HOUSTON – Abilene Christian University senior wide receiver Taylor Gabriel had 174 receiving yards and three touchdowns Saturday on a record-setting night for the Wildcats as they whipped future Southland Conference rival Houston Baptist, 69-12, at BBVA Compass Stadium.
The win snaps ACU's three-game losing streak as the Wildcats improve to 4-3 overall. The Huskies, meanwhile, fall to 2-2 as they saw their two-game winning streak come to an end. With losses to Sam Houston State and ACU on the season, HBU has lost to two future Southland Conference opponents by a combined score of 143-12.
The Wildcats will be back at Shotwell Stadium in Abilene next Saturday for the first time since Sept. 14 when they take on Incarnate Word in the Wildcats' annual Homecoming contest. Kickoff against the Cardinals is set for 2 p.m.
With ACU already leading by a margin of 34-12 late in the first half when the Wildcat defense forced a Houston Baptist punt. The Wildcats took over possession at their own 29-yard line with about 50 seconds left in the first half and that's when Gabriel struck with one of the great catch-and-runs in recent ACU history.
John David Baker hit Gabriel over the middle and he slammed on the brakes around the 40-yard-line and reversed field to the left. He broke around two would-be tacklers and moved down the far sideline. At the 5-yard-line he dove into the end zone to give the Wildcats a 41-12 lead at halftime.
Houston Baptist turned the ball over on the first play of the third quarter after Nick Richardson forced a Larry Day that was scooped up by Keith Barnett and returned to the HBU 34-yard-line. Five plays later, Cade Stone scored on a 5-yard touchdown run to make it 48-12. After another HBU punt, Gabriel capped another ACU drive with a 20-yard touchdown catch from Baker to make it 55-12 with 7:59 left in the third quarter.
Adrian Duncan finished off the scoring with a 7-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter and a 2-yard scoring with 8:15 left in the game.
Gabriel's 174-yard night is his 11th career 100-yard receiving game only two off the ACU career record of 13 set by Clyde Gates (2007-10), and that 174 yards are the most single-game receiving yards in his career, breaking his previous mark of 160 set earlier this year against New Mexico Highlands.
Gabriel now has 180 career catches (second all-time at ACU), 2,575 career receiving yards (third all-time) and 24 touchdowns (tied for fourth all-time).
Early on it was Darrell Cantu-Harkless who stole the show for the Wildcats as he ran for a pair of touchdowns, one from 14 yards out to cap ACU's opening possession and the other a 1-yard run with 4:33 left in the quarter to make it a 14-3 game. Harkless finished the game with 62 yards rushing and 58 yards receiving as he joined former greats Bernard Scott and Wilbert Montgomery as the only three players in ACU history to record at least 1,000 career yards both rushing and receiving.
Baker finished the night 16 of 20 for 273 yards and four touchdowns as he directed the ACU offense to the seventh-highest single-game point total in ACU history. The Wildcats have now scored at least 50 points 20 times since the 2006 season.