ABILENE, Texas - Mitchell Gale threw four touchdown passes and Abilene Christian University scored on three returns Saturday night to power the Wildcats to a 59-17 win over Eastern New Mexico University in Shotwell Stadium.
The Wildcats, 4-2 overall and 2-2 in the Lone Star Conference South Division, won their second consecutive game and seventh in a row over the Greyhounds (2-4 overall and 1-3 in the LSC) and 12th in 14 years.
The defense gave up 244 rushing yards to ENMU's option-oriented offense, but intercepted Wesley Wood three times, returning two of them for touchdowns. ACU senior linebacker Mike Wallace had one of them, a 48-yarder that was his fifth pick in the past three games.
Gale, a senior, completed 18 of 28 passes for 252 yards in only three quarters of play, leading his team to its most points since a season-opening 51-0 shutout of McMurry University. The Wildcats outgained the Greyhounds, 397 yards to 312.
Cade Stone began the TD parade early, running the opening kickoff back 92 yards for a TD and a 7-0 ACU lead. When the Wildcats muffed the Greyhounds' opening-drive punt, Wesley Wood answered for his team three plays later with a 4-yard TD run, tying the score.
ACU regained the lead, 14-7, when Darrell Cantu-Harkless caught a pass from Gale, slipped out of a tackle at the 20-yard line and finished off a 39-yard scoring play with 3:51 left in the first quarter.
The Wildcats went 99 yards for their next score, a 12-play drive capped by Gale's 12-yard TD pass to junior wide receiver Darian Hogg at the 12:30 mark. On ENMU's next possession, a diving interception by freshman cornerback Tyler Chapa at the Greyhounds' 44-yard line gave the ball back to ACU, which converted the turnover into more points when Morgan Lineberry kicked a 29-yard field goal.
Return yards again stymied the Greyhounds when Wallace's interception of Wood covered nearly half of the field, upping ACU's lead to 31-7. Eastern tacked on a 30-yard field goal by Baca with three seconds left, shortening the first-half deficit to 31-10.
ACU scored three times in the third quarter, increasing its lead to 38-10 on its opening drive when Charcandrick West caught a 21-yard TD pass from Gale. Defensive lineman Defensive lineman Melvin Shead intercepted a Wood pass on the Greyhound 7-yard line and returned it for a TD, and Hogg caught his second scoring pass of the game, an 8-yarder, with 14 seconds left.
ENMU tacked on points with 8:40 remaining in the game when Wood ran 5 yards for a TD to reduce the margin to 52-17, but ACU answered right back. Alternating junior John David Baker at quarterback and freshman wide receiver Caleb Stone in the Wildcat formation, ACU marched 56 yards for its eighth and final TD of the game, with sophomore Marcel Threat running 5 yards for the closing score.
Woods was the game's leading rusher, running 27 times for 128 yards and two TDs. He completed nine of 13 passs for 68 yards.
ACU was led in rushing by Threat's 70 yards on 12 carries, and Gabriel's eight catches for 112 yards. Cantu-Harkless had four catches for 80 yards.
The Wildcats travel to Canyon to play longtime rival West Texas A&M next Saturday at 6 p.m.
Information provided by ACU athletics department.