Western rewind: Minnesota overwhelms WIU with 679 yards of total offense

Western Illinois quarterback Nick Davenport (15) threw for 125 yards and a touchdown in the Leathernecks’ 62-10 loss at Minnesota. (Photo by GoLeathernecks.com)

By Barry Bottino

Less than 40 seconds into Saturday’s non-conference game against FBS Minnesota, Western Illinois defensive lineman Tre Henry forced a fumble that defensive back Bryce Cross recovered.

That early momentum shift was only temporary, however.

Western (0-2) turned the ball over on downs four plays later and couldn’t keep pace with Minnesota’s powerful offense in a 62-10 loss in Minneapolis.

The Gophers (2-0) gained 679 yards, the third-best single-game total in school history and powered their way to 307 rushing yards.

Western kicker Mason Laramie’s 47-yard field goal in the first quarter was the only points the Leathernecks managed in the opening half. Minnesota scored 48 unanswered points before Western quarterback Nick Davenport threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Naseim Brantley with 4:26 remaining in the game.

Minnesota’s defense limited WIU to eight first downs and 194 total yards.

Game changers

14:19, 1st quarter: Henry dislodged the ball from Minnesota’s Michael Brown-Stephens on the second play of the game, and Cross recovered. This turned out to be the most significant WIU defensive play of the game.

6:23, 4th quarter: Preston Jelen’s 30-yard scoring run gave Minnesota its seventh rushing touchdown on the day by five different players.

4:26, 4th quarter: Western’s highlight on offense came when Brantley caught a pass deep down the right sideline from Davenport for the Leathernecks’ only TD.

What it means

The Leathernecks are off to an 0-2 start, but they walked away with a $450,000 guarantee for playing Minnesota.

Nifty ‘Necks

Prairie State Pigskin chooses the top three Leatherneck players in the game:

Brantley: The graduate transfer from FCS Sacred Heart caught his fourth TD of the season. He hauled in three passes for 50 yards on the day.

Jafar Armstrong, WR: The senior led Western with five receptions and 72 yards. His 38-yard catch in the first half was WIU’s longest offensive play of the day.  

J.J. Ross, CB: The senior piled up a career-high seven tackles and had two of Western’s three pass breakups.

What’s next?

Western plays its home opener at 3 p.m. Sept. 17 against Southern Utah. WIU will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its 2002 Gateway Conference championship team.

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