Fierce battle ahead for WIU Leathernecks at Colorado State

Fierce battle ahead for WIU Leathernecks at Colorado State
With back-to-back road games, the Leathernecks are kicking off their 2019 season against first-time opponents in North Alabama and Colorado State. (photo courtesy goleathernecks.com)

Just over a week after losing to a team that recently moved up to FCS from Division II, Western Illinois will step up a level as well to play FBS member Colorado State.

WIU, which dropped a 27-16 decision at North Alabama Aug. 29, travels to Fort Collins to take on Colorado State. The Rams lost their annual opener with Colorado 52-31.

Inside the numbers

There were several glaring statistics that spelled defeat for WIU in last week's loss.

Offensively, the Leathernecks were just 2-for-13 (15.3 percent) on third down. In addition, quarterback Connor Sampson was sacked four times for a loss of 31 yards.

On the defensive side, the Leathernecks gave up 6.3 yards per play. Moreover, North Alabama averaged 9.1 yards per pass attempt and 17.1 yards per completion.

Finally, Western turned the ball over twice (interception and fumble), while North Alabama did not commit any turnovers.

Sizing up the Rams

Colorado State is a member of the Mountain West Conference. The Rams are opening a brand new on-campus stadium, which seats 41,200.

Wide receiver Dante Wright has to be a concern for the WIU defense. The true freshman with 4.3 speed finished his debut with 150 all-purpose yards and a touchdown reception against Colorado.

"He has the ability to take the top off at any moment," WIU head coach Jared Elliott said on his weekly radio show.

Quarterback Collin Hill threw for a career-best 374 yards in the opener, completing 31 of 47 passes for three touchdowns. The redshirt junior also threw two interceptions.

"He's a big pocket kid that makes all the throws, and they've got some dynamic receivers," Elliott said.

Injury updates

Macomb-based beat reporter Scott Holland reported Thursday that receiver John Brunner and running backs Vic Johnson and Max Norris are all out for this weekend's game with Colorado State. All three sustained injuries in the preseason and did not play at North Alabama last week.

What does this game mean?

This is another strong road test for Western Illinois. After  traveling 342 miles to Florence, Alabama, the Leathernecks now trek 862 miles from Macomb to tangle with the Rams.

With Fort Collins resting nearly 5,000 feet above sea level in elevation, WIU's conditioning and depth will be tested. This will be another opportunity for the coaching staff to look at players prior to next Saturday's home opener against Montana State.

Western has eight FBS victories under its belt including back-to-back wins over Northern Illinois (2016) and Coastal Carolina (2017). The Leathernecks fell 34-14 at Illinois last year. 

Western will receive a $375,000 guarantee from the game.

Where can I find the game?

Western Illinois at Colorado State (Radio-WRMS; TV-AT&T SportsNet). Kickoff is 3 p.m.

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