Brantlys seek to raise awareness of Ebola

Dr. Kent Brantly and wife Amber meet with President Obama


President Barack Obama meets with Dr. Kent Brantly and his wife, Amber, in the Oval Office on Tuesday. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

It was a whirlwind week in Washington, D.C., for Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly (’03) and his wife Amber (Carroll ’06).

The ACU alumnus testified before congressional committees Tuesday and Wednesday about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The couple also met privately with President Obama in the Oval Office.

Brantly contracted the deadly virus while serving as a missionary doctor in Liberia for aid organization Samaritan’s Purse.

“As a survivor, it is not only my privilege but also my duty to speak out on behalf of the people of West Africa who continue to face unspeakable devastation because of this horrific disease,” he said Tuesday, speaking at a joint Senate hearing on the Ebola crisis.

On Wednesday, he testified again, this time before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee. Throughout the week, he also met with major media outlets in the nation’s Capitol, including the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post.

Amber Brantly's parents, Donnie ('77) and Lisa (Spann '79) Carroll, talk about the week their son-in-law was diagnosed with Ebola. This video was part of a sermon Sunday at Southern Hills Church of Christ, where the Carrolls are members.

Amber Brantly’s parents, Donnie (’77) and Lisa (Spann ’79) Carroll, talk about the week their son-in-law was diagnosed with Ebola. This video was part of a sermon Sunday at Southern Hills Church of Christ in Abilene, where the Carrolls are members.

Brantly’s core message was the same: The people of West Africa are suffering greatly from a horrific disease that is raging out of control, and it will require swift and coordinated action by the global health community to keep the disease from spreading further, perhaps even to the United States.

“I hope that the devastating impact of the current epidemic will result in new discoveries for treatments and vaccines in the future, but we cannot wait for a magic bullet to talk the spread of Ebola in West Africa,” Brantly told congressmen. “The current epidemic is beyond anything that we have ever seen, and it is time to think outside of the box.”

Brantly’s battle with the virus left him with a perspective few other physicians share. “Ebola is a scourge that does not even allow its victims to die with dignity,” he testified.

“I came to understand firsthand what my own patients had suffered,” he said. “I was isolated from my family, and I was unsure if I would ever see them again. Even though I knew most of my caretakers, I could see nothing but their eyes through their protective goggles when they came to treat me.”

As the Brantlys look to the future, the people of Africa remain on their hearts and minds.  Brantly told the LA Times that he would like to return to Liberia, “Lord willing,” and encouraged other healthcare professionals considering traveling to West Africa to help with the Ebola outbreak to go now. “For people who want to go, I say, ‘Don’t delay.’ ”


McLaughlin opens Summit program Sunday

Abilene Christian University’s 108th annual Summit begins tonight when Don McLaughlin, pulpit minister at North Atlanta (Ga.) Church of Christ, is the 7 p.m. theme speaker. More than 130 top preachers and teachers are scheduled to present Sunday through Wednesday on the theme “Earthed: Discovering Our Origin in God.”

Watch live major presentations here by featured guest presenters and theme speakers at 7 p.m. tonight and Monday-Wednesday at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Featured guest presenters:

Barbara Brown Taylor 250x350

Dr. Barbara Brown Taylor was featured in the April 28 cover story of Time magazine. She was named in 1996 by Baylor University as one of the 12 most effective preachers in the English-speaking world, along with Dr. Fred Craddock, Billy Graham and Dr. Charles Swindoll. Hauerwaus’ book, A Community of Character: Toward a Constructive Christian Social Ethic, was named one of the 100 most important books on religion of the 20th century. She is the Butman Professor of Religion at Piedmont College in rural northeast Georgia. An Episcopal priest since 1984, she is the author of a dozen books, mostly on the preaching life, including The New York Times best-seller An Altar in the World, acclaimed and award-winning Leaving Church, and most recently, Learning to Walk in the Dark. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in religion from Emory University, a Master of Divinity degree from Yale University and has received several honorary doctorates. She and her husband live on a farm in the foothills of the Appalachians.

0846/02 #22©Duke University Photography by Jim Wallace

Dr. Stanley Hauerwas is professor emeritus of divinity and law at Duke University, where he has taught in the Duke Divinity School since 1984. A native of West Texas, he earned a degree from Southwestern University, four graduate degrees – including a Ph.D. – from Yale University. Hauerwas taught at the University of Notre Dame from 1970-84. He was named “America’s Best Theologian” by Time magazine in 2001 and his 25 books include A Community of Character, The Peaceable Kingdom, Resident Aliens, and Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir. For 40 years, Hauerwas has been considered a leading voice on the importance of lived theology, of character and virtues, of narrative, and of the church’s role in Christian formation and moral reflection.

Andrea Dilley

Andrea Palpant Dilley is an author published in Christianity Today, Beliefnet, Her.meneutics, Huffington Post, CNN Belief Blog, and Faith and Leadership, a journal of the Duke University Divinity School. As a documentary producer, her work has aired nationally on American Public Television. Dilley has written Jesus Girls: True Tales of Growing Up Female and Evangelical and Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith. Her memoir, Faith and Other Flat Tires: Searching for God on the Rough Road of Doubt describes her childhood in Kenya as the daughter of Quaker medical missionaries. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and their three children.

Theme speakers in Moody Coliseum:

  • SUNDAY, 7 P.M. – Don McLaughlin, “God’s Earthed Words”
  • MONDAY, 11 A.M. – Dr. Barbara Brown Taylor, “Abraham’s Unchosen Blessing”
  • MONDAY, 7 P.M. – Dr. Lawrence Murray, assistant professor of psychology and family studies/liberal arts at Oklahoma Christian University, Edmond, Okla., “Believing God Leads to Righteousness”
  • TUESDAY, 11 A.M. – Sam Barrington, pastor of Living Stones Church in South Bend, Ind., “God Blesses Outsiders”
  • TUESDAY, 7 P.M. – Dr. Stanley Hauerwas, “The ‘God Wrestlers’ ”
  • WEDNESDAY, 11 A.M. – Sam Gonzalez (’93), campus minister of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, “The Strange Strength of a Matriarch”
  • WEDNESDAY, 7 P.M. – Randy Harris, popular author and speaker, and instructor of Bible, mission and ministry at ACU, “Abandoned to the Power of God”

Read the online Summit program booklet:


VIA coverage includes a look back at Bennett

Bennett has been gutted and is awaiting installation of a new steel infrastructure that will be used to construct labs and project space.

Bennett has been gutted and is awaiting installation of a new steel infrastructure that will be used to construct labs and project space.

Since 1930, one of the workhouse buildings on the Abilene Christian University campus has been Bennett Gymnasium, which is receiving new life this year as the future home of laboratories for the Department of Engineering and Physics.

Bennett in 1957 was a beehive of activity, from intramurals and P.E. classes to men’s intercollegiate basketball games and pep rallies, to  Lectureship events.

Bennett in 1957 was a beehive of activity, from intramurals and P.E. classes, to pep rallies and men’s intercollegiate basketball games, to Lectureship events.

Paul Anthony (’04), ACU’s advancement communication coordinator, described the transformation in our new Spring-Summer issue as “trading in hardwood and basketball for stained concrete and the hum of robotic experiments.” That’s a pretty good assessment.

Right now Bennett is a mere shell of its former self – the exterior is being largely retained – but soon its interior will be transformed into two stories of labs and project space that will become a showpiece for the fast-growing engineering program and a physics program that has long yearned for lab space to complement its ongoing world-class research work at places like Fermilab and Brookhaven national labs.

Bennett's most recent use was a venue for intramural basketball. The last wooden court was not original to the building, which opened in 1930.

Bennett’s most recent use including being a venue for intramural basketball. The last wooden court was not original to the building, which opened in 1930.

ACU Today’s cover story features 14 pages of stories and images about the exciting Vision in Action initiative that will build three science facilities and two stadiums on campus.

In the weeks and months to come, we’ll be profiling here and in the print edition the donors, faculty members, history and impressive programs represented by the university’s largest construction phase in 50 years.

Bennett will be the first of the five projects to be completed later this fall, and we look forward to showing you images of its earlier days and telling some fascinating stories about what was widely considered the finest gym between Fort Worth and El Paso.

Via-SpreadView “Building the Future,” our cover story in the new online issue


ACU Remembers: Ken Rasco

Ken Rasco 250x300After 23 years (1927-50), Clara Bishop was a hard act to follow as registrar of Abilene Christian University.

But Kenneth Hugh Rasco (’48) bettered her longevity mark in the Registrar’s Office with a record career spanning 35 years (1950-85). And if you were one of the tens of thousands of students to attend ACU during those three-and-a-half decades, his thumbprint was on your transcript and he personally approved your Commencement credentials.

Colleagues and students alike spoke of the kindness, humility, grace, patience and eye for detail with which Rasco carried out a role crucial to the success of any university and its academic endeavors. Those attributes also describe his life outside the tedious work he did in the Hardin Administration Building and the profession to which he dedicated his career.

Rasco died today in Abilene at age 93. A memorial service will be held at University Church of Christ on Saturday, Sept. 20, at 11 a.m., conducted by Piersall-Benton Funeral Directors, with burial afterward at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Abilene. Visitation with the family will be 5-7 p.m. Friday at Piersall-Benton (733 Butternut, Abilene, Texas 79602).

Ken was born Jan. 23, 1921, in Tyler, Texas, and graduated from Tyler High School in 1939. He was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Corps, serving from 1942-44 as a left-waist gunner on a B-17 in World War II. He earned four Air Medals with four oak leaf clusters, and the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism during his 35 missions over Germany and France. Ken Rasco registrar

He married Marianna Yarbrough (’53) on Jan. 1, 1954, in Fort Worth. Later, she retired from ACU as professor emerita of family and consumer sciences after nearly 40 years of service to her alma mater.

He graduated from Tyler Junior College with an Associate of Arts degree in English in 1941 and from ACU in 1948 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He earned a Master of Arts degree in 1949 from Northwestern University and also did graduate studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and DePauw University.

Ken joined the ACU faculty in 1949 as an instructor of English, retiring in 1986 as assistant professor emeritus of English and registrar. He was active in the Texas Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers and the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

He served as a deacon at Abilene’s University Church of Christ, where he and Marianna have been longtime members.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Hugh and Berta Lou McGlathery Rasco; brothers Edwin Rasco and Alvin Mack McCary; and a sister, Ethlene Buffington. Among survivors are Dr. Marianna Rasco, his wife of 60 years; a daughter, Dr. Amy Coffey (’79); a son, Kern Rasco (’80); five grandchildren; one great-grandchild; and a sister, Merle Holmes (’54). Memorials may be made to the Ken and Marianna Yarbrough Rasco Scholarship at ACU (Gift Records, ACU Box 29132, Abilene, Texas 79699-9132).


VIA News: Track/soccer stadium progresses

This view from a live webcam atop Edwards Hall shows progress on the new stadium for ACU's soccer and track and field programs.

This view from a live webcam atop Edwards Hall shows progress on the new stadium for ACU’s soccer and track and field programs.

With new engineering and physics labs still being built on the south side of campus, attention also has turned to the north, where crews have begun work on constructing a new stadium for ACU’s successful soccer and track and field teams.

A live webcam is tracking the progress of the stadium, which is the second of five facilities to begin construction in the historic Vision in Action initiative.

Fundraising continues for Vision in Action, but ACU’s Board of Trustees has given approval to use funds already received to begin work on the Engineering and Physics Laboratories at Bennett Gymnasium and the as-yet-unnamed new stadium. Groundbreaking on larger projects – construction of Wildcat Stadium and Halbert-Walling Research Center, and the transformation of Foster Science Building into the Robert R. and Kay Onstead Science Center – will not begin until money for them has been raised.

James “Jim” Orr (’86), J.D., vice president for advancement, told the Optimist this month that about 75 percent of the projects’ $75 million budget has been raised thus far.

The new track/soccer stadium also will feature space for some field events, with other venues to be located north of Ambler Avenue, and a new track and field fieldhouse alongside the current fieldhouse shared by the soccer and softball teams. Construction is projected to be complete in the spring, in time for a mid-April NCAA Division I track meet to be hosted at the stadium.

Along with closing Oliver Jackson Boulevard and a portion of the parking lots surrounding the site, construction has displaced the soccer team, which is playing home games in Shotwell Stadium this fall and practicing at Action Zone.


Spring-Summer 2014 issue is here

2 Science Buildings for BlogIt’s a little later than originally planned, but we wanted to be sure you received the most recent news about some exciting developments at Abilene Christian University.

Although it’s in the mail, you don’t have to wait for the Spring-Summer 2014 issue of ACU Today magazine to arrive. You can sneak a peak now at its 130 pages (84 from the printed issue and another 46 of Bonus Coverage you can only read online). 

New Stadiums for Blog

It’s been a busy spring and summer at ACU getting the Vision in Action (VIA) initiative started. It’s a massive project that will see three new science buildings and two stadiums built on the Hill – the most transformative growth in facilities since the Design for Development campaign built Moody Coliseum, Brown Library, McGlothlin Campus Center, Don H. Morris Center and other landmarks in the 1960s and 1970s. The $75 million initiative began with the announcement in February of $55 million in gifts, including an ACU-record $30 million from Mark (’86) and April (Bullock ’89) Anthony of Dallas.

The Anthonys made an historic gift to their alma mater.

The Anthonys made an historic gift to their alma mater.

VIA coverage in ACU Today includes a look at the latest architectural renderings for the Robert R. and Kay Onstead Science Center, Halbert-Walling Research Center and the two stadiums, which are in some cases a good bit different than those you may have seen back in February. Wildcat Stadium will allow home football games to be played on campus for the first time in decades. There also are profiles of major donors, details about the five building projects, and some fascinating history. Other major stories this issue:

  • Profiles of ACU’s 2014 alumni award winners, led by minister Rick Atchley (’78), who preaches for the largest Church of Christ congregation in the U.S.
  • “High Hopes for H2O,” a profile of Abilene mayor Dr. Norman Archibald (M.S. ’74) and his work to secure reliable, long-term water resources for ACU’s hometown;
  • A Q&A with Rep. Janice Hahn (’74), a California congresswoman who loves representing her constituents and her alma mater, has a family legacy of public service, and fond memories of ACU;
  • “Leading the Way,” a look at Dr. Gary McCaleb’s (’64) 50 years of leadership at ACU, an achievement the campus celebrated in April;
  •  “For the Least of These,” stories and images of alumni dedicated to caring for orphans in Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda;
  • Bonus Coverage: an expanded look back at Sing Song and Wildcats wrapping up their first year in NCAA Division I;
  • “The Great Commission’s Greatest Friend,” a Second Glance essay reflecting on the amazing influence of the late Dr. Clyde N. Austin (’53); and
  • Other ACU news, including the latest from your classmates in EXperiences, plus a profile of attorney Lori (Halstead ’01) Windham, who successfully argued Hobby Lobby’s case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Watch this blog in the days to come for backstories of some of these major articles in the new issue.

View the new online issue


College Football Hall of Fame has ACU flavor

Wall of Helmets CFB HOFWhile in Atlanta recently for the football game with Georgia State University, some Abilene Christian University fans had the opportunity to tour the new College Football Hall of Fame, which was recently relocated from South Bend, Ind., and re-imagined in a media-rich, state-of-the-art venue that has wowed visitors.

ACU Helmet in CFB Hall of Fame

ACU’s helmet is among more than 700 displayed in the College Football Hall of Fame.

A Wildcat helmet is one of 768 displayed in The Quad on the Helmet Wall Presented by Southwest Airlines. The Hall of Fame also includes a 45-yard-long playing field for testing fan skills, and many interactive and augmented reality displays designed to engage visitors in the Game Day experience; celebrate accomplishments of players, teams and coaches in a one-of-a-kind museum; and relive memorable plays from college football history. The College Football Hall of Fame and museum is on Marietta Street N.W., adjacent to Centennial Olympic Park and the Georgia World Congress Center.

Montgomery (left) kids with Walter Payton after their induction to the College Football Hall of Fame.

Montgomery (left) kids with Walter Payton after their induction to the College Football Hall of Fame. Both received commemorative rings as part of their recognition.

Former ACU running back Wilbert Montgomery (’77) is featured in one of the exhibits. Montgomery, who is beginning his 27th year as a player or coach in the National Football League, was inducted in 1996 when the Hall of Fame began to add players and coaches from college-division universities. He was in the first class of honorees, which included Louisiana Tech University quarterback Terry Bradshaw, Jackson State University running back Walter Payton, Jim Youngblood of Tennessee Tech University, Neil Lomax of Portland State University and Buck Buchanan of Grambling University, among others.

Wilbert M Photo in CFB HOF

Montgomery is highlighted in one of the College Football Hall of Fame exhibits in Atlanta.

Today, Montgomery is the running backs coach for the Cleveland Browns. He played nine seasons in the NFL (eight with Philadelphia, one with Detroit) before beginning his career as an NFL assistant coach in 1997 for Rams’ head coach Dick Vermeil, his former head coach with the Eagles. The Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV over the Tennessee Titans and advanced to Super Bowl XXXVI, losing to New England. Montgomery coached running backs for the Super Bowl XLVII-winning Baltimore Ravens. During his playing career, Montgomery set Philadelphia Eagles rushing records for a career (6,538 yards) and season (1,512 yards in 1979), earned all-pro honors and played in the Pro Bowl. He led the NFC in kickoff returns as a rookie in 1977 and the NFL in all-purpose yards in 1979. He helped the Eagles to Super Bowl XV after the 1980 season, and Montgomery was a member of the inaugural class of the Eagles Hall of Fame. A native of Greenville, Miss., Montgomery led ACU to the 1973 NAIA Division I national championship.

Montgomery delivers his induction speech in 1996.

Montgomery delivers his induction speech in 1996.

Grambling State University head coach Eddie Robinson, Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, Montgomery and Walter Payton were presenters or recipients on induction day in 1996.

Presenters or recipients on induction day in 1996 included (from left) legendary Grambling State University head coach Eddie Robinson, Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, Montgomery and Walter Payton.

Wilbert Montgomery's induction was celebrated by two of the head coaches he once played for, Dick Vermeil (left) of the Philadelphia Eagles and ACU's Wally Bullington (’52).

Montgomery’s induction was celebrated by two of the head coaches he once played for: Dick Vermeil (left) of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and ACU’s Wally Bullington (’52).

 


‘Saving Dr. Brantly’ airs tonight on NBC

matt lauer with dr. kent and amber brantly

NBC’s Matt Lauer with Abilene Christian University alumnus Dr. Kent Brantly and his wife, Amber. Photo courtesy NBC News.

While Dr. Kent Brantly (’03) was lying in a hospital bed in Liberia fighting for his life, he remembers saying to God, “I know you can save me … but even if you don’t, I want to be faithful to you.”

Now, 15 days after the medical missionary was released from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta and declared free of the deadly Ebola virus, Brantly has no doubt that it was God who saved his life.

Dr. Kent Brantly

Dr. Kent Brantly

In an exclusive interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, Brantly and his wife, Amber (Carroll ’06), relived those first terrifying and emotional days after he learned he was infected with a disease that has up to a 90 percent mortality rate. The interview will air tonight at 9 p.m., Central, on an NBC News Primetime Special “Saving Dr. Brantly: The Inside Story of a Medical Miracle.”

Brantly was serving in Liberia with the aid organization Samaritan’s Purse when an Ebola outbreak hit the West African country. He and his wife chose to stay and continue their work, and Brantly took over treatment of Ebola patients at the hospital.

Parts of Lauer’s interview with the couple aired this week on NBC Nightly News and on The Today Show. Those clips offer a glimpse of what went through the Brantlys’ minds as they realized he might not survive. Amber and their two children had flown back to the United States for a family wedding days before he became ill.

Brantly family

Kent and Amber Brantly with their children.

“I was so thankful that Amber and the kids were not there,” he tells Lauer. “Yeah, I wanted to be close to them. But that gave me great relief, knowing they were gone three days before I had any symptoms. That would have been an overwhelming mental burden, if I had woken up sick next to my wife with one of my kids snuggled up next to me.”

According to NBC, as part of tonight’s one-hour special, Lauer will talk with the doctors who treated Brantly and will visit the isolation room where he was treated.

Brantly earned a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies from Abilene Christian University in 2003 and later graduated from the Indiana University School of Medicine. His wife earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from ACU in 2006.

While undergraduates, both Brantlys served internships overseas through the university’s WorldWide Witness program that gives students from all academic backgrounds the short-term, focused vocational missions experience that shows them how to effectively serve God and others wherever their career takes them.

Watch previews of the interview from The Today Show.


Kent Brantly’s nephew shares lessons learned

If there’s something familiar sounding about the name Brantly Houston, it’s no accident. The Abilene Christian University senior advertising and public relations major is the nephew of Kent Brantly, M.D. (’03), the now world-famous medical missionary whose seemingly miraculous recovery from the Ebola virus still has the medical world buzzing.

ACU senior Brantly Houston, left, with his uncle, Dr. Kent Brantly

ACU senior Brantly Houston, left, with his uncle, Kent Brantly, M.D.

Houston spoke to fellow students and faculty in ACU’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communication during a special Chapel on Sept. 2, sharing lessons he learned dealing with media after his uncle’s illness became international news.

While Kent Brantly was beating the odds to win his fight against Ebola, his namesake’s role was to fend off reporters from major media outlets whose persistence had besieged the family for days. One came all the way from London to ask for an interview, while others have made good use of the phone. At one point, Houston said, calls from inquisitive journalists across Europe and the United States were coming at the rate of one every five minutes.

Houston said the stories he most enjoys telling about his uncle are the ones involving family get-togethers – of birthdays, Christmases and special visits. “I have lots of good memories, and I treasure all the time he invested in me,” Houston said.

But it’s the stories of how Houston dealt with international media contacts that had his fellow students so interested. Here are a few things he said he learned:

  1. When dealing with media, learn to keep personal details to yourself. Reporters will ask for the moon, but it pays to know when to quit talking.
  2. Reporters are persistent. Give them a “no” and many will keep coming. Some will be pushy, while others will be respectful.
  3. Mass media is not always reliable. Houston said every network misstated at least one significant fact or resorted to fear-mongering. “I challenge you future journalists that when you’re working for major news organizations, get your facts straight,” he said.
  4. Networking is important. Houston says he was glad he had older adult friends who knew plenty about crisis communication and were willing to share their knowledge with him on short notice.
  5. Ignore the haters. Donald Trump tweeted and Ann Coulter shared comments by way of an essay that were hurtful to the Brantly family. “You just have to shake it off and remove yourself from the situation,” he said.
  6. Remember to seek spiritual strength. Houston said he has found himself praying “constantly, without ceasing” all through the travails his extended family has faced. He also tried fasting and found the practice to be a source of strength.
  7. Remember your community. “Several people came up and said, ‘Hey, we’re praying for you and your family. How are you doing? I know everyone is saying this to you, but I want to let you know you’re on my mind.’ Well, that was comforting to me every time,” he said.
  8. Keep your ACU community even closer. “Look around the room,” Houston said. “These are people you might grow apart from, but these will be the same people who will rally around you when you need them. Hold your ACU friends near and dear to you, because they really are the ACU difference.”

DaDaDa, DaDaDa: Fans, team on ESPN stage

August 27, 2014:  Abilene Christian vs Georgia St - Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GAThe Abilene Christian University Wildcats didn’t play football this past weekend, but only because they opened the season with a rare midweek game last week. They’ll be on national or regional TV four more times this season but won’t have the captive audience it had Aug. 27 when their matchup with Georgia State University was the only college football game being played, much less broadcast on ESPNU.

August 27, 2014:  Abilene Christian vs Georgia St - Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA

McKenzie grew up near Atlanta, where he was a fan of the NFL’s Falcons, who call the Georgia Dome home.

Head coach Ken Collums’ team came four seconds short of making it a memorable one when GSU kicker Wil Lutz booted a 24-yard field goal at the end of the game to spoil a 37-35 Wildcat lead and give the Panthers a 38-37 win. Still, it was a memorable experience to play on national TV in the sports history-rich Georgia Dome, site of the SEC football championship, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and several NCAA men’s basketball Final Four games.

Sophomore quarterback Parker McKenzie had his own cheering section and the native of Georgia gave his fans plenty to be excited about, completing 30 of 40 passes for 403 yards and four touchdowns in his first college start. That was good enough to be named Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Week and represent the best passing performance of any first-time Wildcat starter in ACU history.

A pass he completed to senior wide receiver Demarcus Thompson in the second quarter of the game (see inset) was No. 6 on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays of the day. Thompson had a career day as well, catching nine passes for 156 yards and a touchdown.

ACU alumni, friends and family gathered before the game for a tailgate sponsored by the ACU Alumni Association.

The Wildcats open their home season this Saturday at 6 p.m. when they host Northern Arizona University at Shotwell Stadium.

Demarcus Taylor wowed fans and ESPN with this backward-diving catch of a tipped pass.

Demarcus Thompson wowed fans and ESPN with this backward-diving catch of a tipped pass.

August 27, 2014:  Abilene Christian vs Georgia St - Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA

Family and fans of sophomore offensive lineman Codey Funk of Gridley, Ill.

The Matt (’99) and Amy (Chupp ’00) Melching family from Aragon, Ga., attended the tailgate meal.

The Matt (’99) and Amy (Chupp ’00) Melching family from Aragon, Ga., attended the tailgate meal.

Shey (’06) and Rebecca (Adams ’06) of Kennesaw, Ga.

Shey (’06) and Rebecca (Adams ’06) Howard of Kennesaw, Ga.