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Bronchos club ACU, 49-24

Special to the N.E.T. Sports Gazette

EDMOND, Okla. – Central Oklahoma certainly lived up to its No. 10 national ranking Saturday night as it whipped ACU, 49-24, in the Wildcats’ season-opener in front of 5,251 fans at Wantland Stadium.

The Bronchos – ranked No. 10 in last week’s American Football Coaches’ Association – improved to 2-0 in dealing the Wildcats’ their sixth straight season-opening loss.  ACU hasn’t won a season-opener since a 31-13 win at Southwestern Oklahoma State in 1998.

Central Oklahoma won this one in the first half when it scored on a fake punt, interception return and three Justin Allgood touchdown passes to take a 35-3 lead at intermission.  The Bronchos rolled up 302 yards of offense, and the UCO defense held ACU to just 70 yards of total offense.

Things started well for ACU as linebacker Brandon Henry intercepted a James Smith pass on the first play of the game, setting up a 31-yard field goal by Eben Nelson that gave the Wildcats a 3-0 lead.  That field goal made Nelson the second-leading scorer in school history with 166 points (Wilbert Montgomery is the leader with 458 points), and it also made him the leading kick scorer in school history.

That, however, was the highlight of the first half for the Wildcats, who were then bombarded, first by UCO special teams and then by the Broncho offense.

Two possessions after ACU took the 3-0 lead, the Bronchos executed a fake punt to perfection as punter Ryan Lopez weaved in and out of traffic on his way to a 63-yard touchdown run to make it 7-3.  Two ACU possessions later, Rashon Myles fumbled near midfield, and it led directly to an Allgood touchdown pass of 13 yards to Jared Meers to make it 14-3 with 1:30 left in the first quarter.

The Bronchos then pulled off more special-teams trickery as kicker A.J. Haglund recovered his own onside kick.  However, ACU all-America safety Danieal Manning blocked a 38-yard field goal attempt by Haglund.  But ACU was forced to punt, and two plays after the punt, Allgood found Zach Edwards for a 49-yard touchdown pass and a 21-3 UCO lead with 10:26 left in the first half.

Two plays after the touchdown, ACU quarterback Greg Wiggins was intercepted by Bernard Moore, who returned it 26 yards for a touchdown and a 28-3 lead.

The Wildcats then mounted their best drive of the first half, a 15-play , 48-yard march that stalled on the UCO 28-yard line when Wiggins’ fourth-and-2 pass to freshman Jerale Badon fell incomplete.  The Bronchos then moved 72 yards on six plays to a 20-yard touchdown pass from Allgood to Brandon Verrett that made it 35-3 with 42 seconds left in the first half.

The Wildcats actually got a little bit of rhythm throwing the ball in the second half as Wiggins – who was 5 for 18 for just 36 yards in the first half – went 14-for-24 for 224 yards and three scores in the second half.  He threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Dillon Cobb with 13:18 left in the game to make it 42-10, and then a 52-yard touchdown pass to Badon with 6:22 left to make it 49-17.  Wiggins then hooked up with John Brock from seven yards out to make it 49-24 with 2:36 to play.

Badon – in his first game with the Wildcats after an all-state career at Abilene High – finished the night with five catches for 98 yards and one touchdown.

ACU will return to action Saturday at 6 p.m. when it hosts Northeastern State in its season-opener at Shotwell Stadium.

Sunday Sept. 5, 2004

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