On a team without its top receiver from a year ago, Western Illinois has plenty of opportunities open for playmakers this fall.
From running backs to tight ends, everyone is lending a hand to replace Jaelon Acklin’s 84 catches, 1,369 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Graduate transfer George Wahee (FCS Norfolk State) and redshirt sophomore Tony Tate of DeKalb combined for nine catches, 172 yards and two scores. The duo did not have a single catch in the season opener, but that all changed Saturday.
“We saw a lot of improvement from Week 1 to Week 2,” WIU head coach Jared Elliott said. “I love this team for a lot of reasons. We’ve played with relentless effort.”
For Wahee and Tate, their effort turned into big plays at Memorial Stadium.
Less than 3 minutes into the game, Wahee caught a 20-yard TD from quarterback Sean McGuire to put the Leathernecks up 7-0. He grabbed five more catches, including a season-high 31-yard reception.
“He’s a newer addition (with) unbelievable maturity,” Elliott said. “From Week 1 to Week 2, we felt like we could start to give him more. That’s way you saw him start to get more touches.”
For Tate, whose career started at NCAA Division II Walsh University in Ohio, his highlight came on a 49-yard, third-quarter score.
“We needed a spark, and Tony Tate ran a tremendous double move,” Elliott said. “Sean McGuire put it where it needed to be. We’ve got to be an aggressive, attacking offense. Tony Tate is continuing to evolve into a player we can really trust. That was really encouraging to see.”
Three key matchups
- Montana QB Dalton Sneed vs. WIU secondary: Sneed is completing better than 66 percent of his passes and averaging 263 yards a game through the air. WIU’s defense leads the MVFC at 109.5 yards allowed per game.
- WIU WR George Wahee vs. Montana DBs: Wahee scored a TD against Illinois and is averaging 17.3 yards a catch. The Griz allow 11.3 yards per pass play.
- Montana LB Dante Olson vs. WIU O-line: The Leathernecks have allowed seven sacks in their first two games. Olson has three of his team’s nine sacks through two games.
No. 15 Montana (2-0) at Western Illinois (0-2), 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15. Game will air on ESPN-Plus.