Western Courier

Necks maul Montana in home opener

Back to Article
Back to Article

Necks maul Montana in home opener

Senior runningback Steve McShane fights off a Montana Griz defender as he looks for more yards in the Leathernecks' home opener.

Senior runningback Steve McShane fights off a Montana Griz defender as he looks for more yards in the Leathernecks' home opener.

Becca Langys/ Photo Editor

Senior runningback Steve McShane fights off a Montana Griz defender as he looks for more yards in the Leathernecks' home opener.

Becca Langys/ Photo Editor

Becca Langys/ Photo Editor

Senior runningback Steve McShane fights off a Montana Griz defender as he looks for more yards in the Leathernecks' home opener.

Titus Perez, Courier Staff

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

MACOMB, Ill. — It was electric at Hanson Field this past Saturday. The Western Illinois Leathernecks (1-2) entered the game after back-to-back losses to start the season. Their opponent No. 15 ranked Montana University Grizzlies (2-1) was favored to make the Leathernecks 0-3 behind the arm of talented junior transfer quarterback Dalton Sneed.

In the first quarter though Western proved that they were a tough opponent. On just their second play from scrimmage, senior quarterback Sean McGuire connected with junior wideout John Brunner for a 75-yard touchdown pass. Brunner set the tone from the start, he ended the day with 180 receiving (144 in the first quarter) yards on seven catches for two scores. Both touchdowns came in the first quarter. On the next possession, senior captain Quentin Moon wrestled the ball away from a Grizzlies offensive player setting Western’s offense up in the Griz territory. Western’s offense capitalized on the opportunity immediately as McGuire threw a deep fade to the corner of the end zone to Brunner for his second touchdown. Sparks flew throughout the stadium as the Western offense continued to show its quick strike ability.

Montana would soon answer. Freshman wide receiver Malik Flowers took the kickoff back 95 yards on the next play to pull the Griz within a touchdown at 14-7. The first quarter fireworks were not over. Montana would add a field goal with 5:24 remaining in the quarter before scoring on a long six-play 58-yard drive that included a successful two-point conversion attempt. The Grizzlies lined up and a wacky formation that seemed to catch the Leathernecks off guard. This put the Griz ahead 18-14 at the end of a wild and exciting first quarter.

The defenses startes to settle in, in the second quarter. The game seem like it was heading towards a shootout, but the defenses from both teams started to show some life. Only three points were scored in the entire quarter as kicker Sam Crosa connected on a 44-yard field goal to pull Western within a point, 18-17. Western could’ve had the lead before half but Crosa missed a 30-yard attempt just to the left.

The third quarter netted the same results as the second, only a field goal was added to the total score, this time from Montana as they extended their lead to 21-17 with 8:16 remaining in the third.

The fourth quarter action is why we love football. Western came into the quarter trailing and the offense had lost all the momentum it gained on its first two possessions. After McGuire had two passing touchdowns to start the game, Western had only scored three points. They had punted on seven of eight possessions, the lone possession where they didn’t punt ended in a missed field goal.

However, the defense continued to get stops including late in the third, when they were able to turn the Griz over on downs at their own six-yard line. On fourth and inches Montana decided to go for it and was stuffed for no gain. The crowd exploded after the stop, the long ten play four plus minute drive ended with the defense not giving up any points.

The Griz drove 50 yards on its next possession and score on a two-yard touchdown toss from Sneed to wideout Samuel Akeem with 11:19 remaining in the game. Griz kicker botched the extra point so the lead remained at ten 27-17.

This is where the magic began, after the Western offense had to punt again the defense held Montana to a punt on the next possession. This was set up by a pooch kick from McGuire that was downed at the one yard line. Without much room to work the Grizzlies were held to a quick three and out and had to punt from their own end zone. The punt was taken back 58 yards for a touchdown by the shifty senior running back Steve McShane. His return restored life into Hanson Field which seemed to start to lose hope because of the struggling offense. The score now stood at 27-24 with 5:38 remaining in the game.

Once again, the Western defense had to come up with a stop for the offense to have a shot to win it. The stop came on the very first play of the next possession when defensive back Justin Fitzpatrick stripped the Grizzlies wideout after a 17-yard reception. The Leathernecks recovered and set their offense up on the Montana 43 yard line with 5:33 left to play.

This drive was all passes as McGuire completed four of five on the drive with the biggest gain being 15 yards to tight end Adam Conrady. The catch was one he had to dive for near the sideline, after the catch the stadium erupted with excitement. On the next play McGuire completed an 11-yard touchdown throw to Steve McShane and the Leathernecks lead 31-27 with 2:39 to play.

This was more then enough time for Sneed and the Griz to drive down the field. Montana drove the ball near midfield but the defense came up with a sack by Pete Swenson.

On the next play after the timeout Sneed was intercepted for the second time in the game as he threw up a hail-mary up for his receivers who were all covered up on fourth and 13. The pick was made by defensive back Eric Carrera, he had two on the day.

McGuire ended the day totaling a season high in passing yards with 360, he also had three touchdowns. McShane caught nine balls from McGuire for 77 yards and a touchdown. He scored two touchdowns in the last six minutes to secure head coach Jared Elliot first career victory. Elliot was excited about the win and had some words after the game.

“I can’t tell you how much this means to me, how much I just love this university and how proud I am to be the head coach here,” Elliott said.

He showed faith in his players throughout the game and echoed that in postgame where he had some heartfelt words.

“I love the young men in our locker room and what’s amazing is what we’ve learned here, time and time again,” Elliott said. “I never doubt, I never question these guys because they know how to fight. They compete and continue to play no matter what the scoreboard says, and they did that today. They found a way.”

Western will have a bye next week before hosting Youngstown State University for their homecoming game Sept. 29; kickoff is set for 3 p.m.

Twitter: HeChilling

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.

Navigate Left
Navigate Right
The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Necks maul Montana in home opener