Abilene Christian is out of the FCS Playoff picture due to a 5-6 season but the Wildcats still have quite the consolation prize to close out their campaign.
ACU travels to Mississippi State on Saturday to mark the program’s first game against a Southeastern Conference opponent, although the Wildcats did play Arkansas in 1948 – long before the Razorbacks joined the SEC.
“It’s an amazing feeling just to be able to play an SEC team and put our name on the map,” said ACU defensive end Corey Smith. “Just having one last game for my senior season in a vibrant stadium – one of the top 10 stadiums to play in – and play against same guys that play against Alabama and LSU gives you the best feeling in the world.”
Despite losing its last two games at home to Sam Houston State (24-10) and Southeastern Louisiana (35-14), moral remains upbeat for Abilene Christian heading into their 2019 finale.
“It’s the last game for our seniors and it’s (MSU’s) homecoming,” said ACU coach Adam Dorrel. “It’s going to be a very tough environment. But our guys are good. I’ve been very proud of the effort they’ve put forth this week. The focus and energy is good. There’s a lot of excitement going into a venue like this.”
The Wildcats own a 39-70-6 all-time records against opponents are currently members of the FBS and own a victory as recently as 2014 when ACU upset Troy, 38-35. The Wildcats lost 51-31 at North Texas in their season opener.
Dorrel understands that his team will be huge underdogs this weekend taking on a team with SEC talent across the board.
“That’s a good football program obviously being based in the SEC,” Dorrel said. “Their overall defense is solid. The defensive line is extremely talented. They’re very athletic across the back end, and the linebackers run really well. Offensively, they have a big playmakers at receiver. Their quarterback has a lot of moxie, and offensive line is very physical.
“They’re also very dynamic on special teams, as far as formations and new things they’re doing there, just a real good team.
The Wildcats are averaging 424.5 yards and 29.9 points per game but have had a tendency of turning the football over. Abilene Christian had thrown 13 interceptions and also fumbled five times this season but cannot afford to have those types of mistakes in Starkville on Saturday.
“We have to play real good,” Dorrel said. “We can’t turn the football over and have to get some help on special teams – a touchdown or something like that. The big thing for us is to eliminate turnovers against a high caliber team like the Bulldogs.”