On Saturday evening (6:00 P.M., FSN PPV), the Western Illinnois Leathernecks (1-1) invade Faurot Field to take on the Missouri Tigers (1-1).
The Leathernecks are coming in off of a 35-21 win over Jacksonville in their 2011 home opener. In week one, the Leathernecks had opened the season with a 20-6 loss at Sam Houston State. In his first start, junior QB Josh Hudson 6'3" 200 threw three touchdown passes against Jacksonville, and thus far this season, he has compiled a 66% completion rate. The junior college transfer enters the game against Missouri with a passer efficiency rating of 199.01 through his first two games, which ranks number one in the FCS. He has a good arm, a quick release, and is solid in his setup. Hudson does a good job of moving around in the pocket, but isn't much of a threat to run the football, unless he's chased out of the pocket. Senior WR Terriun Crump 6'3" 220, who has been Hudson's favorite target, comes into this game averaging 135 yards/game, which ranks 3rd nationally in the FCS in receiving yards. Crump is big and fast, and is good enough to play in the Big 12.
In 2010, Head Coach Mark Hendrickson's team finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference, with an 8-5 record, and ranked 17th in the final FCS polls, after advancing to the second round of the play-offs.
Western Illinois features a number of players from Quincy Notre Dame, a school that has annually been a participant at Missouri's team camp, including starting RG Jimmy Holtschlag,who was on the Tigers' recruiting radar a few years ago, and PK Pat Smith, who transferred to Western Illinois after spending a red-shirt season (2009) at Missouri.
On the young season, the Leathernecks are averaging 20.5 points/game, and are surrendering an average of 20.5 points/game to their opponents. On offense, they have run the football on 63% of their offensive plays, which may account some for Hudson's passing efficiency. Mostly, he's just efficient, and he throws the ball to Crump a lot. Hudson, who took over from junior QB Wil Lunt 6'3" 215 in the second quarter of the Leathernecks' season opening loss to Sam Houston State, is a quality FCS QB. Coach Hendrickson says that he hasn't completely settled on a starting QB, so it's not out of the question that we could see Lunt take some snaps against Missouri. He's a little bit more mobile, but hasn't had near the success in the passing game.
Besides Crump, who with 12 catches and 2 TDs, performs like a major college receiver, and who brings in a 22.5 yards/reception average, Hudson's other targets include junior WR Justin Morgan 6'3" 220, sophomore WR Miles Daughtry 5'9" 175, and senior TE Aaron Muhammad 6'4" 250.
Junior RB Caulton Ray 5'9" 205 (5.2 yards/carry) does most of the work on the ground for the Leathernecks. His sophomore back-up, Bryce Flowers 5'10" 205, and RSF KR Larry Patterson 5'9" 180, will each carry the football, as well. Patterson's averaging 26.2 yards/ kick return.
The Leathernecks utilize multiple offensive formations, and Hudson to Crump forms a dynamic passing duo. However, offensive success for Western Illinois hinges primarily on their ability to successfully run the football, which provides balance, and allows Hudson time in the pocket. It's up front, on both sides of the football, where Western Illinois is probably at their greatest disadvantage in going against Missouri.
On defense, Western Illinois lists three down linemen. But, according to Missouri QB, James Franklin, the Leathernecks don't really line up that way.
"They're listed as having three down linemen," explained Franklin. "But, we see that they use four linemen. But, one is a stand-up defensive end, so we're technically counting them as having four down linemen. And, they like to run cover-four, and cover-three a bit……………………………….. They're pretty much zone (coverage). They do a few different things in the zone coverage that we haven't seen yet. So far, we haven't seen them play man (coverage)."
Junior LB Theon Dixon 6'1" 215 is often the guy standing up, and his 17 tackles, and 3 tackles-for-loss leads the Leathernecks in both categories. Senior LB Mike Garoppolo 6'2" 230, with 11 tackles and a sack on the season, is another one who will be standing up at the line of scrimmage. In short yardage, you'll see both players walk up to the line of scrimmage. Junior FS Tyler West 6'1" 210 leads a pretty active secondary, and is Western Illinois' second-leading tackler, with 13 tackles on the young season. In general, the Leathernecks do a good job of tackling, and they were getting good penetration across the line of scrimmage in their first two games. Senior NT Emeka Nwankwo 6'4" 320 anchors the middle of their defense.
Against Jacksonville, the Western Illinois defense chipped in with three interceptions. The Leathernecks have good size on the defensive side of the football, but their LBs, while active, are not especially fast. When they have success getting after the QB, it's usually with one of their LBs, although they will blitz from the secondary, as well. So far, they've been pretty good against the run, surrendering just 2.6 yards/rush, and 86 yards rushing/game. Overall team speed is another area where Western Illinois will have problems matching up against Missouri.
[NCAA Ranking in Brackets]
396.00 [61st]___ Total Offense___ 319.50 [65th]
172.00 [46th]___Rushing Offense__ 119.50 [63rd]
2____________TDs Rushing___________ 2
224.00 [63rd]___Passing Offense__ 200.00 [56th]
130.16 [62nd]__ Passing Efficiency__ 153.89 [18th]
3____________TDs Passing___________ 4
23.50 [85th]____Scoring Offense___ 20.50 [71st]
381.00 [70th]___ Total Defense___ 341.50 [47th]
90.00 [34th]___ Rushing Defense___ 85.50 [17th]
2_________ TDs Allowed Rushing_________ 0
291.00 [104th]__Passing Defense__ 256.00 [87th]
154.26 [104th]_ Pass Effic. Defense_ 128.52 [56th]
4_________ TDs Allowed Passing_________ 5
21.50 [53rd]____Scoring Defense__ 20.50 [T-34th]
+1.00 [26th]__ Turnover Margin_ +1.00 [T-19th]
1/0_ ________ Fumbles/Lost_________ 2/0
1_________ Interceptions Thrown_________ 1
1_________ Interceptions Gained_________ 3
19.00 [90th]___Kickoff Return Avg._ 23.00 [T-34th]
10.00 [T-37th]__ Punt Return Avg.___6.33 [T-58th]
42.73 [16th]___ Net Punting Avg.___ 31.69 [90th]
2.00 [T-49th]_____Sacks By_____1.50 [T-57th]
2.00 [T-67th]___ Sacks Allowed____ 4.50 [104th]
29:30 [66th]___ Avg. Time of Poss.___ 28:26 [71st]
21.4% [114th]___3rd Down Conv._ 41.9% [T-33rd]
50.0% [T-48th]__4th Down Conv._ 50.0% [T-32nd]