MACOMB, Ill. - The Western Illinois Fighting Leathernecks opened their 2009 season with a 35-28 victory over Sam Houston State last Thursday and look to continue down the road of victory as they face the Huskies of Northern Illinois, Saturday, September 12, at 6:30 p.m. at Huskie Stadium.
The Huskies return 13 starters from last season’s team that went 6-7 overall and 5-3 (4th) in the Mid-American Conference. Northern hosts Western for its home opener after falling short in a 28-20 decision at Big Ten Wisconsin.
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Series Record: NIU leads, 20-17-1
Last Meeting: Sept. 21, 2002
The Fighting Leathernecks defeated the Huskies, 29-26, at Huskie Stadium.
Note: Western Illinois has won the last three meetings with Northern Illinois. The greatest streak in the series was when Western won nine-straight from 1952-1960. The series between WIU and NIU dates back to 1903. Western holds an 11-13-1 record at Huskie Stadium.
Barr Named MVFC co-Offensive Player of the Week
Western Illinois University junior quarterback Matt Barr (Belvidere, Ill.) has earned the first Missouri Valley Football Conference co-Offensive Player of the Week honor this season after throwing for 437 yards in the season-opening 35-28 win at Sam Houston State.
Barr completed 18-of-26 passes for three touchdowns in the win, which ranks as the second-best all-time passing game in Western Illinois history. It marks just the 19th time in league history that a quarterback had thrown for 400+ yards and ranks eighth-best in league history for a single game.
Barr shares the weekly honor with Northern Iowa’s quarterback Pat Grace, who passed for a career-high 270 yards and nearly led UNI to an upset over No. 21-ranked Iowa.
First FBS Opponent of 2009 Season
Northern Illinois is the first and only NCAA Bowl Subdivision opponent this season. Western has played at least one game against a FBS team each season since 1993. Coach Patterson owns twice as many FBS wins (4) in the last 10 seasons as all previous Division I Leatherneck head coaches combined (2 wins since 1981). The Leathernecks hold an all-time overall record of 6-19 over FBS opponents with a 4-8 record under Coach Patterson.
The last victory Western held over an FBS opponent was September 4, 2003, when the Leathernecks defeated Eastern Michigan on the road, 34-12. Prior to that win, Western defeated Northern Illinois, 29-26, for its fourth time, September 21, 2002, at Huskie Stadium.
Coach Patterson Looking for a Pair of Wins
In his 10th season at Western Illinois, head coach Don Patterson (63-45) is two wins shy of becoming the schools’ all-time winningest coach.
The Last Time Western faced Northern...
It was game No. 3 of the 2002 season for the Leathernecks, Reggie Gray’s five-yard reverse with 1:10 remaining gave Western Illinois its third straight win over I-A Northern Illinois, 29-26. Brian Ceaser forced a fumble at the NIU-35 with under a minute left and Victor Campbell recovered for the Leathernecks to give Western the 3-0 start to the season. Russ Michna threw for a career-high 382 yards, including 300 in the first half, and Stacy Coleman set a Huskie Stadium record with 215 yards receiving (151 in the first half), which was later broken by Northern’s P.J. Fleck in 2003 with 234 yards.
The Leatherneck offensive line allowed just four sacks to a Huskie defense that sacked Wisconsin 10 times one week earlier. The Leathernecks held Norhtern Illinois to just 74 yards on 6-of-16 passing, and sacked Northern quarterback Josh Haldi five times. Michael Turner gained 282 yards on 29 carries with three touchdowns for Northern, as the Huskies’ three touchdown drives covered a total of just 40 seconds. The Leathernecks got off to their first 3-0 start since 1999 when head coach Don Patterson won the first three games of his career-a string that included a win over Northern Illinois in his very first game.
Patterson’s First-Ever Win at Western Illinois
In his very first game as the head coach of a Division I-FCS program, Western Illinois head coach Don Patterson led the Leathernecks to a 27-21 victory over Northern Illinois, September 2, 1999. That season, Western won its first three games with the victory over the Huskies to open the season.
Barr leads Western Illinois to a Nationally-Ranked Passing Offense
In the 2009 NCAA FCS Stats from Sat., Sept., 5, 2009, Western Illinois is ranked as the No. 1 passing offense from The Sports Network. Matt Barr led the Fighting Leatherneck offense, throwing for 437 yards and three touchdowns.
In Individual Passing Efficiency, Matt Barr ranks second in the nation for 18 completions in 26 attempts. Barr’s completion percentage of 69.23 earned a rating of 240.80 just behind Delaware’s Pat Devlin, who completed 80 percent of his passes (12-15) for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Devlin leads the nation with a rating of 251.12.
The closest Missouri Valley Football Conference opponent behind Barr is Illinois State’s Drew Kiel, ranked No. 19. Northern Iowa’s Pat Grace is No. 29 and Southern Illinois’ Chris Dieker is No. 41.
Senatus Holds No. 1 Ranking in Nation for Receiving Yards per Game
Lito Senatus connected with Barr in game one for 11 catches, resulting in 235 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Averaging 21.36 yards per catch, Senatus holds the No. 1 FCS ranking for receiving yards per game and ties for No. 12 in the individual scoring stats.
Barr and Senatus led Western’s offense that is now ranked No. 3 in total offense for 554 total yards on 63 plays, averaging 8.79 yards per play. Western sits behind No. 1 Elon and No. 2 Tennessee-Martin in the total offense statistical rankings.
Leathernecks Force Three Turnovers for Positive Turnover Margin
Leading the Leatherneck defense last week, Kieron James, Patrick Stoudamire and Chris Boone each forced a fumble against Sam Houston State. Western’s offense fumbled the ball once and had an interception, however the Leathernecks were able to maintain a positive turnover margin, 1.00, which ties them for No. 20 in the FCS Team Turnover Margin stats.