MACOMB, Ill. (WGEM) -- Losses never sit well with any team.
However, a 17-point setback on the road to a Big Ten opponent wasn't exactly a punch in the gut for Western Illinois.
"I think we gained the experience of playing in a big game," head coach Bob Nielson said.
"I think our defense played very well and very competitively. Offensively we did some things right but we certainly showed that we've got to be more consistent and find more ways to move the football."
For the second consecutive week the Leathernecks face an FBS foe away from home with Saturday's trip to UNLV.
The Rebels have been under whelming through the season's first three weeks and their defense is allowing 43 points a game.
But Western quarterback Trenton Norvell says it's a squad they can't overlook.
"They're a good team and we just need to keep executing plays," Norvell said.
"I have a lot of confidence in what the coaches have set up offensively for us."
According to Nielson, "I think the style of defense they play is really going to force us to have to try and make some big plays."
Western's defense, which ranks tops in the Missouri Valley Football Conference through three games, will face a UNLV offense that racked up more than 400 yards and rallied to score 31 unanswered points in last week's win over Central Michigan.
"Like we always preach, stay disciplined," linebacker Kevin Kintzel said of the defensive mindset.
"See your keys, know your checks, stay in your playbook, and stay watching film, to learn your opponent and their tendencies."
Nielson says the Rebel offensive philosophy is one the Leathernecks haven't faced this season.
"They're a different type of offensive team that's going to throw the football and spread the field," Nielson explained.
"It's a different defensive challenge for us."
Win or lose the Leathernecks continue to try and build momentum with all-important conference play only a week away from kicking off.
"We need to continue to play well and we need to continue to show improvement," Nielson indicated.
"As I told our guys Sunday night when we got back from Minnesota at our team meeting, 'There's only good football teams left on our schedule.' You've got to keep focused on the little things that it's going to take to improve."
Kick off Saturday night is set for 8 o'clock.
It will be the third time the team's have played and the first meeting in 36 years.
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