Leathernecks use bye week to recharge, regroup heading into season’s second half

Western Illinois returns to Hanson Field Oct. 22 for its homecoming date with Youngstown State. (Photo by WIU Athletics)

By Dan Verdun

The Western Illinois coaches and players view last week’s bye as a new start.

“The coaching staff is looking at it as if we’re 0-0 (record-wise). We’ve got games left to win out,” junior Anthony Quinney told Prairie State Pigskin last week. “We’ve just got to be more disciplined as a team.

“This was a great time to have the bye, right at the halfway point. It’s a reset. It’s a chance for us to go into the rest of these games rested, healthy and ready to go.”

Many players such as offensive lineman Ty O’Janovac used the break to get ahead on classwork.

“I’m really busy in my research lab,” the Joliet Catholic Academy graduate said in a text.

While the second half of the season is yet to be played, WIU posted an 0-5 record in the first half. Two of those losses were in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

The most recent loss was at South Dakota State, the No. 2-ranked team in FCS. WIU trailed 17-3 at halftime, but SDSU pulled away in the fourth quarter to win 34-10.

“I felt like our defense played great football,” first-year WIU head coach Myers Hendrickson said afterward. “We missed opportunities to score. We’re close; we are close in a lot of aspects, but we did not finish drives or make big plays when we had the chances for big plays.”

Challenges ahead

The Leathernecks’ remaining schedule is filled with the challenge of the MVFC.

“This conference is real physical,” said Quinney, the team’s second-leading tacker.

In-state rivals bookend WIU’s remaining six games. The Leathernecks resume play Saturday at Southern Illinois, which is ranked in the FCS Top 20. Western ends the season Nov. 19 at Illinois State.

“We know our potential,” Quinney said. “We just have to keep playing hard and work together.”

Kansas connections

Quinney transferred to WIU after spending last season at Dodge City Community College in the Kansas Jayhawk Conference, where he was the league’s sixth-leading tackler.

Anthony Quinney

Moreover, Quinney had gone against current Leatherneck teammates Nick Davenport and Chod Morrow, both of whom played offense at Butler (Kan.) Community College, in the junior college ranks. WIU defensive lineman Tre Henry played at Highland (Kan.) Community College.

“It’s a bonding because we all went through that same JUCO competitiveness,” Quinney said.

WIU defensive coordinator Todd Drury recruited Quinney — a Mobile, Ala. native — using social media.

“He reached out to me over Twitter,” Quinney said. “He knew my head coach (Ricky Coon) at Dodge City. I had some other offers, but Coach Drury just made it feel like home. He was more considerate (than other recruiters). He was real and good with communication.”

Quinney plays WIU’s “rover” on defense, meaning the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder is a hybrid linebacker/safety.

“This is the same defense than I ran at Dodge City,” he said. “I’m at the edge of the defense. I’ve got to be physical, but I’ve also got to be fluid with my movement.”

Quinney’s Sept. 1 Leatherneck debut was impressive. He racked up 15 tackles — one for a three-yard loss — on the road against nationally ranked Tennessee Martin.

“The bye came at a good time for me personally because I was a little banged up,” Quinney said. “But we’re ready to go again.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: