Western Illinois Leathernecks
Missouri Valley Football Conference
Head Coach: Jared Elliott
Overall Record: 1-5
Conference Record: 1-5
Biggest Win: After an 0-5 start, WIU got both a punt and kickoff return for touchdowns as the Leathernecks broke into the win column with a 27-24 victory over Youngstown State at Hanson Field.
Most Frustrating Loss: For the second straight season, the Leathernecks dropped heartbreaker to Missouri State. This one came in the spring opener on Feb. 27 by a 30-24 score. WIU lost two touchdowns on holding penalties. A third holding infraction wiped out a 40-yard pass play that would have put the Leathernecks inside MSU’s five-yard line.
Opt out: On April 5, WIU announced it was opting out of its final two games due to “concern for the safety and wellbeing of its student-athletes”. Head coach Jared Elliott said, “As we evaluated our current situation, in terms of the numbers of players available, and specifically at a few key positions, I believe it is in the best interest of our team to forego the remaining two games of the spring season.”
QB1: Quarterback Connor Sampson started all six games and was named All-MVFC second team. The second-year captain completed 179 passes for 1744 yards and eight touchdowns. Sampson broke the school record for most completions in a game (40) versus Northern Iowa. He led the MVFC in passing yards per game (290.7) and in total offense (289.2) and ranked fifth in the nation in completions per game (29.8) and ninth in the nation in passing yards (1744).
Aerial artists: A trio of Leatherneck receivers each caught at least 34 passes. Dennis Houston (43 catches for 477 yards), Tony Tate (36 for 389) and Dallas Daniels (34 for 368) were Sampson’s top targets.
Fall kickoff: Western opens its fall season Thursday, Sept. 2 at Ball State, an FBS member of the Mid-American Conference.
Next Up: Barry Bottino explores Five Burning Questions that face WIU football for fall 2021.