The Western Illinois football team will play against the best team in FCS history, the North Dakota State University Bison. The Bison are the New England Patriots and Alabama Crimson Tide of FCS. NDSU has won seven of the last eight National Championships, and are currently the best team in the country with a 9-0 record.
Meanwhile, the Purple and Gold just won their first game in 364 days and snapped their 10-game losing streak, with a 38-34 win over South Dakota on Saturday. Connor Sampson, who was the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week, threw for 368 yards with three touchdown passes and no interceptions and led the Leathernecks to their first win of the year. Western moved to 1-8 on the season, and their win could not have come at a better time before playing the two-time defending national champions. Along with Sampson, senior captain running back Clint Ratkovich and redshirt junior wide receiver Tony Tate had their best games of the year. Ratkovich did it through the ground and the air, rushing for 57 yards and adding 59 yards in the passing game and scored two total touchdowns, including the game winning touchdown with 34 seconds left. Tate caught six passes for 100 yards with one touchdown. Senior George Wahee and redshirt freshman DeShon Gavin both added a touchdown of their own.
The defense, on the other hand, gave up 588 yards, with 304 of those coming on the ground. However, they forced the only two turnovers in the game, including Eric Carrera’s game winning interception with four seconds left. It was fitting that Carrera, who faced his former head coach Bob Nielson, caught the game winning interception. Nielson was his first of three head coaches here at Western.
“To get the first win of the season against him, man, I can’t even describe it, it’s huge,” Carrera said.
The Bison are coming off a 56-17 road win against the Penguins of Youngstown State. The Bison got off to a 35-0 start before YSU scored a touchdown before the half. Redshirt freshman Trey Lance had a monster game, considering he only completed seven passes for 160 yards and three touchdowns. Freshman running back Kobe Johnson had six rushes for 103 yards and one touchdown. Redshirt senior Dimitri Williams only had 46 yards on six rushes but had two touchdowns. The defense did their part, only giving up 17 points and 279 total yards. The Bison have won eight of their nine games by double digits, with their closest win coming against No. 3 South Dakota State, 23-16.
The Leathernecks are eyeing back-to-back wins for the first time since Nov. 3, when they defeated Southern Illinois on Nov. 3 when they won their third straight game. Meanwhile, NDSU has not lost a game in over two years, when they lost to SDSU on Nov. 4. The Leathernecks look to pull off the upset of the century against the best team of all-time in FCS history.