Saturday’s lopsided loss to South Dakota State echoes Western Illinois’ late-season collapse of a year ago. After trailing by just a touchdown at halftime, the Leathernecks succumbed to a Jackrabbit onslaught that resulted in a 52-24 loss.
With the haunting memory of a 1-4 slide to finish 2016 with a 6-5 record, Western was steamrolled by 28 second half SDSU points at Hanson Field in Macomb.
Leatherneck losing streak
WIU has lost its last two games by a combined scored of 76-36.
Breaking Saturday’s scoring down even further, SDSU scored 21 unanswered points in the third quarter – 28 overall dating back to the final minute of the first half. The Jackrabbits added a fourth-quarter touchdown.
The defeat dropped WIU to 5-3 after a 5-1 start. The Leathernecks are 2-3 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. SDSU, which also scored 52 points on Western last fall in Brookings, upped its record to 6-2. The Jackrabbits are 3-2 in league play.
Jackrabbits bound away in second half
The first half played out much like a boxing match in which each fighter feels out the other in the early rounds. The teams traded blows and points throughout the first two quarters. WIU held leads of 7-3 and 10-7 in the opening quarter.
After South Dakota State took a 17-10 lead, the Leathernecks answered. Following 10 straight points by the Jackrabbits, WIU running back Steve McShane brought the home fans to their feet with a spectacular 39-yard touchdown run. The play looked like it was going nowhere, but McShane broke a tackle, froze three SDSU defenders with a move and outran the pursuit to the end zone. The extra point tied the game at 17.
The Jackrabbits countered with a 10-play, 72-yard scoring drive to reclaim the lead. SDSU quarterback Taryn Christion converted a 4th-and-2 with a four-yard run on the drive. Christion later finished things off with a one-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jake Wieneke.
SDSU held a 579-285 advantage in total offense. All-America tight end Dallas Goedert went over the 100-yard mark for the third game in a row with eight catches for 113 yards. Wieneke finished with season highs of eight catches for 97 yards as he took over third place on the FCS career charts with 54 touchdown receptions.
“We are right at it in the first half and we didn’t answer the bell in the second half. We got out-coached, we got out-played, whatever ‘out’ you want to use we just didn’t do well enough in the second half. South Dakota State is a really good team, very explosive offensively, and you have to credit them. They played extremely well and the bottom line is we have to bounce back.”
–Western Illinois head coach Charlie Fisher
Players of the game
South Dakota State quarterback Taryn Christion passed for 386 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for 37 yards and a TD.
South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert caught eight passes for 113 yards.
South Dakota State receiver Jake Wieneke has eight catches for 97 yards and three touchdowns.
Western Illinois running back Steve McShane accounted for 156 total yards (90 rushing, 66 receiving) and three touchdowns.
By the numbers
7 — Third-down conversions by South Dakota State in 11 attempts
13 — Penalties by Western Illinois for 89 yards
36 — More plays run by South Dakota State than Western Illinois
98.5 — Passing yards below his season average by WIU quarterback Sean McGuire in his last two games
425 — Career tackles by WIU’s Brett Taylor
Western travels to 16th-ranked Illinois State next Saturday (Nov. 4) with kickoff scheduled for 12 p.m.