November 4, 2019
This week, the Leathernecks stayed home to play the South Dakota Coyotes. The Leathernecks banded together and, for the first time this season, managed to play tough enough to win a game. In a game that came down to the wire, the Leathernecks won by a score of 38-34. This win snapped their 10-game losing streak.
Coming into the game, the Coyotes were sitting in the middle of the pack in the Missouri Valley Conference with a record of 2-2 in the conference. They won their first two games in the conference but were coming off of a two-game losing streak and were hungry for a win that would not only help them in the Missouri Valley Conference, but a win they desperately needed if they wanted any chance at making the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Leathernecks were headed into the game with a winless season, and their chances at the playoffs were out the door. They were hungry for a win and they ended up finding one.
The Leathernecks started out the gates when redshirt-freshman DeShon Gavin broke off a 20-yard run, putting the Leathernecks on the board with 12:39 still left in the first quarter. Their lead didn’t last for too long, as the Coyotes scored towards the end of the first quarter off of a 22-yard pass.
The second quarter saw the Coyotes take command. After a little under three minutes ticked off the clock, South Dakota converted a 33-yard field goal attempt, giving them a 10-7 lead. A few drives later, the Coyotes would increase their lead even more with a 25-yard pass for a touchdown. After the extra point was in, the score was 17-7.
Western was looking for something to go their way, but it didn’t happen right away at the beginning of the new half. South Dakota converted another field goal attempt at the beginning of the third quarter to grow the lead to 20-7. Knowing they needed something on their next drive in order to keep them in the game, the Leathernecks marched down the field and converted their own field goal attempt. It was good and cut the lead down to 20-10. After a turnover on downs by the defense, the Leatherneck offense took the field on their own 32 yard line. After some key rushes on the drive, the Leathernecks were able to score a touchdown off a little shovel pass for three yards to junior Clint Ratkovich, making the game 20-17.
The game was close heading into the fourth quarter with Western keeping the gap small. Their offense scored early in the fourth when junior Connor Sampson dropped a 26-yard dime to his junior receiver Tony Tate. Western had taken their first lead in the game since the first quarter. It wouldn’t stand for long, however, as of the next South Dakota drive, the Coyotes marched right down the field and scored a touchdown of their own, gaining the lead back by a score of 27-24. After both teams turned the ball over on downs, the Leathernecks found their way back to the endzone when Sampson once again hit a man downfield, this time to graduate student George Wahee for a 51-yard bomb that put the Leathernecks up 31-27. However, South Dakota wasn’t done just yet. With 1:24 left on the clock, the Coyotes scored another touchdown, seemingly for the win. The Leathernecks, down 34-31, didn’t give in.
They knew they had to work quickly and efficiently on their next drive. They had come close in some of their earlier games in the season, but this one was different. The offense knew what they had to do when they took the field, and they went to work. After a couple of passes from Sampson to a couple of different wide-outs for good yards, Ratkovich decided that enough was enough. Ratkovich took the ball and ran it straight into the endzone for a Leatherneck touchdown, giving them the lead 38-34. The Coyotes still had a chance with 34 seconds left on the clock. South Dakota had two big plays through the air to start their drive. But, after a timeout, they thought they would try one more play through the air. Senior Eric Carrera intercepted that fateful pass on the goal line, sealing the win for the Leathernecks.
This season hasn’t gone as planned for Western, but they managed to pull off one of the best games of the season, and not just because they won. Sampson threw for 368 yards and three touchdowns, while the run game was equally as impressive, totaling 124 yards and two touchdowns. The defense was also impressive with three tackles for a loss, one fumble and the game-winning interception.
The Leathernecks have three games remaining with one more home game in two weeks. Next week they take on North Dakota State on the road. Hopefully, the team can end the season as strong as their performance was on Saturday.