A new test begins

2-0 Leathernecks continue MVFC schedule at Northern Iowa


Nicholas Stewart

Quarterback Trenton Norvell eyes receiver Joey Borsellino for a deep pass.

Danny Frey

The Western Illinois football team has a 2-0 Missouri Valley Football Conference record for the first time since 2010 — the last time the Leathernecks qualified for the playoffs.

It’s safe to say current Leatherneck players are excited to keep up the effort.

“The Missouri Valley is always difficult,” said wide receiver Joey Borsellino. “We had some tests we passed already. These next four weeks, we have some tests we really need to step up for.”

The first of those tests is this weekend at Northern Iowa.

Even though the Panthers (2-3, 0-2 in MVFC play) own a losing record, they are ranked 12th in the STATS media poll. UNI is on the opposite end of the spectrum, 0-2 in MVFC play but they’ve played No. 4 Illinois State and No. 2 North Dakota State.

“UNI’s a good team from last year,” said quarterback Trenton Norvell. “They carried it to this year too and had a tough loss last week. It’s one of those things where we have to go out and perform.”

As of late, the Leathernecks have used a more balanced offensive attack, sustaining drives for longer amounts of time and keeping Western’s defense off of the field.

“We just need to continue to execute plays as an offense,” Norvell said. “We’ll let the defense do their thing. They’ve done a great job all year and have them rely on us. If they make a mistake, we can make up for that but we have to be consistent.”

Saturday will be Homecoming for the Panthers, and they hold a record of 62-25-7 in their Homecoming games. This is also their 40th season playing home games at the UNI-Dome.

Offensively, UNI added Aaron Bailey, an Illinois transfer, at quarterback, who brings a dual threat style to the field. However, Bailey still splits time at quarterback with senior Sawyer Kollmorgen.

The running back position for Northern Iowa is lacking David Johnson, who is busy scoring touchdowns for the Arizona Cardinals right now, but the Panthers make up for it with receiving targets.

On defense, the Panthers are led by linebacker Brett McMakin, coming off a STATS FCS defensive player of the week award after forcing two fumbles and recording 13 tackles against North Dakota State.

McMakin’s brother, Cale, is a linebacker for the Leathernecks.

The Leathernecks know they have their work cut out for them.

“We just have to play our game and coach (Bob Nielson) is harping on us
about the same stuff on a regular week,” Borsellino said. “But we know how important of a game this is for us and how good of a team UNI is. This is a real big test. We already started off right but we need to keep rolling in the right direction.”

Kickoff inside the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa is set for 4 p.m. on Saturday.

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