3 things we learned: Western losing streak reaches 4 games as passing mark falls

Western Illinois quarterback Connor Sampson set a single-season passing record in the Leathernecks’ 34-10 loss Saturday to North Dakota. (Photo by GoLeathernecks.com)

Western Illinois quarterback Connor Sampson keeps piling up passing yards with every week on the schedule.

Unfortunately for the Leathernecks, losses keep piling up as well.

WIU (1-7) lost Saturday for the fourth week in a row – all Missouri Valley Football Conference games. This time, the Leathernecks dropped a 34-10 decision in its first-ever trip to North Dakota (3-4).

Sampson threw for 292 yards against UND to set a single-season career high total of 2,359 yards (and counting). He has completed at least 20 passes in every game and has had 30 completions four times.

On Saturday, he completed 26 of 39 passes and threw a 51-yard scoring pass in the first quarter to senior wide receiver Dallas Daniels. He also threw two second-half interceptions and was sacked three times.

Western tied the game at 10-all early in the second quarter on a 24-yard field goal by Mason Laramie of Schaumburg. However, the Fighting Hawks reeled off 24 consecutive points over the game’s final 35 minutes.

The loss dropped WIU to 1-4 in conference play, while giving North Dakota its first league win of the season.

Here are three things Prairie State Pigskin learned about the Western Illinois loss:

  1. Running in opposite directions

While Western’s run game continued to sputter, North Dakota ran for 261 yards – including 125 by standout tailback Otis Weah – to help control the clock for nearly 36 minutes in the game.

UND also had 110 yards from freshman Gaven Ziebarth as the team rushed for 6.1 yards a carry.

Western entered the game with the lowest team rushing average per game (73 yards) and managed only 38 on the ground in defeat. Senior Myles Wanza was the highlight for Western, rushing for 53 yards on 10 carries.

2. Passing fancy

The Leathernecks, who allowed the highest completion percentage to opposing passers in the conference, allowed 66% completions to the Fighting Hawks by four different players – including two wide receivers.

Starting quarterback Tommy Schuster threw for 274 yards and a TD on 21-for-32 passing.

Wide receivers Jacob Richter and Brock Boltman also threw scoring passes on trick plays for UND.

Western gave up a total of 607 yards in the loss.

3. Third-down swoon

Western managed only two third-down conversions on 13 attempts Saturday.

The result was eight of the Leathernecks’ 12 drives featured five plays or fewer.

On the other hand, North Dakota was 8-for-15 on third downs and had six drive of eight plays or more.

News and notes

WIU was outscored 17-0 in the second half. … Daniels caught six passes for 97 yards to lead the Leathernecks. … Western senior safety Darius Joiner led all players for 14 total tackles. Joiner had 10 solo tackles in the loss. … Senior lineback Dallas Martin grabbed his second fumble recovery of the season for WIU.

What’s next?

Western Illinois hosts MVFC rival Illinois State at 3 p.m. in Macomb on Saturday, Oct. 30.

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