Western Illinois Leathernecks
Missouri Valley Football Conference
Head Coach: Charlie Fisher
Overall Record: 8-4
Conference Record: 5-3
Biggest Win: The Leathernecks enjoyed a number of big wins, but perhaps the most thrilling came when quarterback Sean McGuire found receiver Jaelon Acklin for a 20-yard touchdown with six seconds left to lift WIU over Northern Iowa in the UNI-Dome
Most Frustrating Loss: Western scored with just under five minutes remaining to make it a one-possession contest, but the Weber State Wildcats came up with four first downs to secure a 21-19 FCS opening round playoff victory.
Quoatable & Notable: “We've been such a good second half team, and we've come back against so many good teams, but I trust our guys. As I told them at halftime, we have one half of football left and a one-score game. We just need to keep our poise and play better. I thought we played better in the second half, but at the end of the day we were a play or two short. We weren't quite able to get over the hump."
--WIU head coach Charlie Fisher following the 21-19 loss in the FCS playoffs
Returning strengths for 2018: Though the Leathernecks lose 22 seniors, Western still returns much of its strong defense along with its entire backfield.
Emerging Star: Safety Justin Fitzpatrick, who moonlights in center field for Western's baseball team, was third on the team in tackles and tops in interceptions.
Giving Thanks: Western hit a home run with its hiring of Charlie Fisher two years ago.
New Year's Wish List: A new go-to receiver for Sean McGuire and a rebuilt offensive line for the quarterback to have the time to find him.
Biggest Shoes to Fill: Record-setting receiver Jaelon Acklin and Macomb native Brett Taylor, the MVFC's Defensive Player of the Year and a Buck Buchanan Award finalist.
Tomorrow: Barry Bottino explores Five Burning Questions that face WIU football for 2018.