FOOTBALL: Other Western wins

Keith Farner

With a chance at redemption after dropping their Gateway Conference opener last season to Western Illinois, the Hilltoppers were left looking for answers Saturday after a 14-0 home loss to the Leathernecks.

Inconsistent offense, missed tackles, and penalties paved the way to only the second shutout Western has suffered in Smith Stadium since it opened in 1968. The first one was a 3-0 loss to Morehead State in 1979.

“We know it’s hard to win here and we feel fortunate enough to get out of here with a win,” Leatherneck head coach Don Patterson said.

After getting beat 17-13 in Macomb, Ill., a year ago, Western (1-2, 0-1 Gateway Conference) didn’t come out ready to play.

“Our team was not emotionally, mentally prepared, and that falls on my

shoulders,” Western head coach Jack Harbaugh said. “That’s my responsibility as a head coach, and I take that responsibility very seriously. We did not come out ready to play today.”

Western Illinois (2-0, 1-0 Gateway) took the lead after two stalled drives

with 3:08 left in the first quarter, when freshman running back Travis Glasford ran it in from four yards out. Glasford piled up 126 rushing yards for the game.

That scoring drive featured four miss tackles by Western defenders, including two on a 16-yard pass. With that, defensive coordinator David Elson got in several players’ faces on the sideline. But it didn’t do much good. Six Leatherneck plays later, they added another touchdown as junior split end Terrence HallCQ victimized senior cornerback Carl Birts to make it 14-0.

“They kind of got us on our heels a little bit with those two touchdown drives,” Elson said. “And the bottom line is third down situations, they made plays and we didn’t.”

But first-half missed tackles were the back breaker.

“It’s the most frustrating thing that you go through,” Elson said. “We talk

about it, we practice it, and missed tackles was huge.”

And the Toppers’ offense struggled to gain consistent yardage. Penalties,

dropped passes, and slick turf were the main ingredients in the lack of


Three lost fumbles helped stop any momentum Western could build in an attempt to tie the game.

“We took a step back,” senior quarterback Jason Michael said. “We didn’t come out ready to play. We just didn’t do it.”

And when they got within striking distance, they couldn’t even settle for a

field goal.

“We moved the ball fine from 20 to 20 but once we got inside, just weren’t able to capitalize and get points on the board,” Michael said.

With Western trailing, the passing offense was visible early and often, as Michael went 15 of 23 for 171 yards. The Toppers’ 30 completions in three games are seven more than Western completed in 12 games last season. But the Toppers could only get 154 rushing yards, and Michael led the way with 71.

“We just weren’t consistent offensively,” Michael said. “We come out on first and 10 and have an off-tackle play for 10 yards, and get a first down, and then get stuffed on the same exact play.”

But Western has to quickly identify and work out the kinks. With No. 12 Youngstown State coming to town next week, there isn’t much time to bounce back.

“We’ve got our backs to the wall now,” Michael said. “When you lose at home in this league, its not just like a loss on the road, which is devastating. The mettle of this ball club, the character of this ball club is going to be severely tested in these next three weeks.”

Kickoff against the Penguins is set for 5:30 p.m.