Leatherneck football is back

Christopher Bean, Courier Staff

It’s the end of August and that means fall is right around the corner. MLB playoffs are a month away, and most importantly Leatherneck football is here.

The Leathernecks are coming off an 8-4 season. Their season ended with a 21-19 loss at Weber State in the first round of the playoffs. Former head coach Charlie Fisher, left Western in the off-season to become the wide receiver’s coach at Arizona State under Herm Edwards. That led to the Leathernecks promoting offensive coordinator, Jared Elliot to become the 35th head coach in Western’s history.

There will also return a lot of key players on both sides of the ball. On offense, captain Sean McGuire enters his senior year and third year as a starter. The one-two punch of Steve McShane and Max Norris return exploding defenses on the ground.

Isaiah LeSure will enter his senior year as the No. 1 receiving option for McGuire. Drew Wagner is the only returning starter on the offensive line after the other four starters all graduated last year.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Leathernecks lost their leading tackler Brett Taylor, but no need to worry because senior Linebacker Quintin Moon will take his spot as the leader of the defense. Senior Khalen Saunders had a fantastic year last season and looks to add to that as he leads the way this season. Returning senior starters Xavier Rowe and Justin Fitzpatrick round out the backside of the defense.

After week one, the Leathernecks travel to Champaign, Ill. to play the Fighting Illini. This will be a big game for Western, as they go into the game looking to upset a Big Ten team.

In week three they host their first home game against the Grizzles of Montana to end their non-conference schedule.

After a tough three games, Western has a bye week then they will start the Missouri Valley Conference.

They open up with the Youngstown State Penguins. They were in the National Championship two years ago but are coming off of a 6-5 season last year. They are led by former Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, who is from Youngstown and in his third year as head coach. Their AD is former Ohio State head coach, Jim Tressel.

In the fifth game of the season, the Leathernecks travel to play their rival the Red Birds of Illinois State.

It doesn’t get any easier after that as they will host the defending National Champs, North Dakota State Bison. Last year Western played tough but came up short and will look to finally beat the Bison.

Then they go right back on the road to play a very young Missouri State Bears team. After a rough start and a long rain delay, Western had no trouble beating them last year.

Then they will play Northern Iowa in Macomb. Last year’s meeting was very exciting as the Leathernecks pulled off the win by scoring a touchdown with only 10 seconds left.

They will then travel to Carbondale, Ill. to play the Salukis of Southern Illinois and will look to repeat what they did last year beating them easily with a 27-14 win.

They will go back on the road after that and face their former head coach, Bob Nielson. In last year’s game Western found themselves down 31-6 early in the second half and came all the way back to pull within five just to lose on a controversial play.

Western will end the regular season on Senior Day against Indiana State Sycamores, and will try to shut them out for the second year in a row after lasts years 45-0 beat down.

Western plays in the best Conference in the FCS, but that did not stop them last year after an 8-3 regular season. They will try to be in the playoffs, like they once did when they had back-to-back wins from 1996-1998, making that the second time in the school’s history.

It will be the first time since they’ve joined FCS that they would make the playoffs in consecutive years. But the Leathernecks don’t care about just making the playoffs. They care about winning the National Championship for the first time in school history.