Football takes on UNI in season closer

Christopher Gibson, Courier Staff

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The Western Illinois Fighting Leathernecks (1-10) head to Cedar Falls for the last game of the season against the Northern Iowa Panthers (7-4). The game kicks off at 1 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN+.

The Panthers head into the game sitting at fourth in the Missouri Valley and are coming off of a loss to South Dakota State by a score of 38-7. They are led by redshirt freshman quarterback Will McElvain. McElvain has thrown for 2200 yards on the season and has 18 touchdowns to go along with the passing numbers. The man to watch out for receiving dimes from McElvain is redshirt sophomore, Isaiah Weston. Weston has 10 of the 18 receiving touchdowns on the season and averages 98 receiving yards per game. The Panthers defense has been active in the turnover column this season, forcing 13 interceptions with 14 forced fumbles to go with it. Look for the defense to come in strong against the Leathernecks.

The Leathernecks are coming off of a loss at home to Southern Illinois by a margin of 45-21. The season hasn’t been very kind to Western who has only managed to win one game on the season. The key to victory for the Leathernecks for this game is to limit the damage through the air by McElvain. They need to force him to make mistakes just like he did last week when he threw three interceptions. If the Leatherneck defense can be aggressive and force some mistakes, that might just be what they need to win. It’s what was prevalent in their last win and it needs to show up if they want to win this week.

The Leathernecks also need to figure out a way to get the offense going. With the exception of two games this season, they haven’t scored more than 24 points. But, the two games where they were able to pass that mark, they either won or went to overtime. The best way to get the offense going to where it needs to be is to look towards junior quarterback Connor Sampson to light things up through the air. He just needs to be careful to not air it out too much against the defense, who will make him pay for any little mistake.

Obviously, this wasn’t the kind of season that anyone was expecting, but there have been some highlights for this squad with the game-clinching interception against South Dakota is the most memorable. This last game won’t be a walk in the park, but the Leathernecks can still come out on top. This is the last game for a majority of the seniors who are graduating, so a win this week would help to send them off on a high note. Hopefully, the team will be able to get that win. They weren’t able to do that for the last time the seniors played on Hanson Field, but they have a chance to correct that mistake this weekend in Cedar Falls.

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