Leathernecks Fall in MVFC Opener
Courtesy: Western Illinois Athletics  
Release: Sunday 09/22/2012
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MACOMB, Ill. - Western Illinois dropped its Missouri Valley Football Conference opener to 15th-ranked Illinois State 23-3 at Hanson Field on Saturday (Sept. 22). The Fighting Leathernecks dropp to 2-2 overall (0-1 MVFC).

The Leatherneck defense had Illinois State stopped twice on its opening drive, but a pass interference penalty and running into the kicker penalty following a 27-yard field goal eventually led to Darrelynn Dunn scoring from two yards out and a 7-0 lead.

Early in the second quarter Dunn broke through the middle on 4th-and-1 for a 34-yard TD run. The extra point kick was blocked making it 13-0. During the next Western drive, Josh Hudson was hit and fumbled, giving ISU the ball on the 28. The defense held to a 3-and-out but Nick Aussieker converted a 37-yard field goal for a 16-0 lead.

Western was held to 48 yards of total offense in the first half, compared to 220 for the Redbirds (4-0, 1-0). The Leathernecks had only four passing yards in the first half on one completion.

After holding ISU on its opening drive of the third quarter, Western took over on its own 35. Nikko Watson rushed on 10 of the 13 plays during that drive, eventually getting to the three yard line. But the Redbirds stopped Watson on 3rd-and-goal and Pat Smith kicked his seventh field goal of the season cutting the deficit to 16-3.

ISU took the ball 75 yards on seven plays during the ensuing drive, capped with Matt Brown's 12-yard TD pass to Jordan Neukirch for the eventual final margin.

"Illinois State is a good football team and of course they're sitting at 4-0, they are a good football team in all phases of the game. I felt like our football team prepared very well. It was an outstanding week of practice, it meant a great deal to the players to prepare for Homecoming 2012 and they were very focused and locked in," said head coach Mark Hendrickson. "I congratulated them in the locker room for giving a great effort; they fought to the very end on both sides of the ball. The defense played hard all day and tackled hard at the end."

Western held the Redbirds well under their season scoring average of 47 ppg and 471 yards of total offense with 23 points and 373 yards. The defense also held ISU to 4-of-14 on third down conversion and 1-of-3 on fourth down. However, the Leathernecks managed just 137 total yards - 60 on the ground by Watson.

Hudson wound up completing 10-of-22 passes for 55 yards and an interception but also fumbled twice. Western was third nationally in turnover margin heading into the game but finished minus-3.

Redshirt-freshman J.J. Raffelson once again led the defense making 13 tackles.

Brown was 16-of-27 for 210 yards and a TD. Dunn rushed for 114 yards and two scores on 29 attempts. Mike Zimmer had 13 tackles and Evan Frierson added 11 stops.

Western will take next weekend off before making back-to-back trips to the state of South Dakota to start October.

"The good news is we have a bye week, were at a point physically and mentally where a bye week is going to help us. The bye week will do us a lot of good to physically get rest and get caught up. Offensively we have a lot of work to do... the bye will help with the offense, both on the drawing board and on the field," said Hendrickson.

GAME NOTES: The announced attendance of 16,033 was the ninth-largest in Hanson Field history... Redshirt-freshman Trey Oliver made his first collegiate appearance, and on his first play made a 4-yard catch, the only passing yards by Western in the first half... Jonathon Rollins matched a career-high making eight tackles... True-freshman Mike Love made his first start of the year at left guard. He made his first collegiate appearance the week before... Western improved to 5-for-5 on fourth down conversion before missing late in the game... That marked the first time Western did not gain a turnover on defense this season... ISU held a 32:58-27:02 edge in time of possession... The offense has not scored a touchdown in 11 straight quarters, dating back to nine seconds left in the first quarter against Indianapolis when Watson scored a 1-yard TD run... Smith improved to 7-for-7 in field goals, one shy of matching his two-year career total heading into this his junior year... The Athletics Department's five newest members of the Hall of Fame class were recognized at halftime.

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