The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.

Western Courier

Leathernecks chop down Lumberjacks; stay unbeaten

Jaelon Acklin runs through defenders on his two touchdown day.

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Jaelon Acklin runs through defenders on his two touchdown day.

Mat McClanahan, Sports editor

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The Western Illinois football team beat the Northern Arizona University (NAU) Lumberjacks in dominating fashion, winning 38-20. The Leathernecks blew by the Lumberjacks bringing the team’s record to a perfect 2-0 while NAU fell to 0-2 on the season.

“It’s a great win, we came to a tough environment and had a lot of things going against us,” head coach Charlie Fisher said. “We were here a year ago and we need to keep our focus on what next. We’re going to take this off week and get better as a team.”

The Western defense picked up where they let off from week one. In NAU’s opening drive the Leathernecks defense forced a three and out to help set-up their offense on their own 35 yard line. The offense didn’t take long to find the end zone. On Western’s second offensive play, senior wide receiver Jaelon Acklin took an end-around 65-yards to give Western an early 7-0 lead.

NAU’s next drive was unsuccessful once again, but junior quarterback Sean McGuire threw an interception on the first play of Western’s possession. The Leatherneck defense picked up their offense, junior safety, Justin Fitzpatrick had his first interception of the season, which got Western’s offense the ball on their own 35-yard line.

The rest of the first quarter neither team could find a rhythm offense and the first quarter ended, 7-0 Western.

After an offensively lackluster first quarter, Western started the second quarter making their way into Lumberjack territory. A simple pass from McGuire to Acklin and the Leathernecks found themselves on the NAU 40-yard line. Western pounded their way down to the Lumberjack ten-yard line, but were stopped short and forced to kick a field goal to take their lead to 10-0 with 10:16 left in the first half. 

NAU then worked their way down the field and found the end zone for the first time of the game. Quarterback Stone Smartt stepped into the wildcat offense for the Lumberjacks to help bring the score to 10-7.

Once the Lumberjacks scored, Western started to play with a chip on their shoulder. Sophomore running back Max Norris got into a groove and started a night that ultimately ended up with 23 carries and 103 yard rushing night. Norris popped off a 20-yard run to carry Western into NAU territory. Another pass from McGuire to Acklin brought Western down to the NAU three-yard line. Four plays later, Norris found the end zone and extended the Western lead to 17-7 to end the half.

In the start of the second half the Western offense was stopped, but the Leatherneck defense did their job, and more. A huge sack and forced fumble turned into seven points for the Leathernecks. Senior defensive back Aaron Diggs forced the fumble, while sophomore safety Eric Carrera fell on the fumble to extend the Leatherneck lead to 24-7.

The Lumberjacks offense had a quick drive and scored, but they missed the point after and brought the score to 24-13. After the Lumberjack touchdown Western pressed on the gas pedal. Sophomore wide receiver Darron Wheeler had a great kickoff return to give Western the ball on their 40-yard line. McGuire came out firing, throwing strikes to junior wide receiver Zeke LeSure and ultimately hooked with Acklin for his second touchdown of the day. Western led 31-13 and would not look back.

Both teams punted in their next possessions to bring the game to the fourth quarter. After a Western three and out to start the quarter, NAU marched down the field. NAU used some trickery to help reach the eight-yard line. Two plays later NAU quarterback Case Cooks threw a pass to wide receiver Matthew Kempton, for their last score of the game, Western still led 31-20.

Western was not done scoring, after some hard-nosed running from Norris, the drive was capped off with a rushing touchdown from McGuire. With 7:48 left in the game Western lead 38-20. However, the play of the game was yet to come.

NAU drove down the field and tried to throw a double pass, but senior defensive back Tyrin Holloway snagged a one handed interception to help Western seal a Leatherneck victory.

After the big win, and a big game, team leading receiver Acklin said, “we are embracing (the win) right now, but we’re going the the 24-hour rule. Once the 24 hour mark hits, we’re onto the next game.”

Next week the Leathernecks have a bye, but they will prepare for Coastal Carolina University, Sept. 23 in Conway South Carolina.

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Leathernecks chop down Lumberjacks; stay unbeaten