The first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Chadron State football team is Danny Woodhead. And its no wonder, with an NCAA record 7,683 yds plus 98 rushing TDs (and another 1,339 receiving yards and 7 more TDs). The defending Harlon Hill winner is a finalist again this year, attempting to become the first repeat winner since Dusty Bonner of Valdosta State in 2000 & 2001 (Johnny Bailey of Texas A&I won the award 3 times in 1987-88-89). But there is more to Chadron than just Mr. Woodhead.
When Chadron State has the ball - It would be a mistake to think of CSC as a run-only team - in fact they are quite balanced. They do average 221 yds per game rushing, but also 196 through the air. QB Joe McClain has thrown for 1,956 yds, with 11 TDs and only 4 Ints. Leading receiver Logan Stropko, a big physical receiver, will be missed, but Isaac Stockton has elevated his game with 15 receptions for 194 yds and 2 TDs the last three games. Danny Woodhead is a receiving threat as well, averaging almost 18 yds a catch on 23 receptions this year, and with 114 career catches. Running the ball is what he does best, and despite missing 2 games (and all but one play in the UNK game), he still has 1,318 yds rushing. Incredibly, his previous season totals were 1,840, 1,769 and 2,756. This year, he has rushed for over 100 yds in every game but UNK, with a high of 290 yds and 4 TDs against Washburn in week one. Aaron Cooksley backs him up and had 539 yds himself. Despite the balance, the offense just isn't the same without Woodhead. The Eagles struggled a bit against Nebraska-Kearney (374 yds)and struggle mightily against Mesa State (203 yds 7 pts) squeaking by with a 7-6 win. Abilene's defense enjoyed a good game against Mesa State last week, holding MSC to 229 yds and 1 offensive TD. That is likely to be a one-week repreive, however. Cody Stutts, Mike Kern, Fred Thompson, Nick Fellows and Tony Harp all figure to be quite busy trying to contain Woodhead. It's probably more important that Joe Edwards, Travis Carpenter and Willis Hogan get good pressure on McCain, since the DBs and LBs will have a little more focus on Woodhead than they might on any other RB.
When ACU has the ball - The Wildcats explosive offense has been well documented this year. They have a very offensive line, and great playmakers at each of the skill positions. QB Billy Malone now has more than 3,500 yds passing and 32 TDs. WRs Johnnn Knox has 60 receptions for 1,139 yds and 15 TDs, while Jerale Badon has 63 for 856 and 6 TDs. The best RB in the game might not be CSC's Woodhead, but fellow Harlon Hill finalist Bernard Scott. Scott now has 1,862 yds rushing and 485 receiving and 33 total TDs. Chadron State sports a solid defense that has allowed only 268 yds per game (71 rushing and 197 passing) and only 8.5 pts. The Eagles totaled 97 tackles for loss and an impressive 48 sacks. DL Aaron Ide led the Eagles with 12.5 tackles for loss and 8 sacks and LB Austin Bailey had 12 TFL and 6.5 sacks. Four Eagles were first team RMAC and two others were named to the second team. They will need to play their best game of the season this Saturday.
Prediction - If Chadron is to go deep in the playoffs it will because of its defense more so than offense, even with Danny Woodhead. The key to beating Abilene Christian is to slow down the ACU running attack. In their losses to UCO and WTAM, the Wildcats were held to under 100 yds rushing. If Abilene Christian is to continue its playoff journey, it will be the offense that leads the way - they only need the defense to be respectable (not like they played the last 5 games of the regular season). As good as Chadron's defense has been this year, they have not faced an offense like ACU's. Abilene wins a shoot out 38-31.