HUNTSVILLE, Texas - A 92-yard touchdown pass highlighted Western Illinois' offensive night at Sam Houston State, however, the Bearkats kept the Leathernecks in check the rest of the game in a 20-6 season-opening loss on Thursday night (Sept. 1). It was the season-opener for both teams.
The Leathernecks' streak of seven straight season-opening wins over a Division I FCS opponent came to a halt. The last time Western lost to a FCS opponent in the season-opener was 1993, a 29-16 loss to Montana State.
Early in the fourth quarter, facing 3rd-and-long, Josh Hudson connected with Terriun Crump down the left sidelines and Crump raced 92 yards into the endzone. It tied for the third-longest pass completion/reception in program history. However, Western managed just 124 yards of offense the rest of the game.
SHSU won the coin flip and elected to defer. Western and Wil Lunt marched down the field. Facing 4th-and-inches, Lunt ran up the middle and his second effort gave him a first down. From that point it was the Bearkat defense setting the tone, recording consecutive quarterback sacks and a tackle for a loss.
SHSU marched down the field and ended its 12-play drive with a 30-yard field goal from Miguel Antonio. The Bearkats were in Western territory again, and thought to have a touchdown on a Tim Flanders' run, but a penalty brought back the TD. SHSU had to settle for an Antonio 31-yard FG early in the second, extending the lead to 6-0.
Western brought in the junior transfer Hudson and he would complete 3-of-6 passes in the quarter. Western marched into Bearkat territory, but another tackle for loss forced Western to punt. SHSU took over with just under two minutes in the half. Brian Bell took SHSU into Western territory, completing two of his passes to Trey Diller and eventually got to the 12. Facing 4th-and-2, and the Bearkats going for it, Western was called for offsides giving SHSU a 1st-and-goal.
Bell capped the 9-play drive with a TD pass to Grant Merritt, needing 1:17 to make it a 13-0 lead.
The Bearkats took their first drive of the second half and used a big play strike to score. Ryan Wilson caught a 44-yard touchdown pass from Bell to extend the lead to 20-0.
The Leathernecks took advantage of two key penalties to move into the redzone in the final minutes of the third. However, an interception by Bookie Sneed in the endzone stopped the Leathernecks' threat.
Western was limited to 36 net rushing yards, however Caulton Ray paced the rushing game with 48 yards on 14 attempts. Hudson completed 7-of-12 passes for 136 yards while Lunt went 4-of-11 for 43. Crump recorded his fourth career 100-yard receiving game, finishing with five catches totaling 127 yards.
Newcomer Theon Dixon led the defense with nine tackles while Tyler West, Mike Garoppolo and Kevin Palermo added eight stops each.
Bell completed 16-of-22 passes for 198 yards and two scores. Flanders got his eighth career 100-yard rushing game right on the nose, totaling 100 yards on his 24 carries.
The Leathernecks open their 2011 home schedule a week from Saturday (Sept. 10) against Jacksonville. Kickoff at Hanson Field is scheduled for 3 p.m.
GAME NOTES: Terriun Crump moved into a tie for eighth place all-time with his fourth 100-yard receiving game (tying Frisman Jackson)... Pat Smith entered the season 21-of-21 all-time in extra point attempts. He missed his only try of the game, hitting it off the upright... Seventeen Leathernecks made their debut in the game, including four starters: Emeka Nwankwo, Theon Dixon, Myles Daughtry and Jeff Lindsey... Justin Morgan matched a career-high of four receptions... Garoppolo's eight tackles matched a career-high... Palermo recorded a sack. It was the second of his career and first since his freshman season... Texas native Michael Shroble averaged 37.4 yards on his seven punts in his first collegiate game.