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

Western Courier

Necks sic the Sycamores

Steve+McShane+weaves+through+Indiana+State+University+defenders+on+his+way+to+a+touchdown.+
Steve McShane weaves through Indiana State University defenders on his way to a touchdown.

Steve McShane weaves through Indiana State University defenders on his way to a touchdown.

Devon Greene/assisstant sports editor

Devon Greene/assisstant sports editor

Steve McShane weaves through Indiana State University defenders on his way to a touchdown.

Mat McClanahan, Sports editor

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With a playoff berth on the line, Western Illinois University performed at the highest level and proved that they belonged in the FCS tourament. The Leathernecks destroyed the Indiana State University Sycamores 45-0 on Saturday on, their senior day.

“We have to continue to stay on that rise,” head coach Charlie Fisher said. “You want to stay on that upward plane this time of year. I certainly hope win number seven puts us another step closer to our goal. Quite honestly, in that locker room, these guys know we can play better, and they know where we are capable of getting another one.”

The Leathernecks kicked off in their final regular season away game with a touchback, which gave Western’s defense a chance to get things started. On their second play, Sycamore quarterback Case Sparks threw a 44-yard bomb to senior wide receiver Bob Pugh for the Sycamores’ first completion of the game. After an unfortunate series of events for the Sycamores, freshman defensive end Kyle Williams sacked Spark and gave Western the ball for the first time. 

On Western’s first drive, they were swallowed up by the Indiana State defensive line and went three and out. The Leatherneck defense was able to pick up the offensive struggles and forced a three out on Indiana State.

On Western’s second drive, they changed up their game plan and switched to a fast- paced offense. A 12-yard completion from junior quarterback Sean McGuire to sophomore wide receiver Brandon Gaston to move the chain for the Leathernecks for the first time this game.

Not long after, McGuire threw a dart to senior wide receiver Jaelon Acklin for another first down. That would be all the Leathernecks could do on their second drive, Western settled for a 44-yard field goal to  earn the lead, which they would hold on to the rest of the game.

Western did not waste time in the second quarter. Just two minutes in, McGuire completed a pass to junior tight end Adam Conrady to give Western a 10-0 lead. The Leatherneck defense once again forced a three and out and Western started their drive at the Sycamore  34-yard line.

Western was able to find the red-zone once again by a 38-yard run from McShane. After several Leatherneck penalties, the ultimate hook-up, McGurie to Acklin was able to connect again for a 25-yard Leatherneck touchdown, Western extended their lead 17-0.

The Western defense was able to force a punt, but Western offense could not find the sticks and went three and out. Right after the punt, Western’s defense stood tall once again. Junior safety Justin Fitzpatrick picked off Sparks and got Western the ball back inside Sycamore territory. The Leathernecks added to their lead with a shovel pass to McShane who busted a 48-yard touchdown run that gave Western a 24-0 lead.

After another Sycamore punt, McShane scored again on his next touch. This time it was an 81-yard punt return to give Western a 31-0 lead. Western piled it on in the second quarter; senior safety Aaron Diggs grabbed a tipped ball out of the air to give Sparks his second interception of the day. Western was unable to convert on the interception and they were forced to punt.

In the second half, Western picked up right where they left off. McGuire found junior wide receiver Zeke LeSure for a big gain that got Western into Sycamore territory. Western was unable to add to their lead due to a fumble by LeSure, but the Western defense forced a three and out, the Leathernecks got the ball at their own 44 yard line.

Western started to work the clock by following McShane and sophomore running back Max Norris into the red-zone. Junior tight end Tyler Slamans caught the three yard pass from McGurie to extend the Leatherneck lead, 38-0.

In the fourth quarter, Western had the victory sealed and everyone got a chance to play. Leatherneck fans were able to get a look into their future, red-shirt freshman Connor Sampson was able to get into the ball game and lead the offense to a touchdown. In Sampson’s first drive of the game, he was able to go four for four and a passing touchdown to sophomore wide receiver Darron Wheeler to give Western a 45-0 lead.

After the Leatherneck touchdown, senior defensive lineman Colin Olsen fell on a fumble to get Western the ball back at the Sycamore 20-yard line. Western showed that they were going to fight until the end; on fourth and one the Leathernecks went for it and got the first down. However, that was not the end of it; Western went for it on fourth down the very next set of downs, but this time it did not payoff. The Leathernecks turned the ball over on downs and gave the Sycamores the ball on their own two-yard line.

Indiana State could not get past their own five and were forced to punt to the Leathernecks for the final time of the day. After 60 minutes of play the Leathernecks got their seventh win 45-0 and secured a 2017 playoff berth.

The Leathernecks return home Saturday to take on the Southern Illinois University Salukis at 1 p.m.

Twitter: @MacIsland13

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Necks sic the Sycamores