NUTS AND BOLTS
Illinois State (4-5, 2-4 MVFC) surprisingly defeated the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State Saturday afternoon at Hancock Stadium. ISU’s offense scored early and limited the Jacks to 21 points. Illinois State has not won back-to-back games since the first two weeks of the season. Expect the Redbirds to use James Robinson and Demarco Corbin as much as possible.
Western Illinois State (5-2, 4-0 MVFC) A top-15 FCS team, Western Illinois is coming off a one-point road victory versus the Coyotes of South Dakota, 35-34.. WIU allows nearly 157 yards of rushing per contest as well as allowing the most passing yards (293) per game in the MVFC. Although 6-2, the offense has carried WIU.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Christian Gibbs averages just over 50 yards of receiving per week but is known to come down with catches when it matters most. His three receiving touchdowns is second on the team and is close to reaching the 500-yard mark for the season. Gibbs’ speed makes him a tough task for any secondary. With how inconsistent Western’s has been, Gibbs may want to try and exploit the defensive backs quite a bit.
Lance Lenoir is the Leathernecks top receiver, and has been for the past two seasons. The Crete-Monee native is second in the MVFC in receiving yards (116.4) per game on top of receptions per contest (7.2). He is tied for first in all-purpose yards (122.24). Lenoir presents a big challenge to the Redbirds. His six-foot, 200-pound frame equals a tough time for ISU.
THREE KEYS TO WIN (ISU)
Although Illinois State has struggled on the road (1-3), the Redbirds have won the last two trips to Macomb. An underlying theme to this season is ISU played ranked opponents closely. With another nationally ranked team on the horizon, the ’Birds will need to hold their own to avoid an embarrassing road loss.
Force the issue
ISU has turned the ball over in every game and not been able to force its opponents. Quarterback Sean McGuire boasts one of the highest passing efficiencies in the MVFC (129.29) and can put points on the board fast. ISU needs to collapse the pocket and apply pressure to McGuire as much as possible.
Leathernecks’ receiver Lance Lenoir is close to eclipsing the 1,000-yard receiving mark in 2016. He is a speedy threat down the field and possesses great hands. Double coverage may be the necessary option to stop Lenoir and the lightning quick Leatherneck offense.
THREE KEYS TO WIN (WIU)
Home sweet home
WIU has lost one game at home this season (NDSU) and averages nearly 28 points-per-game in Macomb. ISU has won the last two matchups at Hanson Field. This time around, the Leathernecks hold the clear advantage for the first time in rougly four seasons. Illinois State beat WIU twice last season, including a win in the FCS playoffs, but the home crowd of Hanson field will be electric.
WIU needs to step up on the defensive side of the ball considering ISU has the potential to score upwards of 40 points. Kolbe has thrown a pick in all but one game. If Western can force a few turnovers, defense will contribute to a convincing victory. WIU’s offense is there, defense will be the difference.
McGuire’s arm has sustained the entire season and will carry the Leathernecks over the Redbirds. With the amount of threats on offense, WIU needs to spread the passing wealth to earn a win.
Western Illinois 31, Illinois State 14
Both teams will notch a touchdown in the opening quarter. Fans can either witness a high-scoring affair or a defensive battle. The running game of ISU will be present and used consistently over the course of the game. Specials teams will play a role, as many yards will be gained off of punt and kick returns. Western will extend its lead late in the third quarter and fight off a fourth quarter comeback attempt by the ’Birds. Western moves to 3-1 at Hanson Field while the Redbirds drop their sixth game of 2016. Lenoir will reel in two touchdowns while McGuire has a second half field day with three touchdowns and 250 yards.