Leading up to the season's first game the Western Illinois defensive coaching staff and players made it clear that a switch to a 3-4 scheme was going to make the unit mulch-dimensional and more explosive.
Consider last week's opener at Tennessee Tech as proof. The Leatherneck defense allowed zero rushing yards, the lowest total for an Western opponent since Indiana State rushed for just 27 yards in 2014. Linebacker Quentin Moon led the attack with 10 total tackles, three and a half tackles for loss, a sack, and a fumble recovery.
"I think the zero net rushing yards was pretty big," said Moon.
"It was pretty exciting from a defensive stand point just to get that done because that hasn't been done in Western history in a long time. It was a big accomplishment just for us to get it done."
Though Western Illinois shut down the TTU attack on the ground, head coach Charlie Fisher wanted to see their ground game develop more during their first game.
"I preach that all the time," he said.
"Can you run the ball and can you stop the run? No matter what league you're in, at any level, if you can do those two things you have a chance."
As it turns out, they wound up doing both of those things. Max Norris paced the backfield with 133 yards on 19 carries to account for nearly half of the team's 298-rushing yards.
"A couple of weeks ago I said a lot of guys are going to start making names for themselves and he is one of those guys," said junior quarterback Sean McGuire.
"It wasn't a surprise to anybody what he was going to do."
"He ran angry," says Fisher. "He was really, really running the ball hard and really created and infused a lot of energy within our football team."
Norris didn't do all the damage, however. In fact, nine different Leathernecks got a chance to run the ball in the (41-14) victory.
One of those was returning starter Steve McShane who suffered an ankle injury in the first half.
However, it looks like the offense has dodged a bullet with McShane. His status for Saturday's game at Northern Arizona is uncertain but the injury isn't considered long-term.
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