Western Illinois' Saturday home game against Youngstown State is many things to many people. It's the Missouri Valley Football Conference opener for both teams. It's Homecoming with numerous celebrations including the 20-year reunion of Western's 1998 team.
"It's going to be special," WIU senior linebacker Quentin Moon said. "It's my last ride, my last time with my boys. But, right now I'm just focused on doing the job to bring home a win."
Moon and his Western teammates are coming off a bye week, which followed Western's come-from-behind 31-27 win over nationally ranked Montana.
While some may be concerned with the Leathernecks losing momentum from such a thrilling victory by being off last weekend, Moon sees things differently.
"It was a really good opportunity to just hone in on getting better," Moon said. "It was good to get back to the basics, review the fundamentals. It was a great week to get some of the young guys experience. It also allowed us time to get healthy."
Each team enters Saturday afternoon seeking its second win of the year, but more importantly, getting off on the right foot in league play.
Like Western, Youngstown State is coming off a bye week. YSU (1-2) picked up its first win of the season on Sept. 15, defeating Valparaiso 42-7. Tailback Tevin McCaster rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns while quarterback Montgomery VanGorder passed for 202 yards and three touchdowns in the win.
"They have two really explosive backs, so we first want to shut down the run game, that's the focus of the front seven. Our secondary has done a great job with their part," said Moon, who is tied for the team lead in tackles.
Three key matchups
- WIU defensive front seven vs. YSU running game: If Western controls the line of scrimmage defensively, the Leathernecks stand a strong chance of winning.
- WIU offensive line vs. YSU DE Shereif Bynum: The Penguin junior has 5.5 tackles-for-loss and two sacks on the season. WIU head coach Jared Elliott wants him nowhere near quarterback Sean McGuire.
- Penalties: While WIU has committed 19 infractions in three games, Youngstown State is averaging 10 penalties a game. Flags kill offensive drives, something neither team can afford on offense.
Youngstown State (1-2) at Western Illinois (1-2), 3 p.m. Saturday. Game will air on ESPN3.