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This is the third trip to the playoffs for Midwestern State. The Mustangs lost 52-33 to Colorado Mines in 2004, while beating Missouri Western 28-26 in a first round game in 2006 before falling to Northwest Missouri 27-0 in the region semi-finals.
Abilene Christian won NAIA national titles in 1973 and 1977, and have qualified for the NCAA playoffs the past 4 years. In 2006, ACU lost to WTAM 30-27 in the first round. In 2007, the Wildcats defeated Mesa State 56-12 in the opening round before dropping a memorable 76-73 decision to Chadron State. Last year, ACU defeated WTAM 93-68 and then lost to eventual national runner-up Northwest Missouri 45-36 in the region finals.
Tarleton State will be making their third NCAA playoff appearance. The Texans defeated Chadron State in 2001 , before falling in the region final to Cal-Davis . In 2003, Texas A&M-Kingsville defeated Tarleton State 34-10 in the first round.
Texas A&M-Kingsville has the most playoff experience, qualifying 8 times while in the NAIA (winning 7 national championships) and 13 times in the NCAA. The Javelinas were the national runner-up in 1994, and have reached the national semifinals 6 other times (1988, 1993, 1995, 1998. 2002, and 2003). TAMK was last in the playoffs in 2004, defeating Southeastern Oklahoma , before falling at Northwest Missouri 34-14.
Repeat performance for MSU, ACU
Playing a team in the regular season and then meeting them again in the postseason is nothing new.
Just last year Abilene Christian played both West Texas A&M and Northwest Missouri twice, while Pittsburg State played MIAA foes Nebraska-Omaha and Northwest Missouri two times as well.
But playing them two weeks in a row at the same place and roughly the same time is what will make today’s NCAA Division II first-round playoff game between Midwestern State (9-2) and Abilene Christian (8-3) a little different from the norm.
Rematch could be as wild as the wind
Having grown up dodging the tumbling tumbleweeds of west Texas, Chris Thomsen knows about wind.
He knows you can hit an 8-iron on the golf course in the morning, then hit a 5-iron the same distance in the afternoon.
He knows a gusty norther can blow your trash cans all the way to Oklaunion.
He knows that average kickers — with a stiff breeze at their back — can quickly turn into Lou Groza.
Or vice versa.
And Thomsen — while playing football in Vernon and later playing and coaching for Abilene Christian — has been to Memorial Stadium’s wind tunnel enough times to know that the place can become a swirling Twilight Zone.
ACU preview: Yep, it's Wildcats vs. Mustangs again
Call it a do-over. Call it a chance for redemption.
Regardless, the Abilene Christian football team gets a rare chance to make amends for a 15-13 loss against Midwestern State just seven days later on the same field in Wichita Falls.
And this time, there’s no question about what’s at stake. The winner moves on to the second round of the playoffs, while the loser’s season comes to an end.
No. 18 ACU (8-3) and No. 7 Midwestern State (9-2) tee it up once again at noon today in the first round of the Division II playoffs at Memorial Stadium. The winner plays No. 2 Northwest Missouri State in Maryville, Mo., the following Saturday.
But the thought of playing Northwest Missouri for the fourth time in two seasons, including another second-round playoff game in as many years, can’t be on the Wildcats’ minds. They’ve got their hands full with a Midwestern team that’s 6-0 at home this season and fired up about reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2006.