The late summer overlap of baseball and football seasons converged as Western Illinois rallied for its first victory of the season.
Leatherneck stars Steve McShane and Justin Fitzpatrick, both of whom double as starters on Western's baseball team, sparked WIU to the first career win for head coach Jared Elliott.
McShane, the do-it-all running back, scored twice in the final 5:38 of an electrifying Western Illinois 31-27 comeback win over Montana.
The Leathernecks (1-2) trailed by 10 points late in the fourth quarter but rallied to snatch the game away from the Grizzlies, ranked 15th in last week's FCS Coaches poll. Montana (2-1) suffered its first loss.
McShane, a Freeport High School product, returned a punt 58 yards for a touchdown to pull WIU to within three points at the 5:38 mark of the final quarter. Moments later, Fitzpatrick forced a fumble that Zach Muniz recovered at the Montana 43.
Western then engineered a six-play drive that McShane capped with an 11-yard touchdown reception on a pass from Sean McGuire. The score came with 2:39 remaining.
Eric Carrera sealed the win for Western with his second interception of the game on Montana's final possession.
"I can't tell you how much this means to me, how much I just love this university and how proud I am to be the head coach here," Elliott said in the postgame. "I love the young men in our locker room and what's amazing is we've learned here, time and time again.
"I never doubt, I never question these guys because they know how to fight. They compete and continue to play no matter what the scoreboard says, and they did that today. They found a way."
McGuire on fire
Senior WIU quarterback Sean McGuire completed 26-of-45 passes for 360 yards and three touchdowns.
Saturday's performance follows a 276-yard, two-touchdown performance against Illinois in which McGuire moved into No. 2 on the WIU career leader board for passing yards and passing touchdowns.
Brunner breaks out
Receiver John Brunner, a transfer from Butler Community College in Kansas, came into Saturday with five catches on the season. Brunner hauled in seven balls for 180 yards and two touchdowns in the WIU win. His first TD came on the second Western play from scrimmage, a 71-yard score.
Big man, big performance
Senior Khalen Saunders dominated the defensive line for the Leathernecks. The 6-foot-2, 310-pounder recorded 14 tackles (7 solo), 2.5 tackles-for-loss, two quarterback hurries and a sack.
5 Key Stats that Stood Out
11 – Solo tackles by Western's Zach Glisan (15 total)
21 – Points scored in the game's first 2:27
95 – Yard kickoff return that accounted for Montana's first touchdown
271 – Total offense produced by Montana quarterback Dalton Sneed (229 passing, 42 rushing)
405 – Yards of total offense by WIU, a season high
Western enjoys a bye week before opening Missouri Valley Football Conference play Sept. 29 by hosting Youngstown State. It is also WIU's Homecoming.