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.
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.
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.
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.