Prairie State Pigskin contacted those close to each Illinois FCS program to get a midterm report on the 2018 season. Here's our third such report.
Western Illinois (2-3 overall, 1-1 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference)
Offense: C-. The offense has been extremely inconsistent this season. The WIU offense has scored on its first drive in four of its five games this year and scored first in all of its games, but the unit has struggled to play a full four quarters.
The group ranks last in the MVFC in total offense, rushing offense and scoring offense.
An offensive line with four new starters has struggled at times to open holes for running backs and giving quarterback Sean McGuire, the receiving group has had a ton of injuries as Tony Tate, Zeke LeSure, Brandon Gaston and George Wahee have all missed snaps and games due to injuries.
Running backs Steve McShane and Max Norris have not consistently been able to get it going running the ball, but both players have been among WIU's best as pass-catching options.
If the team can get more consistency, it can be a good group, but things like penalties have cost the unit.
Defense: B. The group has been very good against the run, ranking third in the league in rushing defense.
Unfortunately, the group has not been able to keep opponents from scoring, ranking eighth in the conference in allowing 31.6 points per game.
The unit does rank third in the conference in total defense as the veteran group has played well despite being put in bad positions and short fields.
Special Teams: C. It's been a mixed bag on special teams for Western. Steve McShane and Tony Tate have shined in the punt and kickoff return game and punter Adam Fellner is among the best in the MVFC in punt average.
Unfortunately for WIU, Fellner is near the bottom in net punting as coverage has been an issue. The kick coverage has also allowed blocked punts and kickoff returns for scores.
There has also been missed field goals and extra points.
What to look for in the second half of the season: I think the thing to look at is the schedule finally relenting for the Leathernecks after playing North Dakota State on October 13.
There are no current Top 25 ranked teams on the WIU schedule after the NDSU game, so if Western can come out of the game with the Bison healthy, I see them potentially going on a late-season run.
--Scott Holland, McDonough County Record beat writer