Leathernecks have pivotal two weeks ahead


Jake Thompson

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Sean McGuire continues to show poise in high-pressure situations.

Danny Frey

Prepare yourselves. One of the two big games circled on the calendar of the Western Illinois football season is just days away.

The now fourth-ranked North Dakota State Bison, still five-time defending national champions, roll into Macomb on Saturday. The other crucial game that causes you to bring out the sharpie and circle the date happens to be next week at South Dakota against former head coach Bob Nielson and company. The Leathernecks will cross that bridge when they come to it.

It would be nice to watch a Western football game without having to worry about your heart rate, but hey, that’s exciting football for you. Don’t get me wrong, the last couple weeks have been exciting and thrilling to be a part of, but man has it been nerve-wracking with the decisions coming down to the final drive. Winning the last couple games ultimately is what matters while the Leathernecks are learning from their mistakes. The last two games have shown that Sean McGuire is a proven leader who is calm and collected under pressure. Missouri State is probably the most improved team in the conference and they showed it on Saturday. The back half of this season will show just how good Western is, especially with the continuous grind of football starting to kick in.

A 5-1 start is hard to beat, but of course when asking Western players about the stellar start to the season, they all say it would feel much better to be undefeated. Instead, both teams are 5-1 in a Top 25 showdown in the FCS that could turn out to be the game of the week in not only the Missouri Valley Football Conference, but the entire FCS.

Remember that the last time the Bison played at Hanson Field was two years ago with Carson Wentz under center. The Leathernecks caused him to have some problems. Western held a 10-3 lead deep into the fourth quarter before North Dakota State rallied for two late touchdowns to snag the win. Last year was a different story all around with the Bison blowing out Western, 59-7. Then again, the Fargo Dome  is one of the toughest places to play in all of college football.

The defeat last season will no doubt be used as motivation this year, but although the Leathernecks return many players, they are indeed a different team under Charlie Fisher. This isn’t the first time he’s had to game plan for North Dakota State. Last year as the offensive coordinator at Richmond, he had to prepare for the Bison in the FCS semifinals. As I’ve stated before, it’s really hard to find a more motivational coach in the country than Fisher.

With that in mind, the team needs your support. It’s a bummer seeing this many empty seats at Hanson Field with the product on the field being so talented and successful. No excuse to miss this week. Five-time defending national champions? Check. Primetime? Check. Upset? Possible.