Courtesy of Western Illinois Athletics
MACOMB, Ill. â€“ Western Illinois turned in an impressive performance on both sides of the ball as the Fighting Leathernecks snapped a 10-game losing streak following their 45-0 win over Valparaiso Thursday night (Sept. 2) at Hanson Field. Battling rainy conditions all night, Western in the process ended a six-game losing streak at home in resounding fashion.
The offense did not commit a turnover, rolling up 569 yards of offense in 87 plays while Valparaiso fumbled five times losing three. Westernâ€™s defense limited the Crusaders to 131 yards of total offense.
Quarterback Matt Barr, making his first appearance since game four of last year, and the offense took over on their own 34 after the defense forced Valpo to punt on its opening series. Caulton Ray, making his Western debut, rushed six times in the 11-play drive capping it with a 3-yard touchdown run.
Western got the ball back and drove down to the Valpo 19 before the drive stalled. Senior Charlie Jouett nailed a 36-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead with 2:14 left in the first.
On their third drive, the Crusaders (0-1) drove into Western territory for the first time but the defense forced another punt. Western missed an opportunity later in the quarter on a missed 33-yard field goal, but the defense responded three plays later. Mike Stieren recovered the first of three Valpo fumbles, putting the offense at the 15. Two plays later Barr found Josh Gabelmann on an 8-yard TD pass for a 17-0 lead heading into the locker room.
Western took over early in the third quarter on its 32. Barr found Terriun Crump for five yards. On the next play, Barr executed the flea-flicker and found a wide-open Lito Senatus for a 63-yard touchdown.
Freshman Bryce Flowers started the fourth quarter breaking through on a 31-yard touchdown. Brandon Kreczmer recovered another Valpo fumble, setting up the offense on the 18. Gabelmann capped off the four-play drive scoring from four yards out. Flowers added a 16-yard TD run on the next drive for the final margin.
According to Stieren this was a big win to start the year.
â€œIt feels good. Itâ€™s been a long time since we had a win so it feels good. But coach Hendrickson said weâ€™re already thinking about Purdue so weâ€™re going to enjoy this tonight but tomorrow weâ€™re going to get focused on next week,â€ said Stieren. â€œItâ€™s always good to have a shutout. We did some good things and some bad things but we tried to figure out where we are at. But anytime you shut anyone out, it feels good.â€
Flowers led a balanced rushing attack totaling 128 yards on 21 carries with two scores. Ray added 86 yards and Lamor Hickman totaled 80 as the Leathernecks rolled up 339 rushing yards.
Barr completed 15-of-30 passes for 230 yards. Crump caught five passes for 60 yards while Senatus totaled a game-high 86 yards on four receptions.
Even though the rain lasted most of the night, according to Coach Hendrickson that did not change the game plan.
â€œOur game plan didnâ€™t change because of the weather. Had we played in the downpour from earlier we would have, but we stuck to it and I was very proud with the way we executed with the conditions the way they were,â€ said Hendrickson. â€œI was impressed for the offense to take 87 snaps and have perfect ball security. On the defensive side it was great for the defense to take the ball away from them three times. We got in 87 plays for 567 yards and in those conditions thatâ€™s very impressive.â€
Like he did most of last season, senior linebacker Kyle Glazier paced the defense recording 10 tackles. Mike Garoppolo added seven stops and a sack. He and Sam Power each had two tackles for a loss.
Nate Goergen completed 13-of-24 passes for 81 yards as Valpo managed 82 yards passing and 49 on the ground.
The victory also marked the first for coach Hendrickson, beginning his first year as the programâ€™s head coach after serving as acting head coach during parts of the last two years.
â€œI have been a Leatherneck for a long time and every Leatherneck win feels good and this one is no exception. We have a lot of young men who are very excited and we are excited for them to get this win,â€ said Hendrickson, in his 12th year with Western.
Western travels to Big 10 Conference member Purdue next Saturday (Sept. 11). Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. Central.