Rapid Reaction: Western Illinois Leathernecks 31, Montana Grizzlies 27

MACOMB, Ill. – Western Illinois scored two touchdowns in a 2:59 span of the 4th quarter to stun the Montana Grizzlies Saturday, 31-27 at Hanson Field.

The Griz took a 27-17 lead when Dalton Sneed found Samuel Akem in the endzone with 11:19 to play for the pair’s second touchdown connection of the game, but WIU’s Steve McShane cut the deficit to three with a 28-yard punt return TD with 5:38 to play.

Jerry Louis-McGee lost a fumble on the first play of Montana’s ensuing possession and the Leathernecks drove 43 yards, capped by a McShane eight-yard TD catch with 2:39 left to put Western Illinois up 31-27.

Eric Carrera intercepted Sneed for the second time on Montana’s final possession to seal the victory.

The game was frenetic from the start.  Leatherneck quarterback Sean McGuire’s first two passes went for touchdowns – the first a 71-yard bomb to John Brunner on the second play of the game. Montana fumbled on its ensuing possession, and McGuire found Brunner for a 37-yard TD on the very next play.

The Griz immediately responded, as Malik Flowers took the ensuing kickoff back 95 yards for a touchdown to cut the deficit in half. Montana took an 18-14 lead late in the first quarter, and led until McShane’s second score.

TURNING POINT:  McShane’s punt return. Montana’s defense had held Western Illinois scoreless since the 14:00 mark of the second quarter, and the Leathernecks looked like they were running out of chances. The touchdown immediately breathed life back into the team and the crowd.

STAT OF THE GAME: McShane, an all-Missouri Valley Conference second-team player last season, was help to just 18 yards rushing. Montana’s defense bottled the running game up the entire day, but McShane found a way to beat them late with punt return and receiving TD’s. He finished with nine catches for 77 yards.

GAME BALL: Sean McGuire. The senior quarterback threw for 360 yards and three touchdowns. He was great at the beginning of the game, and at the end when it mattered most.

WHAT’S NEXT: Montana returns to Missoula next Saturday for the Dave Dickenson College Football Hall of Fame Game against Sacramento State. The 1:00 p.m. kickoff will mark Montana’s third home game in four weeks to start the season. Sac State won its opener at home against St. Francis (IL) 55-7, before losing at San Diego State 28-14 and knocking off Northern Colorado Saturday, 28-25.

Scott Breen

Scott Breen

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