Football looks for first win against Missouri State at Homecoming game

Christopher Gibson, Courier Staff

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The Western Illinois University football team (0-4) will be looking for their first win of the season on Saturday when they take on the Missouri State University Bears (0-3).

Western is coming off their bye week, looking to be refreshed and rejuvenated. Their last game back on Sept. 21 saw the Leathernecks suffer a home loss to Tennessee Tech (38-24). After being down nearly 21 points, the Leathernecks were able to pull within a one score game, in large part due to the efforts of senior Kevin Johnson, who made his Leatherneck debut. Johnson threw for 159 yards and three touchdowns after replacing junior Connor Sampson, hooking up with three different receivers in the process.

After being down 24-3 in third quarter, Johnson started to heat things up by first connecting with his redshirt freshman tight end, Jack Whyte for a 23 yard touchdown, and trimming the lead down to a two-score game. When the Leathernecks got the ball back after another Tennessee Tech touchdown, Johnson again drove down the field and threw for another touchdown, this time on an 18-yard strike with graduate senior George Wahee. This again cut the lead down to a two-possession game. The defense managed to force an interception, setting the offense up for another scoring opportunity that they didn’t let slip through their fingers. Johnson threw his last touchdown of the game on a 31 yard dime to junior Dennis Houston, bringing the score to 31-24.

Missouri State is coming into this game also fresh off a bye week. They were defeated in their last game by Kennesaw State by a score of 35-24. However, just because they are winless doesn’t mean that the Leathernecks should go into this game thinking it’ll be an easy win. Led by senior QB Peyton Huslig, the Bears have put up some good numbers. Huslig has thrown for 709 yards and five touchdowns, while only throwing three interceptions. Their top two wide receivers have caught for 189 and 129 yards, respectively through three games, bringing their yards per game to 63 and 43. These are some good numbers, meaning that Western’s defense will have to keep an eye on them.

While the season hasn’t gone the way that Coach Elliot and the team would have liked, the game this weekend is the opening of league play in the Missouri Valley Conference. This game could be the one that gets the Leathernecks into their groove and over the hump of that first win. This might be the team’s best shot at getting a win, as four of their eight remaining games will be against top 25 ranked teams. No win comes easy in the Missouri Valley, but the Leathernecks need this one if they want to gain some momentum going into conference play. Since it’s also Homecoming, this will be a game that the team won’t want to lose. Fans should focus on giving them extra motivation to go out there Saturday and get a win. Word of caution to all of you who will be going to the game: expect some wet weather around game time. This will be something that might challenge the Leathernecks, but this team has a relentless attitude about them and we will see what they can do tomorrow. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. tomorrow afternoon at Hanson Field.

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