears that night and helped the Bears to a 31-17 win at Shotwell Stadium. The Bears were 7-5 last season (4-3 in the Southland) and lost head coach Clint Conque to Southland rival Stephen F. Austin. The Bears' new coach is Steve Campbell. This game is scheduled to be played at Shotwell Stadium, but could be moved to the DFW metroplex.
Series: UCA lead 4-0 (including ACU forfeiting a 27-10 win in 1974)
Last game: Central Arkansas 30, ACU 12 (Sept. 4, 2003)
* Last ACU win: ACU 27, Central Arkansas 10 (Sept. 7, 1974, in Little Rock)
Last game in Conway, Ark.: Central Arkansas 30, ACU 12 (Sept. 4, 2003)
Last game in Abilene: Central Arkansas 31, ACU 17 (Sept. 7, 2002)
Saturday, Nov. 8 vs. Northwestern State (La.) – The first meeting between these two teams since Sept. 22, 1984, will be the Wildcats' final home game of the regular season. The Demons were 6-6 (3-4 in the Southland) last year and will be playing their second season under head coach Jay Thomas. The Demons will play Baylor in non-conference play in a game scheduled for Sept. 6 at McLane Stadium, the new home for the defending Big 12 champions.
Series: ACU leads 5-3
Last game: Northwestern State 26, ACU 7 (Sept. 22, 1984)
Last ACU win: ACU 20, Northwestern State 17 (Nov. 24, 1983)
Last game in Nathchitoches, La.: Northwestern State 26, ACU 7 (Sept. 22, 1984)
Last game in Abilene: ACU 20, Northwestern State 17 (Nov. 24, 1983)
Saturday, Nov. 15 at Stephen F. Austin – The Wildcats will close out the 2014 season against the Lumberjacks at Homer Bryce Stadium. Like the Sam Houston State game, this will be the renewal of a series that began with a bang on Oct. 6, 1973, when the Wildcats beat Stephen F. Austin, 57-50, in the first game between the teams. The teams played each season from 1973-85 and then played again in the 1999 season-opener, which is the last time they've met on the football field. SFA led the nation in passing last year at 389.0 yards per game, but lost senior QB Brad Attaway. Conque took over as head coach in January after 14 seasons at Central Arkansas and has a 105-59 record as a head coach.
Series: ACU leads 8-6
Last game: Stephen F. Austin 51, ACU 34 (Sept. 4, 1999)
Last ACU win: ACU 22, Stephen F. Austin 21 (Oct. 5, 1985)
Last game in Nacogdoches: Stephen F. Austin 51, ACU 34 (Sept. 4, 1999)
Last game in Abilene: Stephen F. Austin 37, ACU 21 (Sept. 29, 1984)
* ACU later forfeited the win
Copyright 2016 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.