Football seeks first win against Illinois State Redbirds

Christopher Gibson, Courier Staff

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The Western Illinois football team (0-6) will be looking for their first win on Saturday when they take on No. 10 Illinois State (4-2).

Western is coming off of a tough road loss to Indiana State last Saturday, losing by a score of 20-10. The Leathernecks led the entire first half but couldn’t hold onto the lead in the second half.

Junior quarterback Connor Sampson got the start and seemed to be dealing the hot hand early. Early in the second quarter, the Leathernecks were on the scoreboard off of a 23-yard touchdown pass from Sampson to senior running back Jared Drake. Then, senior kicker Nathan Erickson put the last points on the board for the Leathernecks, drilling a 38-yard field goal with 1:39 left to play in the second quarter. The defense refused to give up any points in the first half, completing a shut-out for the 30 minutes.

The entire second half went to the Sycamores with them seeing the endzone twice and kicking two field goals. In the end, the Sycamores were able to gain an advantage over rushing yards, which was key to their victory.

Western’s defense will need to step up and work together in order to win this upcoming game against ISU. ISU is coming off of a 21-7 win over Southern Illinois. In that win, ISU’s running back James Robinson rushed for 150 yards and a touchdown. Western’s defense is going to need to be stouter against the run if they want to win on Saturday.

The ISU team that will be coming to Macomb this weekend is nationally ranked, with only two losses. One loss was to FBS school Northern Illinois and the other was to No. 1 FCS ranked North Dakota State University. They are tied for fourth in the Missouri Valley, with a 1-1 record in the conference.

This will make for a challenging game for the Leathernecks. Going into a game with the majority of people doubting them, this is the type of game that can change a season.

Western still has the potential to make the playoffs if they are able to run the table. But, in order to run the table, they need to start with a win this week. The key to a victory revolves around the offense and their play. So far this season, they haven’t been consistent. The offense needs to play well this game and keep that offense going into the following weeks.

But it needs to start this week. The QB play needs to step up. That doesn’t mean that all that needs to happen is big plays with every pass being thrown down the field every time, but it does mean that they need to be able to step up and make passes in important situations. An offense should be able to march down the field every drive and we haven’t seen that yet from the Leathernecks this season. Hopefully, they can change that for this game. Kick off is set for 1 p.m. at Hanson Field.

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