Elliott prepares for final game at Western Illinois as Leathernecks face Northern Iowa Saturday

Jared Elliott (right) closes out his time as Western Illinois head coach Saturday when the Leathernecks play at Northern Iowa. He is shown here with North Dakota head coach Bubba Schweigert. (photo courtesy goleathernecks.com)

Jared Elliott has spent seven falls and eight football seasons at Western Illinois University. Saturday’s Missouri Valley Conference game at Northern Iowa will mark his last.

On Nov. 9 WIU released a statement that the school and Elliott had “mutually agreed to part ways at the conclusion of the 2021 season”.

The following day, Elliott tweeted: “My family and I are grateful to have had the opportunity to be the head football coach at Western Illinois University. We are forever thankful for the many people that have made a lasting impact on the Elliott family.

“Thank you to the Leatherneck nation, WIU alumni, and the Macomb community for the support. Thank you for welcoming us with open arms.

“Most importantly, to all the players and coaches that have been here with me over the years, thank you, we love you!

“Once a Leatherneck, always a Leathernecks!”

While the Leathernecks were just 9-30 in four seasons with Elliott as head coach, he certainly faced the challenge of coaching at a school lacking in resources and facilities when compared to opponents in what is generally recognized as the nation’s best FCS conference.

Elliott first came to Macomb as quarterbacks coach in 2012. Following a stint at Carthage from 2013 to 2015, Elliott returned to WIU as an assistant coach under Charlie Fisher in 2016. A former Miami (Ohio) player, Elliott took over as WIU head coach when Fisher left for a position on the Arizona State staff in 2018.

Several current and former players used social media to show their support of Elliott.

For example, ex-WIU kicker Nathan Erickson tweeted: “Just cried a little.. what a privilege it was to play for this man! I’ll forever love JE.”

Defensive back Darius Joiner, who transferred to WIU this season from Jacksonville State, tweeted: “Enjoyed my time with you coach.”

Saturday’s game

WIU, 2-8 overall and 2-5 in the Missouri Valley this fall, travels to Cedar Falls to play Northern Iowa. The Panthers are 5-5 overall and 3-4 in the league games.

Northern Iowa, losers of its last two games, still harbors FCS playoff hopes. The Panthers defeated then-No. 3 ranked Southern Illinois 23-16 Oct. 30 at the UNI-Dome before road losses at Illinois State and Missouri State.

Northern Iowa dropped out of the national Top 25 after its latest defeat. The Panthers were No. 20 in the STATS Perform FCS poll two weeks ago.

National leaders

Joiner leads the FCS in tackles with 115. The senior transfer from Jacksonville State was added to the Buck Buchanan Award watch list this week.

Darius Joiner

Joiner has registered double-figures in tackles in all but one of the Leathernecks’ 10 games this season. He has made 12 or more tackles seven times.

Throughout program history, WIU football has had two of its own earn the Buck Buchanan Award: James Milton in 1998 and Edgerton Hartwell in 2000. Additionally, five players finished in the top seven for award voting.

“Darius has played an integral part in our defense all year long,” Elliott said on goleathernecks.com. “We are extremely proud of all he has done in his first year with the program.”

WIU receiver Dennis Houston is tied for the FCS lead with 85 catches in 10 games. Morehead State’s BJ Byrd has the same number of receptions.

Houston, a senior, ranks second nationally with 8.5 receptions per game. He is seventh in receiving yards (986) and ninth in yards per game average (98.6).

News & notes

WIU ranks first in passing offense in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Leathernecks average 314.8 yards per game. However, Western is dead last in rushing offense (72.9 yards per game) among the league’s 11 teams . . . senior quarterback Connor Sampson leads the MVFC in passing yards (3,020), attempts (438) and completions (282). His 22 touchdowns ranks second to Southern Illinois QB Nic Baker (24) . . . Northern Iowa is 3-1 at home this season, while WIU is 1-4 in road games.

Where to find the game

Western Illinois at Northern Iowa at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20. The game will air on ESPN3. The WIU broadcast is available on WIU’s Mixlr.com home page.

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