Fifth-ranked Abilene Christian scored 16 points off Northwest turnovers and held on late for a 19-14 win against second-ranked Northwest Missouri State Thursday at Shotwell Stadium in the season opener for both teams.
It’s the third season-opening loss in a row for the Bearcats, who’ve rebounded to win the next 12 and 13 consecutive games in the 2007 and 2008 seasons, respectively. Abilene Christian beat Northwest 44-27 in Maryville at the start of last season.
A high snap through the end zone for a safety and a 42-yard fumble return by Arthur Johnson gave Abilene Christian a 9-0 lead 10 minutes into the game. A 37-yard interception return by Casey Carr led to a 24-yard touchdown pass from Clark Harrell to Ben Gibbs and the Wildcat lead was 16-0 with six minutes left in the first half.
The touchdown drive spanned 35 yards – the Wildcats’ longest of the first half. Northwest outgained Abilene Christian by nine yards in the opening half, but failed to post a score. The Bearcats had a touchdown pass erased by penalty prior to the interception. Northwest also missed a 47-yard field at the end of the first quarter.
Harrell’s touchdown pass was his only completion of the game. Starter Zach Stewart was 10-for-14 for 65 yards. Both quarterbacks lost a fumble.
Stewart’s miscue ended the Wildcats’ opening possession of the second half and led to Northwest’s first score. A five-yard fade pass from quarterback Blake Bolles to Jake Soy capped a six-play, 34-yard drive and cut the lead to 16-7.
Northwest safety Aldwin Foster-Rettig made it 16-14 after he recovered a blocked punt in the end zone near the end of the third quarter. Roberto Davis, a junior transfer from Reedley Community College in California, made the block and sent the ball high into the air. Foster-Rettig caught the ball on the fly for his second score in as many games. He returned an interception for a touchdown in last year’s national championship game against Minnesota Duluth.
Northwest’s defense held Abilene Christian to 51 yards in the second half and provided the offense three chances in the fourth quarter for the go-ahead score. Two of the drives started near its own 40-yard line.
The first stalled on a 4th-and-5 incompletion near midfield. The second ended after Northwest failed to gain a yard on 3rd-and-1. Wildcat defensive end Aston Whiteside sacked Bolles on fourth down at Abilene Christian’s 35-yard line to end the third.
Northwest roughed the punter with two minutes to go which sealed the win for Abilene Christian. It was one of 10 penalties commited by the Bearcats, half of which were false starts.
Abilene Christian finished 1-for-14 on third down, 0-for-2 on fourth down and was outgained 230-174. This from an offense which averaged 560 yards and 52 points per game a year ago.
Northwest linebacker Willie Horn had a game-high nine tackles and had two of the Bearcats’ four sacks. His forced fumble of Stewart led to Northwest’s first score.
Sean Paddock had eight tackles for Northwest and Evan Wilmes and Adam Vondrak added seven each.
Bolles passed for 173 yards and a score, but committed both Northwest turnovers. He was also sacked twice and had 11 yards rushing. LaRon Council carried 20 times for a game-high 69 yards.
Story courtesy of Northwest Missouri State athletics .