It's been 29 years since Western Illinois has started a season with an 0-3 record, yet the Leathernecks are far from packing things in.
"Our kids played their tails off for 60 minutes. There are flashes right now that this team is showing," head coach Jared Elliott said after last Saturday's 23-14 loss to nationally ranked Montana State.
WIU's previous losses came at North Alabama (26-17) and at FBS Colorado State (38-13).
"Our front seven is playing well," Elliott said. "Our offensive line did a good job as the game went on . . . It takes all 11 together."
Back in 1990, the Leathernecks snapped their season-opening losing streak with a 28-10 win over Indiana State. With Ohio Valley Conference member Tennessee Tech coming to Macomb Saturday, WIU wants history to repeat itself.
"I know we have a bunch of guys that fight. We're going to keep our head down and keep working," Elliott said.
The Golden Eagles enter Saturday's game off to their best start since 2013. TTU is 2-1, which matches what the program has accomplished the last two years combined.
"They played Montana State toe-to-toe," head coach Dewayne Alexander said of Western. "They've been very competitive in all their games. They've been traditionally a playoff team in a very tough conference."
Western and Tennessee Tech met for the first time in 2017. WIU took home a 41-14 victory.
Redshirt freshman Justin Hall leads the Missouri Valley Football Conference in combined kick returns (182 yards), while also ranking 23rd in the FCS. Hall, a transfer from Northern Illinois, played his high school football at Homewood-Flossmoor.
Junior college transfer Dennis Houston became the first Leatherneck receiver to post 100-plus yards this season with a five-reception, 141-yard performance last weekend. His 65-yard touchdown catch against Montana State tied for Western's longest play of the season.
The passing of a Leatherneck legend
WIU Hall of Famer and member of the undefeated 1959 Leatherneck football team Larry Garron passed away Sept. 14 at age 82.
An original member of the Boston Patriots, Garron joined the team before its inaugural season in 1960. The running back played for the Patriots through the 1968 season and was a four-time American Football League All-Star.
Garron was most recently named to the Patriots All-1960s team and ranked ninth in the franchise's history with 2,981 career rushing yards.
What does this game mean?
First and foremost, Western wants a win. In addition, Saturday's game marks the second in a three-game homestand for the Leathernecks. After a bye, WIU begins conference games hosting Missouri State Oct. 5.
Where can I find the game?
The game will be aired live on ESPN3 and streamed live on Macomb’s WRMSFM.com at 3 p.m.