Necks host Grizzlies in home opener


Becca Langys/ Photo Editor

Isaiah LeSure runs toward the action at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill.

Christopher Bean, Courier Staff

MACOMB, Ill. — The Western Illinois Leathernecks (0-2) will take on the Montana Grizzles (2-0) on Saturday at 3 p.m.

The Leathernecks are coming off a tough week after falling to the University of Illinois 34-14. Western got off to a great start after a quick touchdown from Sean McGuire to George Wahee just 2:53 into the game. Followed by a three-and-out by the defense. The score remained 7-0 Leathernecks after the first quarter. The Fighting Illini scored two touchdowns to take a 14-7 lead into halftime. The Leathernecks gave up a blocked punt for a touchdown trailing 24-7 with 7:22 left in the third quarter. The Leathernecks answered 59 seconds later from a Tony Tate 49-yard touchdown to cut the deficit back to 10. After another stop by the Leathernecks defense, the offense found themselves into Illini territory again to start the fourth quarter. Looking to pull within one score, and only 10 seconds into the quarter, McGuire found Isaiah (Zeke) LeSure around the 20, but unfortunately LeSure fumbled at the 15 and shattered all hopes of a Western comeback. Illinois scored ten more to make it a 34-14 final.

After a tough first two weeks for the Leathernecks they unfortunately have another tough opponent against the undefeated Montana Grizzles. Fortunately, they have their first home game of the year. For the Leathernecks to get back on track before they open up conference play, they are going to have to be more consistent on offense and special teams. There is no doubt that has cost Western in its first two games. The defense has clearly been the most consistent unit of the three.

They only gave up six points in the first half in the first game against Montana State, and shut out a Big Ten team in the first quarter. Senior captain Quintin Moon was a force last week with a career high of 15 tackles, improving a lot from week one.

On offense, McGuire stepped up in the second half against the Illini throwing for 276 yards in the game. Grad transfer George Wahee catching six of McGuire’s passes for 104-yards with a touchdown. The running game could not get going the whole night after the first drive of the game. Western only had 66 rushing yards the whole game, and 41 came from wide receiver Tate, combining more rushing yards than running backs Steve McShane, Max Norris, and Clint Ratkovich, who only had 36. They will need to improve their running immensely if they want to balance between the running game and throwing game.

As I said, Montana comes in with a 2-0 record, knocking off Northern Iowa 26-23 and Drake 48-16. Leading the offense is junior quarterback Dalton Sneed. In the first two games Sneed has five touchdowns and no interceptions. He also led the team with 65 rushing yards last week to go along with a rushing td. Last week Sneed threw to junior wide receiver Jerry Louie-McGee 14 times for 133-yards and a touchdown. The Leathernecks will have to pay close attention to this duo if they want to prevent another break out performance from Louie-McGee.

The keys to the game for Western: First, be aggressive throughout the entirety of the game. Last week after the first drive against Illinois the offense couldn’t move the ball until the second half when they were down by 17. If they can stay aggressive they can hold on to their leads unlike the first two games. Secondly, they need to fix up on special teams. In the first game Western gave up big plays on kick-off and missed two field goals and an extra-point. Last week they gave up a blocked punt for a touchdown. They need to be better each week moving forward.

Western needs this to win this game to prevent them from a 0-3 start. It’s only week three, but since they play in the hardest conference in the FCS, they need this win to keep them in the hunt for the playoffs.

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