Football looks to bounce back

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Football looks to bounce back

Brett Taylor celebrates a tackle for loss against the University of South Dakota.

Brett Taylor celebrates a tackle for loss against the University of South Dakota.

Nicholas Ebelhack/ editor-in-chief

Brett Taylor celebrates a tackle for loss against the University of South Dakota.

Nicholas Ebelhack/ editor-in-chief

Nicholas Ebelhack/ editor-in-chief

Brett Taylor celebrates a tackle for loss against the University of South Dakota.

Devon Greene, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Western Illinois University Leathernecks (No. 10) are looking to bounce back this week after a bitter loss to the North Dakota State University Bison with a home game against the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits (No. 13) tomorrow at 1 p.m.

The Leathernecks are approaching a crucial point in their season that plagued them last year. In 2016, Western lost a heartbreaker to NDSU and only won one more game to finish their season. The Jackrabbits have been a tough matchup ever since their first game against one another in 1976. Western trails the season series with only five wins in the 15 matchups.

The Jackrabbits’ offense is a high scoring unit averaging 38.4 points per game, scoring at least 49 points in four of their first seven games of the season. They scored 133 points in their first three games, but they have encountered a few tough opponents since then. South Dakota State has recorded two losses this season against the Youngstown State University Penguins and the University of Northern Iowa Panthers.

Junior quarterback Taryn Christion ranks in the top 15 quarterbacks in the FCS with 16 passing touchdowns on the year. Christion has found a reliable target in senior receiver Jake Wieneke, who is tied with seven other receivers, including Leatherneck senior receiver Jaelon Acklin, with 8 touchdowns on the year.

Western’s defense is going to be essential in this matchup. Senior linebacker Brett Taylor has been terrorizing opposing offenses all season. Taylor has plastered his name all over the Leatherneck record books this season. He is one of four players in the entire history of the program with 400 career tackles. Taylor is leading the nation with 104 total tackles this season and is averaging 14.9 tackles per game.

However, Taylor is not the only reason this defense has seen such an improvement over last year’s team. The entire unit has recorded a 12 turnover margin, the third best in FCS.

Western’s offense is looking to get back on track this week after putting up a season – low 12 points last week in the loss against the Bison. The unit which had been averaging 37.6 points per game this season did not score a touchdown. The only time a Leatherneck player got in the end zone was a touchdown from junior linebacker Quinton Moon who returned a 43-yard reception. 

Junior quarterback Sean McGuire faced heavy adversity last week recording only 185 yards through the air, an interception. Head coach Charlie Fisher understands that the Leathernecks have a tough matchup ahead of them in the Jackrabbits.

“The biggest test is we’re going to be playing a really good team, that’s the biggest test,” Fisher said. “I would like to think we have too much on the line to think about a letdown, every week this last month of the season is absolutely critical, we’re trying to find our way into this tournament so we have to be ready to play, we got to be ready to fight and we got to be resilient ourselves”

This matchup will come down to who gets stops defensively with both teams being within the top-15 scoring offenses in the FCS. Western needs to avoid the meltdown that plagued the team last year with a strong performance at home.

Twitter: @devondeadlysins

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