Football hosts conference powerhouse


Becca Langys/ Photo Editor

Clint Ratkovich turns to catch ball in a home game at Hanson Field.

Brendan Reidy , Courier Staff

MACOMB, Ill. — The matchup we have all been waiting for is finally here. The Western Illinois football team is coming off of a tough loss and has an amazing shot to redeem themselves and get their season back on track.

The Leathernecks (2-3, 1-1) are set to take on the number one ranked Bison of North Dakota State University (5-0, 2-0) this Saturday.

The Purple and Gold fell in a heartbreaker to Illinois State University last week. Western played a great game and led the Redbirds by a score of 16-12 after three quarters of play.

However, in the fourth quarter, the Leathernecks weren’t themselves as they gave up 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. The Bison on the other hand, have been unstoppable. The only challenge they have faced throughout the course of this season came against the number three ranked team in the nation, South Dakota State University, where they defeated the Jackrabbits by a score of 21-17.

North Dakota State has been nearly unstoppable over the last decade cementing a dynasty label on their program. Teams dream of having the opportunity to knock off a number one ranked opponent, especially at home. The Leathernecks will have to come over hot if they want to do just that.

The Leathernecks have a stellar linebacking core of senior Quentin Moon and junior Zach Glisan. Moon leads the FCS in tackles with 7.3 a contest and also is tied for eighth in the nation with two forced fumbles on the season.

The game plan for the Leathernecks has to be to get the running game established. Whether it be with senior running back Steve McShane, sophomore wide receiver Tony Tate, or junior running back Clint Ratkovich, the Leathernecks need to exploit the Bison’s weaknesses.

However, the key to the game will be intensity and leadership. Look for senior quarterback Sean McGuire and senior defensive back Justin Fitzpatrick to be very vocal in the upcoming matchup. Talent alone will not be enough to beat the Bison. They will need to have the fire to beat this FCS powerhouse.

North Dakota hardly has any weaknesses on their roster, and are loaded with depth at every position. They are a run heavy team, and if Western Illinois wants to have a shot at winning this game, they have to stop the Bison’s run attack and make them pass.

Their quarterback threw only nine passes last week, and completed only five of them against the University of Northern Iowa. Western needs to make him throw around 20 passes and take him out of his comfort zone so the strong secondary of the Leathernecks can feast on his mistakes.

This game has been anticipated since the schedule was released earlier this year. The Leathernecks have a very special team, despite being 2-3.

This team has the opportunity to accomplish something extraordinary, but it is up to them to come ready to play and get the job done. The Leathernecks are going to need all the fan support they can get this weekend so come out to Hanson Field on Saturday at 6 p.m.

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