Tall cotton. Rare air. That’s what Abilene Christian University is walking in and breathing tonight after Mitchell Gale’s strong and accurate arm helped move the Wildcats near the mountaintop of college football quarterbacking productivity.
With 408 yards passing in tonight’s 24-12 season-ending win in San Antonio over the University of Incarnate Word, Gale passed Billy Malone (2005-08) as the Wildcat and Lone Star Conference career passing leader.
More impressive, it made Gale and Malone only the third set of college quarterbacks in NCAA history to post back-to-back careers of at least 12,000 passing yards each, and the first such duo from Division II.
Players from the other two schools with such sustained excellence are Case Keenum (19,217 yards from 2007-11) and Kevin Kolb (12,964 yards from 2003-06) of the University of Houston and Colt Brennan (14,193 yards from 2005-07) and Timmy Chang (17,072 yards from 2001-04) of the University of Hawaii. Brennan was a Heisman Trophy finalist and won the Sammy Baugh Award as the nation’s top passer. Keenum won the Baugh Award twice. Keenum is an an Abilene native and Kolb was a high school star in nearby Stephenville.
No one in college football history has thrown for more yards in a career than Keenum, the same thing that was true of ACU great Jim Lindsey (1967-70) when he graduated in 1971. Lindsey began a 40-year lineage of outstanding ACU QBs, including Clint Longley (1971-73), Jim Reese (1973-76), John Mayes (1976-79), Loyal Proffitt (1981-84), Rex Lamberti (1984-86, 1993), Stan Stephens (1987-89) and Colby Freeman (2001-03).
A senior from Altus, Okla., Gale finished his Wildcat career holding ACU and LSC career records in pass attempts (1,513) and completions (931). He threw for 1,709 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2009, 3,595 yards and 38 TDs (and only three interceptions) in 2010, 3,823 yards and 28 TDs in 2011, and 3,390 yards and 23 TDs in 2012.
He has completed 16 TD passes of 50 or more yards, and led ACU to the national playoffs three of his four seasons. ACU’s 2012 season may be over and the Wildcats’ six consecutive years of playoff appearances will come to an end, but Gale’s legacy may stand for a long time.
“I am just so thankful for this opportunity,” Gale said.
“Mitchell is a student of the game, and has been since the first day,” said ACU head coach Ken Collums. “You have to have a teachable heart. He has humility and that’s how he’s been able to progress and be successful.”