Western Illinois added a new wrinkle to its 'Finish the Fight' theme by 'Attacking Early'.
The 22nd-ranked Leathernecks scored on its second offensive play from scrimmage and never looked back en route to a 38-20 victory at Northern Arizona Saturday night in Flagstaff.
Senior Jaelon Acklin jumped-started WIU with a 63-yard touchdown run. The speedy wide receiver took a pitch and outraced the Northern Arizona defense.
"When you're on the road you have to get going early and we did that. We lulled a little bit there but got our legs under us and played a lot better," WIU head coach Charlie Fisher said on goleathernecks.com.
That lull didn't last too long as Western built a 17-7 halftime lead before adding two more third quarter touchdowns.
Acklin had a big game for the Leathernecks, catching five passes for a career-high 101 yards and a touchdown. The Missouri native added 65 more yards on the ground.
With junior running back Steve McShane out nursing an injury, sophomore Max Norris recorded his second straight 100-yard rushing game, finishing with 103 yards and a score on 23 attempts.
Quarterback Sean McGuire threw for 210 yards on 20-of-26 passing and a touchdown, overcoming the two first half interceptions.
"A key to the game was when Sean McGuire really settled in," Fisher said. "He started a little bit slow but once he settled in, he made some throws. He's a winner. He's a champion when the game is on the line; he came up big."
Defensively, Western produced another touchdown for the second straight game. Aaron Diggs and Mick Nelson sacked Northern Arizona quarterback Case Cookus; Nelson popped the ball loose and Eric Carerra recovered it in the end zone for touchdown. Those points built the WIU lead to 24-7.
"It's a tough environment, we said that all along. We had to believe in ourselves, it came down to us. We had to shut down all the doubters and take care of business. We played our kind of football, we made it a physical fight." --WIU head coach Charlie Fisher
Players of the game
WIU receiver Jaelon Acklin accounted for 101 yards of offense and scored two touchdowns.
Leatherneck linebacker Brett Taylor led all players with 12 tackles and recorded a half tackle-for-loss.
By the numbers
1:45 The amount of time it took Western Illinois to score in the game
2 Second straight season WIU has started 2-0 under Fisher
2 For the second straight week Jaelin Acklin scored two touchdowns
56.2 Percent of third downs converted by WIU offense (9-for-16)
57 Rushing yards Western defense held Northern Arizona to in the game
139 Margin by which Western outgained NAU in total offense
The Leathernecks take next weekend off before traveling to Coastal Carolina on Saturday, September 23. A kickoff time has not yet been announced.