ABILENE – Charcandrick West ran for 139 yards and four touchdowns and quarterback John David Baker’s deft passing and rushing skills powered Abilene Christian University to a 60-17 win over crosstown rival McMurry University Saturday night in Shotwell Stadium.
Baker became the first quarterback at ACU – traditionally a pass-happy small college football power – to run for more than 100 yards in a game since 1965. The senior ran 10 times for 102 yards and a touchdown and also threw for 212 yards and two TDs against McMurry. West had 198 all-purpose yards for the Wildcats, who improved to 2-0 on the season.
ACU had scoring bursts of 24 points in the second quarter and 28 points in the second half to blow open the game and hand McMurry its second straight opening-season loss. After not playing each other for 41 years, the Wildcats have won two straight over the War Hawks, including a 51-0 victory last season.
Both teams are playing independent schedules in 2013 as ACU (Division I Southland Conference) and McMurry (Division II Lone Star Conference) begin historic upgrades in their NCAA membership.
ACU held a comfortable 32-3 lead at halftime before the War Hawks made it slightly uncomfortable by scoring the first 14 points of the second half.
Paxon Grayer ran untouched around left end for a 29-yard score to cap an 81-yard touchdown drive, and on the ensuing kickoff, ACU sophomore Monte Green-Avery fumbled at the Wildcat 12, and a scramble for the ball ended with the War Hawks’ Jacob Perez recovering the ball in the end zone. The 14-point swing cut the Wildcat lead to 32-17 with less than three minutes expired in the third quarter.
But the Wildcats responded with 28 straight unanswered points to end the game, and both the offense and defense contributed to the run.
West scored his third TD of the night with a 34-yard, tackle-breaking sprint down the right sideline, diving into the end zone, pushing the Wildcats’ lead to 39-17 with a little more than seven minutes left in the quarter. After another ACU defensive stop, the Wildcats responded with a four-play, 54-yard drive that was capped by a 23-yard touchdown run from Baker to make it a 46-17 game.
Senior linebacker Thor Woerner recorded his second interception of the season on McMurry’s next drive, catching a tipped ball over the middle to give the ball right back to the offense. ACU converted the turnover into more points when West scored his fourth TD of the game, a 7-yard dash with 1:37 left in the quarter.
ACU tacked on another score with 8:45 left when backup quarterback Malcolm Ruben tossed a 6-yard TD pass to Noah. Grau’s PAT made the new – and eventual final – score 60-17.
The Wildcats and War Hawks traded punts to begin the game, but McMurry’s short (13-yard) kick gave ACU the ball at the War Hawk 44-yard line. Wildcat tight end Jamie Walker opening the scoring with his third TD pass of the season with 8:11 left in the first quarter, a 3-yarder from Baker.
McMurry marched back downfield, powered by a 22-yard pass from quarterback Brady Lambert to wide receiver Jeret Smith. However, ACU’s defense stiffened and McMurry settled for a partially blocked 23-yard field goal by Ian McCarthy at the 3:32 mark.
ACU responded with a nine-play, 70-yard drive, capped by a 14-yard sprint around left end by West, a senior, with 13:52 remaining. Freshman Nic Grau’s successful PAT put the Wildcats further ahead, 14-3.
West scored again with an 8-yard run at the 8:50 mark, but ACU surprised the War Hawks when linebacker Thor Woerner ran in the two-point conversion to extend his team’s lead to 22-3.
Grau built the lead to 25-3 with a 36-yard field goal with just under five minutes remaining in the half. On the ensuing drive, safety Justin Stewart forced a fumble by McMurry wide receiver David McHugh, and linebacker teammate Blake Ruud recovered at the ACU 43-yard line. Eight plays later, fullback Noah Cheshier caught a 1-yard TD pass from Baker, and Grau’s PAT put the Wildcats up 32-3 with 53 seconds left.
Baker completed 17 of 23 passes to 10 different receivers. West was his favorite target (four catches for 59 yards) and senior wide receiver Darian Hogg caught three for 54 yards. After two games, Baker has completed 34 of 43 passes for 534 yards and nine TDs in his first season as ACU’s starting quarterback after succeeding Mitchell Gale, who is a rookie for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.
McMurry’s Lambert completed 22 of 35 passes for 187 yards. Grayer was the War Hawks’ leading rusher with 13 carries for 137 yards and one TD. Chris Simpson added 62 yards on eight carries. ACU outgained McMurry 567 to 406 yards, including 333 yards on the ground, its best rushing effort since a 362-yard performance against Eastern New Mexico in 2009. The Wildcats led McMurry in first downs, 31-17, and converted seven of 11 third-down situations. McMurry was successful on only two of its 12 third downs.
ACU returns to Shotwell Stadium next Saturday to play New Mexico Highlands University at 6 p.m. CST.