MACOMB, Ill. – Western Illinois used a balanced offensive attack and the defense came within one play of its first shutout in three years, defeating Quincy 34-6 at Hanson Field on Saturday afternoon (Sept. 7). The Leathernecks improved to 2-0 overall while the Hawks played in their season-opener.
The 278 rushing yards were the most by Western since 384 on the ground against Indiana State three years ago, and the 549 total yards was the highest single-game total since Illinois State in 2010 (629).
After both teams stalled on their opening drives, quarterback Trenton Norvell went 4-for-4 on the next drive, and Nikko Watson added a 3-yard rush. JUCO transfer J.C. Baker rushed left then cut back across the field for a 43-yard touchdown run.
On the final play of the first quarter, Watson scored from three yards out to cap an 11-play, 60-yard drive. Following another Quincy drive, Western found the endzone again – this time through the air.
Baker started off with a pair of 15-yard runs. Two passes to Hi-C Scott covered 36 yards, then facing 3rd-and-16 from the 25, Norvell found Scott again down the middle for a touchdown.
Western took a 20-0 lead into the locker room, holding a 303-143 edge in yards and going 8-of-10 in third down conversion.
Sophomore Kyle Hammonds made his debut and rushed four times for 28 yards early in the fourth quarter. Baker followed with a 14-yard run, then redshirt-freshman quarterback J’Vaughn Williams made his debut and took off on a 30-yard run down to the Quincy nine. Baker then rushed left and scored his second TD of the game.
The Hawks drove down the field on their final drive, capitalizing on a 45-yard pass play to get to the Western five. Three plays later, Nick Lonergan rushed up the middle for a 4-yard score as time expired for the final margin.
First year coach Bob Nielson thought his squad made some improvements from week one to week two, but noted areas – including penalties - they need to get better.
“It was a good performance in some respects. I think we addressed some of the areas that we set out to address between week one and week two. There are some things that we have had to do better, 160 yards in penalties is not that type of football team that we can be or should be,” said Nielson. “The other thing, I give Quincy a lot of credit. They played really hard, obviously they’re a really well-coached football team. They did a good job attacking us and as a result were able to hold onto the football a fair amount themselves, and of course we picked up some penalties that helped them to keep some drives alive. I think the good thing for us is that we were a better football team offensively. We came in wanting to be able to distribute the football better and I think we did a good job of that.”
Baker tallied 142 yards on the ground, averaging better than 10 yards per carry to go with his two scores. Watson added 55 yards and a TD while Hammonds recorded 41 yards on eight attempts.
Norvell and the offense played turnover-free football for the second straight game. He completed 24-of-34 passes for 278 yards and the first two passing TDs of his collegiate career.
Fredson Salomon finished with 98 receiving yards on six catches while Scott added 95 yards on his five receptions. Joey Borsellino added five catches for 36 yards as Norvell completed passes to eight different receivers.
David McDaniel made seven solo tackles to lead the defense. Dallas Nichols and Devon Butler made six stops each. The defense recorded six sacks, two by Gavin Ricketts and one by Kevin Kintzel, Jeremy Curry and Trey Williamson.
Longergan completed 20-of-40 passes for 224 yards with an interception, but the Leatherneck defense held Quincy to just 39 net rushing yards on 26 attempts. Ike Onike made 11 solo tackles to lead the Hawks while Dan Camp also added 11 total tackles.
The Leathernecks begin a stretch of consecutive games at FBS programs, starting next Saturday (Sept. 14) at Minnesota. Kickoff in Minneapolis is 11 a.m. and the game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
Nielson mentioned how his team will have to become a better team with back-to-back games against Minnesota and UNLV before Missouri Valley Football Conference play begins.
“We’re going to change our level of competition next week. It’s a different level of competition when we go up to Minnesota, and that’s taking nothing away from Hampton or Quincy… we have to be a better football team. We can’t make some of the mistakes that we made today and expect to have a chance to win the game against Minnesota,” said Nielson. “Minnesota is a team that’s going to run the ball right at you. We’re going to have to be a very physical football team to try and put them in some off schedule situations. That will be the big challenge for us, how well defensively we can hold up and consistently how we can hold up against the pressure their offense is going to throw at us.”
GAME NOTES: Junior offensive lineman Sam Kachanuk earned the start at guard, his first since the 2011 season… Six more Leathernecks took to the field for the first time this season… Sophomore defensive lineman Jean-Marc Charles came up with his first collegiate interception. It was the lone turnover of the game… Norvell’s two TD passes were the most by a Leatherneck in a span of nine games (2-Wil Lunt at South Dakota in 2012)… With two receivers finishing with 95 or more receiving yards, Salomon and Scott nearly became the first set of receivers with a 100-yard game since the Illinois State game in 2010… With five rushing TDs in the first two games, Western has almost matched last year’s total of six… Baker became the first Western running back to rush for two TDs in a game since a pair of backs did it against Indiana State in 2010… The last time Western scored 30-plus points in consecutive games also came during the 2010 campaign, 56 against Sam Houston State followed by 40 versus the Sycamores… Three years ago versus UNI was the last time Western recorded 6.0 sacks in a game, and the last time an individual recorded two (Mike Stieren).
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