Story and photo courtesy of Abilene Christian Athletics
– Mitchell Gale threw for 327 yards and two touchdowns and Charcandrick West ran for 130 yards and two other scores as No. 12-ranked Abilene Christian University tuned up for the NCAA Division playoffs with a 61-16 win Saturday afternoon in Shotwell Stadium over University of the Incarnate Word.
ACU (8-2 overall and 7-1 in the Lone Star Conference) also picked up two interception returns for scores on defense and held the Cardinals to just 61 yards passing and 11 first downs in a dominating overall performance.
The Wildcats put the game away by reeling off 37 straight points after an early 7-3 lead. Placekickers Morgan Lineberry (20, 25 and 54 yards) and Ryan Owens (29 yards) contributed four field goals, and ACU totaled 594 yards of offense.
Gale threw TD passes of 35 yards to wide receiver Andrew Richards and 31 yards to wide receiver Tony Gabriel in moving to second place on the ACU all-time passing list. He has thrown for 3,317 yards in 2011 and 8,621 in his first three seasons. Gale and Billy Malone are the only two Wildcat quarterbacks to throw for more than 3,000 yards in two consecutive seasons.
The Wildcats picked off UIW quarterback Eric Massoni twice in the third quarter, returning both for touchdowns: Nate Bailey (53 yards) and Thor Woerner (26 yards) were part of a 27-point outburst by ACU that put the game out of reach. Safety Mike Wallace had a third interception of Massoni for ACU.
Daryl Richardson opened the game's scoring with a 12-yard TD run, while West added a 3-yarder and 71-yarder later in the game. Reggie Brown rushed for 94 yards, and Gabriel caught five passes for 111 yards and Darian Hogg added five for 92 yards.
Trent Rios' two rushing touchdowns (10 yards and 2 yards) and a 20-yard field goal by Thomas Rebold accounted for UIW's scoring. The Cardinals (2-8 overall and 2-6 in the LSC) were held by ACU to just 225 yards of total offense.
ACU, ranked fifth in Super Region Four entering today's game, awaits an expected first-round game in the NCAA Division II playoffs next week. The Wildcats are one of only five schools to qualify for the national playoffs each of the last five years. Others are Grand Valley State (Mich.), North Alabama, Albany State (Ga.) and Northwest Missouri State.