Western rewind: Interceptions pave way to Leatherneck downfall

Jaylen Reed (6) led Western Illinois in rushing and caught a touchdown pass in Saturday’s loss to Northern Iowa in the Leathernecks’ Missouri Valley Football Conference opener at Hanson Field in Macomb. (Photo by GoLeathernecks.com)

By Dan Verdun

A trio of interceptions — two returned for touchdowns — led the way as Northern Iowa pummeled Western Illinois, keeping the Leathernecks without a win on the season.

Meanwhile, UNI (1-3, 1-1) garnered its first victory with a 52-17 triumph. WIU (0-4, 0-1) allowed the Panthers to run 75 plays for 468 yards of offense.

After a scoreless first quarter, UNI pulled out to a 17-3 halftime lead and then exploded for 21 third-quarter points to essentially put the game away.

UNI quarterback Theo Day passed for 260 yards and three touchdowns.

Western quarterback Clay Bruno, who played well off the bench last week, struggled in his first career start. Bruno was 15-of-29 for 166 yards and a touchdown but threw the three interceptions.

Perhaps the biggest interception came when Bruno was picked off in the Northern Iowa end zone, ending a Western threat to score.

“We were right there, 17-10, the defense did a great job at the beginning of the game, we had a chance to go up early, we threw a pick in the red zone, which is inexcusable, but if we get that touchdown and a few more balls, it changes the game,” Western Illinois coach Myers Hendrickson said on GoLeathernecks.com

UNI was 7-for-12 on third down, while WIU was just 3-of-12.

Game changers

4:15, 2nd quarter: Dom Williams scored on a one-yard run, upping the Northern Iowa lead to 14-3.

6:07, 3rd quarter: Woo Governor intercepted a Bruno pass and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown.

5:04, 3rd quarter: Governor garnered his second Pick 6 of the game, a 49-yard return.

“The second one was batted up, it’s one of those deals, but we have to keep fighting until the whistle blows, so that was unfortunate,” Bruno said.

What it means

Western has given up an average of 43 points a game this season. Even if the 62 points allowed against Minnesota of the Big Ten are removed, the Leathernecks are still averaging yielding 37 points per game.

Nifty ‘Necks

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

Jaylen Reed, RB: The sophomore caught two passes for 52 yards and a touchdown. He led WIU with 36 rushing yards.

Naseim Brantley, WR: The transfer had four receptions for 51 yards. He also caught a touchdown from Henry Ogala in the fourth quarter.

Mason Laramie, K: The graduate student nailed a 34-yard field goal, making him 3-for-4 on the season. He also had two touchbacks on kickoffs.

What’s next?

Western travels to South Dakota State (3-1, 1-0) for an Oct. 1 conference game. The Jack Rabbits, ranked No. 2 in last week’s Stats FCS poll, defeated No. 6 Missouri State on the road Saturday.

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