For rookie Western Illinois head coach Jared Elliott, the wait for tonight's season opener must be akin to a child's heightened state as a birthday approaches.
Yet, Elliott--who was promoted from offensive coordinator when Charlie Fisher left WIU--has done his best to approach Thursday's season opener at Montana State with a calm demeanor.
"The longer you’re in the role that I’m in, the more comfortable that you get," Elliott told Prairie State Pigskin. "When we talked back in January I thought the biggest adjustment for me would be balancing an entire roster, personnel, support staff, media staff. The time demands of juggling schedule and all those things that go along with it. There’s just a lot more time and thought that has to go into it outside of the Xs and Os and the schematic side of things. That’s been the biggest adjustment for me.
"I’ve really enjoyed it. You’ve got to be intentional now about keeping an eye on all the little details of your overall program . . . I’ve got a great staff. It’s easy when you all share the same vision and have bought in."
Three key matchups
- Digging out of a potential hole: Western was picked seventh in the preseason Missouri Valley Football Conference poll; Montana State was tabbed eighth in the Big Sky race. Neither team wants to start out on the wrong foot. "They’re a rough, blue collar mentality kind of team. They’re physical," Elliott said. "We’re going to find out a lot about ourselves week one . . . We’ve got to have a fast start to the season. There’s no warmup games, there’s no gimmes, and our guys understand that."
- Missouri Valley vs. Big Sky: In general, the MVFC runs the ball and relies on defense, while the Big Sky features wide-open offenses.
- WIU vs. the road crowd: Bobcats defensive coordinator Ty Gregorak told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “The crowd is going to be awesome. It’s going to be an awesome night in Bozeman. I think if we can start fast defensively, that’s going to give us a good chance.”
WIU opens its 2018 season with a nonconference game in Bozeman, Mont. against Jeff Choate's Montana State Bobcats. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.